re: The missing career path for software developers VIEW POST


Sure thing!

Executive edict example. A new CEO is hired and the board of directors gives him a goal to get profitability up. In short-term-thinking fashion, he orders a reduction in force, especially for higher-paid engineers. He tells HR to slash benefits and ask for voluntary pay cuts. Who has to actually fire people and break the news to the employees? Their managers. (Not hypothetical.)

Policy examples

Required degree levels. This is a common requirement when working for the (US or state) government or being a govt contractor, depending on the job/contract. "Sorry Bob, I know you wanted to apply your 10 years of experience to this exciting contract. But we're going to have to use the new-hire with a fresh master's degree."

Policy that it is a fire-able offense to disclose your salary to another employee. Whatever the good intentions, this kind of policy is mostly used to hide inequities.

Policy that whatever (software) you create on your own time still belongs to the company. Even when unrelated to your work.

Policy that you cannot upgrade your software, because it hasn't been blessed by IT yet. (And may not be for a while.)

Handling individual employee problems by creating blanket policies that restrict everyone. Instead of addressing it directly with that person. "Fred, this new policy says that you can no longer work extra in the week and duck out early on Friday." (Subtext: because Jonas would leave early every Friday without getting his hours in.)

Oh, I could go on. :) Managers often have to be the bearer of bad news / enforcer of things like this.

You're in good company, sir.

Yep...I've never been a manager, but I've been peers with them. It's taxing.

To that I'll add:

  • Watching the pr0n your employee has viewed as part of HR-compliance process to fire him.
  • Mediating petty disputes.
  • "HR Compliance" meetings that look every bit like something out of The Office. (Thankfully, most of these are online videos these days)

The people side of management is something you'd better have a heart for, or else it seems to kill people's spirit.

IANAL, but this:

it is a fire-able offense to disclose your salary to another employee

violates Federal law, I think. That being said, I'd heard for years that this was the policy at my old company. When I raised it on an internal chat board, the Head of HR came and officially said it wasn't.

violates Federal law

Wow, I did not know that, and I just looked it up to confirm. I'm pretty sure I have seen this in the employee manual at every place I've worked since graduating. (I always read them, a depressing venture.) Apparently, the penalty for violating the law is negligible compared to the fear of sharing it puts into employees. The protection also does not appear to extend to "supervisors", so maybe that's how they slip it in. (I'm also not a lawyer, though.)

NPR piece on Pay Secrecy

National Labor Relations Board FAQ

Thanks for posting those articles -- they're super helpful for others. When I headed up Career Development I strove to create an environment of transparency. That meant we didn't allow pay secrecy policies in our employee manual and trained managers not to imply it. While the penalty is negligible, I always urge companies not to go down the pay secrecy route -- it erodes trust and often leads to higher rates of people leaving (driving down retention).

Thanks for the great conversation about this Kasey and Harold!

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