Call it a public service announcement to start the year: if you’re working at a startup where IT is a little messed up, policies are evolving as the business is being built, and the organization is evolving rapidly, you’re at risk. more than usual that your employers are willing to act fast, do things and ask for permission later. It makes almost intuitive sense: early-stage startups often don’t have their shit together and are moving at breakneck speed. It’s cool? Of course not, but in many startup circles, it seems the attitude is that if the company doesn’t succeed, it’s a moot point. And if you grow at the speed of a fast-paced, high-growth company, well, you’ll have enough money and lawyers to figure that out later.
This article was sparked by a conversation I had with some startup employees who wished not to be named at a company you’ve almost certainly heard of. I couldn’t get enough corroborated information to name the company (don’t worry, I’ll keep trying). For now, here are a few yearly reminders as you head into 2022 with glowing eyes and a bushy tail.
Be careful what you say at Slack Company – It might seem like DMs are private, but did you know that a company admin can export all DMs that have already been sent on a Slack instance? Sure, there may be laws against exporting data, but if you’ve discussed something illegal or immoral in DMs, you’ll have as much trouble explaining it as your boss explained how they ended up with a copy of your DMs. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and you might have a case to sue your employer if your suspicious and anxious head of IT decides to do some research, but this sort of thing is easily avoided by just having a personal conversation with personal channels and work talk. for working channels. Sure, even your texts may not remain private, but at least there is a higher bar to gain access to them. And, you know, if you’re particularly paranoid, there’s always Signal or Telegram, with messages expiring.
Your bosses can monitor your company’s equipment – There is often a clause in contracts about how you can or cannot use the equipment provided by your company. Some of these things are obvious – don’t do illegal things – but others are more obscure. Okay, but read your contract carefully. There may be language that says your company is allowed to monitor what you do on your computer. I don’t think this sounds particularly innocent, but it’s worded obliquely in many employment contracts. In a world where AI tools are becoming more and more powerful and where you sign a contract that says you are completely okay with being tracked, there are a ton of companies (AktivTrakGenericName, Active Operations, veratio, to name just a few) that make software that can keep an eye on you, and your employers can install it on your computer with varying degrees of secrecy and your permission.
HR is not on your side – Your company’s human resources department may be friendly, helpful, and lovely, and may do their best to help resolve issues in the workplace, but they’re not on your side: HR works for the company. They are there to protect the company’s interests. And when your interests and those of the company are at odds, remember that people who work in HR – no matter how friendly they are – still need to pay their bills and have a good working relationship with them. their bosses after you’ve quit, been fired, or otherwise moved within the company. And as James Altucher points out in his column, eventually they will fire him.
You don’t owe your loyalty to a company – Especially in the US where many jobs are “at will”, meaning you can be fired at any time for any reason, stay employed for as long as the company can afford it, and are contributing to the bottom line. Especially in startups, this is a mercurial universe, because objectives and goals can change from board meeting to board meeting. In a month, the engineering department is the soul and end of a company’s entire life. But the amount of money in the bank account and the fundraising environment can change quickly, and the next month, everything can change. Especially when the going gets tough, it can be tempting for leadership to drive the company according to their KPIs and focus solely on growth and customer acquisition. In this universe, engineering has little importance in the short term and, suddenly, advertising expenses and the sales operation become a priority. Even great leaders with solid long-term visions can be forced to make abrupt changes. Loyalty in the professional world is a myth that only benefits employers; if they need to let you go, they will, so when a recruiter comes knocking, take the call to see how you’re quoted in the market.
Do not give up – If a manager or someone in HR is trying to get you to leave on your own, as a general rule, it’s best to resist. Do not give up! Many mechanisms (including, in some states, unemployment benefits) only apply to you if you are fired. If you leave — and especially if you sign a deal that promises not to sue the company — you greatly weaken your options down the road.
Has HR used your Slack DM messages or emails against you? I’m talking to a lot of startup employees right now – at a few different companies. I want to hear from you. meet me at [email protected]