Behind the Beanbag Chairs and Free Food at Tech Startups
Dan Lyons went to work at HubSpot after 25 years in journalism. He wrote his new book Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble based on his experiences in what he calls a “digital sweatshop.” In his The New York Times article, “Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired,” he sheds a light on the disrespectful and exploitative environments of today’s tech companies and startups.
Ironically, tech companies and startups are often thought of as the best and most exciting places to work today. They have “cool offices,” with bright colors, beanbag chairs, and unlimited vacation. However, these perks cover up a larger problem with company culture.
Lyons describes the HubSpot’s environment as “a frat house mixed with a kindergarten mixed with Scientology.” He recalls that when someone was fired at HubSpot, the boss called it “graduation” and sent out “cheery” emails about it. People worked hunched over long tables side by side and were “glorified telemarketers,” despite euphemistic job titles like “business development representative.” At HubSpot, employees were led to believe they were important, but in reality were completely disposable.
It isn’t just HubSpot. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has said that if employees didn’t like the grueling environment, they were free to work somewhere else. Netflix’s 2009 “culture code” stated, “We’re a team, not a family.” Employees are expected to be loyal to their companies, but don’t get the same loyalty in return. They don’t have any job security, and bias and sexual harassment are big problems. This is disrespectful leadership.
The kind of work environments perpetuated by HubSpot and similar companies are harmful to everyone involved. Research clearly shows that positive work environments are more beneficial to bosses, employees, and organizations. Employees should be valued, acknowledged individually, and treated respectfully.