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Erin Bensinger for The DEV Team

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#DEVDiscuss: Golden Handcuffs πŸ’°

image created by Margaux Peltat for the Chilled Cow YouTube channel

Time for #DEVDiscuss β€” right here on DEV 😎

Inspired by @_michaellin's Top 7 post, tonight’s topic is...the golden handcuffs πŸ’°

If you're not familiar, the phrase "golden handcuffs" refers to a job that makes you feel bored, unhappy, or dissatisfied, while also compensating you really well. So well, in fact, that you feel like you can't or shouldn't leave.


  • Have you experienced the "golden handcuffs"?
  • What are your personal boundaries around compensation and job satisfaction? Which is more important to you, and why?
  • Any triumphs, fails, or other stories you'd like to share on this topic?

Top comments (7)

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

I had a friend who let "golden handcuffs" contribute to extreme depression with devastating consequences.

It's not entirely clear what the chicken/egg situation was β€” did they see their situation as "golden handcuffs" because of the depression, or the other way around? That is definitely not clear.

However, what is definitely clear is that we probably shouldn't stigmatize this as a "good problem to have" or otherwise diminish the power dynamic between individuals and gigantic corporations, even if the individual is extremely well compensated compared to the average. It is a complex struggle.

theaccordance profile image
Joe Mainwaring

Have you experienced the "golden handcuffs"?

I kinda feel like I'm in golden handcuffs, but I wouldn't say I'm unhappy - more so that I want to be in a more ambitious environment. This May I will celebrate my 9th work anniversary, a tenure so long that I have the most seniority at a 200-person company. I've attempted to quit 3 different times, but here I am, still collecting a paycheck. My handcuffs isn't equity (although our PE backer designed equity to be handcuffs), rather that I haven't hit a ceiling with my career. Every time I've attempted to quit, I've been provided with a new growth opportunity. Over 9 years, I've evolved from a individual contributor into a company leader. I'm still with the company today because I'm on a path to join the c-suite, a goal that I aim to accomplish before 2025.

What are your personal boundaries around compensation and job satisfaction? Which is more important to you, and why?

My perspective here has significantly changed now that I'm in a leadership role. While I always will advocate for my personal interests, I've learned to temper some of my own demands and instead champion for improved comp for members of my teams. If I can retain my top talent and keep them productive, it not only reduces the work I'm personally responsible for, but it drives revenue and profit growth. More profit means more funding is available to bump my comp.

Any triumphs, fails, or other stories you'd like to share on this topic?

Just some generic advice:

  • Hedge your bets
  • Carpe them diems
  • Don't count your eggs until they hatch
atinypixel profile image
Aziz Kaukawala

Hey Joe,
My story is as close as yours, its my 8th year and just like you I'm at the max seniority. Though my company size is significantly smaller yet, somehow I always feel I've so much to learn from my seniors, especially from my boss.

My next goal is to understand and learn some leadership qualities as right now my main role is still to code and guide/help other juniors.

Thanks for sharing, it really gave me many insights.

lukepatrick profile image

There should be more to the phrase "golden handcuffs" - long/drawn-out cliff vesting situations that essentially have you held hostage. Not feeling bored, but rather abused or misused. 3-4 years before anything vests can trap people in unfortunate situations.

Likewise, always read those "Accept Options" agreements - all sorts of nasty terms can be hidden away - NDA's and Non-Competes (yes I know those may be going away). Be sure to ask when interviewing to get a copy of those Agreements you might see later on. Was given access to an Options Acceptance contract that spelled out nearly every other tech company out there that I cannot work for if I accept. Had to decline that job.

jmau111 profile image

Burnout, boreout, and many other variants do not leave too many choices to people: "out."

People now look for meaningful experiences, and want to make significant contributions, not just do their job and get the money, especially in tech, but these opportunities remain pretty rare.

IMHO, we should acknowledge that it's not easy for organizations to create such " ultimate job experience." There are lots of "variables" that make recruitment extremely hard and can literally ruin the whole thing, regardless of the efforts.

However, I'm quite amazed by these popular companies, and not always in the best way. The level of stress/absurdity/nonsense must be so high that even the so-called "golden handcuffs" makes no sense.

moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

I made this point on the post itself but would like ot expand it here:

If you have something on your CV that looks like this - see how many people are impressed when you say any of "Netflix", "450k", or "left voluntarily" - then you should quit.

And the reasons are simple:

  • if you ever want another job, getting one will be easy
  • you probably have enough money in the bank to never have to work again anyway

So why stay working somewhere unless it's your absolute consuming passion? Find something you enjoy doing more, whether that's a job painting lines down the side of roads or eary retirement painting watercolours outside your lake house!

And if your passion is still in tech, you can pick and choose.

mneme profile image
Alex T • Edited

It is intriguing to see this discussion.

  1. review current financial commitments first: if you really need the income to keep those commitments
  2. how long is the cuffed period: time
  3. how thick is the gold? is it a gradual or cliff vesting ?
  4. is it a straight cuffs or an offered cuffs ?
  5. freedom is beautiful, and it comes with price. think twice before you sign. take a few days to cool down.

was in a situation before. One week before appraisal. I took a week break for moving house. Sitting in a hustle and bustle train station, I had a moment of calmness and relief; People with all walks and all ages rushing in and out from trains, one after another. Fear crept me out... I realised that I might be one of them when I turned 60. Panick attack.

After the break, I tendered my letter. My manager got a shock and said pay rise and promotion had been ready. Why so sudden?
I just said I wanted my life back.

I always have this wishful thinking on tech projects. how many developers will be working like Woz and Jobs?