It's been six years since I left my job at a startup where I worked for around five years. I have a lot of good memories, bad ones too. But I think about this one thing a lot, how I made that workplace toxic. It was unintentional. So here is the story, and I hope you don't make the same mistake.
After I completed college, I had one thing clear in my mind. I would never work for more than 8hrs. I even left my first job, because my CEO made me work till 10 pm one day, it was one day in 8 months I worked there, somehow he believed if you want to grow, you need to work 10+ hrs daily (Which is false). Even in my 2nd job, I let my manager know that don't expect me to work for more than 8hrs when he asked me why bugs were still not resolved in one day (yeah, that was his expectation).
Now let's get back to what I did, which I think was wrong and made the workplace more toxic.
In my initial three years in my career, I hardly had worked at the organizations I worked for four organizations, and by Aug 2011, I joined my 5th organization. I wanted some work, wanted to learn and grow. And before you ask, no, I had no idea about Open Source and was not in the condition to afford a computer for myself.
The business was related to fintech, and it was a 3-year-old startup and had too many exciting problems to solve.
Suddenly, I could see I had some interesting problems to solve, and no one took responsibility. There was only one problem though time.
So the next thing which I did was I started putting in more hours, I began working 10+hours, no one asked me to do that, I was selfish, I wanted to grow. I wanted to grow faster. I tried to cover the last three years I had lost not learning new things.
Suddenly the things paid off, in the wrong way. Within a year, I had the opportunity to lead our Production support team. It was a 6-7 people team. I am proud of the work we did together.
Even after having the team, I kept working those extra hours. Still, no one asked me to do that, and I never asked my team to stay longer in the office.
But they had a bad influence on them, and it was me; yes, this is where everything went wrong. Suddenly, my team started working more hours, and on many occasions, we even worked for days.
Working more hours suddenly became a thing; no one asked for it; I started it, and now I think it became Business As Usual for the organization. My team size increased from 7 to 32 in the next three years, and I was still doing it, making the workplace more toxic.
I remember I organized two days die till you code event in the name of an internal hackathon. The idea was to close as many issues as possible, which we received as part of Production Support.
I was the one who wanted to grow, the selfish one, I thought it would not impact anyone, but in upcoming years I could see the damage I had done. Suddenly my team and many teams started working more hours, 8 pm was like normal time, no one used to leave.
All team's expectations were at an all-time high, and developers were expected to deliver everything in a short period.
I could have been less selfish. I could have made sure, working more hours would not become a trend. But I did it. I was young, reckless, had so much energy, wanted to solve all issues and make sure I grew faster, which I did, being selfish.
I can see many developers are following the same trend for different reasons.
- If I stay in the office for more hours, I will get an early promotion to show my manager I work a lot.
- Rings a bell? Yes this is pretty common; by doing this, you make sure the place becomes toxic for people who want to finish the work and leave.
- I worked for 10+ hours as a developer, forcing my team to do the same.
- Yes, actual incident and many managers in India follow this just because they were asked to work 10+ hours daily when they were developers.
I am not saying dont work for extra hours, and sometimes it happens, and it's almost unavoidable. After leaving that startup, the rule is to say No; if asked to work for extra hours, it paid off more than six years after that startup, and I never worked for more than 8hrs for my employer.
You can do that too, start saying "No" to the unexpected deadline, become less selfish while doing some work. Stop wasting time unnecessarily in the office when no one asks you.
In case you have a similar story, I would love to hear from you; tag me on Twitter