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A story of my work at Softjourn

Softjourn is a small IT outsourcing company with the development center located in Western Ukraine.

In fact, I always felt that there was something wrong with Softjourn. In particular, this could be seen in the story of its first three employees, who were promised to receive leading positions and good compensation in future. Instead, one of them was forced to leave. Another one was fired without any prior notice. And the last one left the company in some time after I did. Despite the promises, when Vasyl, an old friend of Sergiy Fitsak, entered the company, two of them were still employed, but this was Vasyl, who received the new position of team lead at their project. And he was not familiar with the project and even with PHP (the language, the project used). However, the company was very young and I got deceived by the “sincerity” and “openness” of Sergiy, the managing director of the company, having assumed, that the situation could be improved…

So, I had realized, that the company was moving the wrong direction (and that my way was different) years ago. Still, I decided not to give up and leave, but to attempt to improve things. In particular, this was demanded by my conscience (I did not want to regret later). But the very root cause was that Sergiy demonstrated the wish to resolve issues and literally asked subordinates to assist him.

For a long time I used to share my thoughts with Sergiy in person. For some time he really listened, but less and less over time. Afterwards he began to express displeasure with my “constant remarks”. Eventually, he started to ignore my suggestions completely! If the problem was about acceptable variants of some ordinary processes, I would calm down, but it was usually about obvious stupidities, that Sergiy made and that affected the work of the team, prospects of the company and so on! Thus, he often ignored escalating crises until it became too late, despite many people asking him to resolve appropriate issues in good time. Moreover, sometimes he even actually exacerbated crises…

There was a manager in the company, that led one of the biggest projects. This was an impulsive guy, who was looking for some additional support from top managers. Failing to get such support, he used to lose his temper quite often (some issues, he was looking to resolve, were quite critical for his project). But, instead of putting him in his place (or, better, helping him to resolve issues) Sergiy sometimes praised him for his persistence. This ended up with firing the manager without prior notice for another episode, when he lost his temper…

The problem was also aggravated by the fact that most employees reported no complaints… So, I also tried to make them speak openly and not only in the kitchen. I even tried to persuade the director’s friends to influence him. I also tried to discuss issues publicly and to trigger creation of work groups for resolving some issues. Through indirect actions I even tried to force people to pay attention to some issues. All these gave no results, except dramatic worsening of relations with the management and other staff members… Would I do all these again? Yes! Because now I’m sure, that I did all I could. I just could not complain about something without trying to fix this something beforehand…

By the way, my attempts to improve things were related not only to behavior of the management. Thus, my Orangutan project was aimed at encouraging colleagues to step beyond the scope of implementing exactly what they were told to (no one participated in the project though). I set up the local Wiki to encourage others to share their knowledge. By setting up the local Jabber server I tried to improve communication inside the company. Softjourn Labs (which is dead know) was aimed at encouraging people to share their projects and demonstrate their skills. All these failed as well! It appeared, that the vast majority of the company’s employees wanted to do only exactly what they were told to and nothing more. But, I’m not saying, that this is a drawback of the staff (while partially it is). The root of the issue is in the company atmosphere! And this atmosphere was maintained by the management. The biggest issue was that the management did not realize this and even did not try to!

This way I gradually came to the conclusion, that I was unable to improve things in the company. This happened more than a year and a half before I left. Perhaps, it would be possible to change the atmosphere, if the problem was only at the management level, but eventually it appeared that employees did not want any changes as well! At the moment I understood this I had already been treated as “the incarnation of the Evil in the company” and had already tried all my acceptable ultimate methods (that’s why, perhaps, I got treated as the evil, actually). I would leave at that very moment, if I had not borrowed a loan from the company. Therefore, if I left before I paid the debt, I would need to refund the double payment. That’s why I decided to wait… So, since then I started to gradually stop all my contributions to the company (and there were a lot of them). Nevertheless, they did not let me leave calmly…

I have an intrinsic need to do something “socially useful”. That’s why I worked on personal projects and that’s why I decided to launch the Softjourn Labs site. Thus, I wanted my personal projects to be used by more people, to share and maintain them publicly. I chose to use the company’s Labs site for hosting them hoping, that this would guarantee a relative loyalty to me (i.e., hoped for gratitude), and to avoid being accused of working for self interest. I was trying to allocate a server for Softjourn Labs for around a year constantly facing a complete indifference! Finally, a marketing manager succeeded to help me obtain the one. Afterwards for about a month in my free time I worked on plugins for the future site, on its design and configuration. After my newly written plugins were published on the just-launched Labs site I started to promote it. All my work was reviewed and approved before the launch!

Although no one actually cared about Softjourn Labs till its launch, right after the moment it came online the full control over it was granted to Anatoliy, a friend of Sergiy and chief of the Development department. Anatoliy first posted his project to the website (the only one besides me, by the way) and then started to configure it on his own without any consultation with anyone, who worked on it before (not even with the marketing manager). When finished he just notified everyone involved about the changes, he made (he always does things this way). In particular, he disabled registration requirement for file downloads – the requirement, which I had already mentioned on third-party resources, when promoting the site. Therefore, this his action made me indignant and I responded with an “angry” remark (which was still quite polite though). But, apparently, not to make Anatoliy feel offended Sergiy called of a meeting, to which he invited about 20 employees, and started to blame me for “all the sins”.

In particular, I was blamed for… allowing file downloads without registration! Files from Softjourn Labs could be downloaded from the main company’s website, what really did not require registration (and what I really did this way), but the registration was required on Softjourn Labs site until Anatoliy changed that. Nevertheless this was being construed as my (and only my) fault! Even despite the fact, that I had approved all the things before launching the site (they claimed, that I should have attracted their attention to these particular issue). In general, on this meeting Sergiy claimed, that other employees made complaints against me every day (not true, of course)… After that I got clear understanding, that I was not going to gain any loyalty and gratitude in this company! So, I decided to take all my projects away from Softjourn Labs (these were 8 out of 9 projects hosted there).

To pay my debts I needed approximately a year more and that was when every other working day seemed to be very long. So, I started to look for side earnings and even considered taking another loan in another company to repay and leave as soon as possible… But the story of my work at Softjourn got the last episode, that forced me to leave right away…

As I have mentioned I even tried to ask Sergiy’s friends to help me resolve some issues in the company. One of such issues was that Sergiy with his friends used to drink alcohol in his room during the work time (should I explain, why it was perceived poorly by ordinary employees?). Yuriy, the project managers, was one of such friends of the director. I tried to explain him, why he should ask Sergiy to move their parties out of the office. Unfortunately, Yuriy refused to listen and our talk ended with his threat to smash my face. Since that time he also used to slander me and, therefore, our relations became bad.

For some time some employees spread rumors, that Yuriy, another close friend of Sergiy and his class mate, was about to move to the project I worked on. I did not pay much attention to these rumors as I was sure, that I would be notified, if this really was the truth. At that moment I was officially called “the primary developer on the project”. But soon I heard “rumors”, that Yuriy was already working on the project! So this time I decided to check it with my project’s manager Valeriy (another close friend of Sergiy, by the way). And he told me that… he had just left the project and this was the first working day of Yuriy on the position of the manager on the project, I worked on! Should I explain, what I felt?..

At that moment I had some money to repay another debt (not the company’s one). The sum was actually enough to repay the Softjourn’s one, but it was just risky to… Despite this on the very next day, after I got to know news about Yuriy, I took those money, paid the debt, wrote and signed the request for leaving…

You wonder, why did not they let me know about the new manager?.. I also did! But, in fact, it was not the first such episode… Earlier there was a girl in the company, who was about to leave and who planned to let managers know about this in a week or two. Suddenly managers decided to move her to another project… Certainly, this had no sense, so she decided to tell Sergiy about her plans to leave in advance… And you won’t guess, what decision Sergiy made! He decided to… do nothing! He did moved her to the new project!.. Moreover, he did not let the manager of her new project know, that the new employee was about to leave as soon as she learned the project! Why?.. Sergiy often ignores problems hoping that they would get resolved by themselves. Maybe, he hoped, that she would decide to stay (while he did absolutely nothing to make her stay)…



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