May 1, 2019

Retaliation: Untitled D

This week, we're sharing stories about retaliation from workers at Google and Facebook.

I’m the only woman and the senior of what was formerly a two software engineer team. My manager had previously told me I was on track for a promotion but needed to “exercise more leadership.” I suggested that since we were looking for a third engineer that I could take on a tech lead position. My manager said the team did not need a tech lead.

We were looking for a third team member at the time and when my manager suggested taking our part time engineer on full time. I respectfully objected considering their performance on the team thus far and their “uncollaborative” work style. The part time engineer had so far refused to collaborate on shared designs and instead dictated interfaces to me, demanding that I let him submit code without review and even had my intern reassigned to him without telling me. They made a team I had previously been very successful on poisonous.

When I brought up concerns about our new team member’s behavior I was told that I simply “had to follow their orders” because they were the team’s tech lead. The other engineer and I were shocked. Neither of us had heard this before, and I remembered being recently told the team did not need a tech lead.

Following this conversation, my manager canceled our 1:1s for nearly two months. During my performance review I suddenly received a lower rating of “meets expectations” and was told that it was all my own fault. I was told that I was difficult to work with, that I had yelled at another teammate and that I had walked out of a meeting — none of which was true. I was shocked and defended myself by repeating my concerns with our new team member’s work style but was told that I was wrong to feel the way I did and that my manager had approved the new tech lead to take my intern because they expected me to leave the team. I filed a complaint with HR and was told there wasn’t enough evidence to substantiate my complaint.

When the project was canceled I was given a new manager and assigned a little technical writing to summarize my work on the project so far for a white paper. A couple of days later they expanded their request from “a few paragraphs” to two full papers, due by the end of the week. I worked evenings to get them done. When the end of the week came the deadline was extended and I was asked to write even more. At this point I was being micromanaged. My writing was being rewritten and incorporated into other documents. I raised this concern and was told to get back to work. I was uncomfortable moving forward and found it difficult to do creative work under duress. I communicated this thinking it was unfair to the team to pretend otherwise and insisted to return to my other duties.

Next, I found myself in a meeting with my manager, chaperoned by HR. I was told that I would be fired for insubordination and disrespectful behavior. Then they walked it back, giving me a final warning, and offered me the rest of the day off. When I showed hesitation the offer turned into a demand alongside with being escorted off the property and even refused access to my car which was parked on the property. A little while later she emailed me offering a small severance package if I agreed to quit within one day. When I escalated this further into HR and an investigation was opened it only took one meeting with two representatives to conclude that there was “no evidence” to support my claims. I was told that I had violated the code of conduct and that I was to be fired. I was put on involuntary leave and offered another severance package if I agreed to quit. I was about to accept the offer when another manager convinced me to join their team.