Michael Lynch on Google's promotion process:
My first denied promotion taught me the wrong lesson. I thought I could keep doing the same work but package it to look good for the promotion committee. I should have done the opposite: figure out what the promotion committee wants, and do that work exclusively.
I adopted a new strategy. Before starting any task, I asked myself whether it would help my case for promotion. If the answer was no, I didn’t do it.
My quality bar for code dropped from, “Will we be able to maintain this for the next 5 years?” to, “Can this last until I’m promoted?” I didn’t file or fix any bugs unless they risked my project’s launch. I wriggled out of all responsibilities for maintenance work. I stopped volunteering for campus recruiting events. I went from conducting one or two interviews per week to zero.
It is sad how often I have seen this sort of thing throughout my career, especially in Silicon Valley. A lot of companies brainwash their employees into believing they are on some sanctimonious mission to instill a sense of loyalty or indebtedness. They want their employees to feel lucky or honored for the opportunity to work for the company.
This usually results in younger employees working themselves to death because they don't have many obligations outside of their job. I have seen a number of young developers get strung along with promise of advancement and they did so without complaint because they thought the company knew what was best for them.
Eventually the employees have their moment of self-actualization and realize that they are a cog in a machine whose primary goal is to make money. Sometimes this can be a healthy thing and by realizing this an employee can learn to strike a good work-life balance. Unfortunately, what I have mostly seen is a sense of resentment unfolds. This leads to either the employee quitting or, and what I feel is worse, taking a "rest and vest" attitude because they know they can get by on doing less work.
I wish I knew a solution to this problem. Five years ago I thought I would be working for the same company for the next decade. Now I can't be certain I will be working for the same company for the next year. For those of us in the tech sector (or maybe just those of us in Silicon Valley) there is little impetus to stay at a job long term.