The Myth of the Cool Office
Don't be fooled by the perks at all those Silicon Valley (and Alley) offices — it's all just part of a subtle plot to control employee behavior. The founders of Fab.com, which just got itself a $1 billion valuation, admitted as much to Bloomberg's Sarah Freier. The shopping site wields its beer on tap, free lunch, and ice-cream machine as a means to force Fab employees to send emails in a "certain font," use high-quality paper, and always "be Fab" — whatever terrible thing that means. Those types of office perks abound at startups, of course, not only as a way to attract the best talent, but also to get that "talent" working on message, official office font included. Each and every kegerator serves as a reminder of what you owe the company. And that's just the food and drink. Let's take a look, by way of a couple recent trend stories and startup proclamations, at how the so-called "escalation of perks" keeps employees in line all over the tech world and "progressive" companies the world over.
Unlimited Vacation Days Nobody Takes
It sounds like the best perk ever: You could, officially, and under official policy, get paid for a three-month summer vacation. But of course the increasingly popular you-work-so-hard-that-we-won't-count strategy doesn't work that way. First, most companies wouldn't allow it. The marketing company Xiik, for example, boasts the limitless vacation offer, but in its fine print discourages long hiatuses. "There are no hidden agendas; xiik employees can take as much paid time off as needed," claims a Xiik project manager on the company website, before clarifying what that really means: "As nice as it would be to regularly leave for months at a time, common sense prevails: In most cases, it simply doesn't make sense to be away from work for extended periods."
Translation: non-stop vacation is a ruse.
Sure, three months of leave is a bit much. But how much is okay to take when your HR manager says you can take as much as you like? An employee completely loses leverage when he or she doesn't have a set amount of days to claim. If a boss says no to a lengthy request under the unlimited policy, then there's not really much a worker can do; an employee with a set amount of time off can always go with the but-still-have-a-week-left-this-year line.
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