I recently ran across a fascinating letter sent by the CEO of a small Ukranian consulting company to his employees. My translation from the original Russian text is shown below:

Hi everyone!

We’re quietly becoming a serious company over here and are therefore introducing rules. There are plans to fully describe all of our processes which govern our work during the month. Until then, we’re introducing rules which will help solve our most critical problems.

And so, 2 rules:

1) Our associates don’t freelance. We’re building a Great Company, not a hangout for freelancers. Any associate caught freelancing (whether at work or not) will be fired immediately and without severance.

You can’t serve two gods – you need to decide. If someone feels that they’ve exceeded the level of their goals, if you need more money, power, opportunity, and initiative – ask your managers, they’ll explain to you how to get all that within the Company.

This rule will be effective as of next Monday (August 20th).

Until that moment everyone must choose 1 of 3 options:

  1. I’m an honest and honorable associate. I want to grow with the Company and want to achieve Great Results. In this case, I will go to my manager, get instructions on how to achieve all this, and start hustling.
  2. I’m an honest and honorable associate, but I don’t want bigger projects and results. I want to calmly sit in my kitchen and freelance. In this case, I will go to my manager and submit my resignation.
  3. I think that I’m the most cunning one here and will continue sitting with one ass on 2 chairs. In that case, I will sooner or later be fired in shame.

You have until the 20th of August – figure it out ladies and gentlemen.

2) Our associates DON’T consider the results of their work (and in fact THEMSELVES) to be crap. Therefore, our programmers don’t allow really retarded defects. And testers don’t let builds with retarded defects go further to the customer.

In order to sharpen this habit, we’re introducing the following prices for programmers:

Passing a build with a Blocker defect to testing will cost $3

>> Critical >> $2

>> Major >> $1

For testers, passing a build to a client with a Blocker defect will cost $3

>> Critical >> $2

>> Major >> $1

With the dollars we collect in this fashion during the month, the entire company will go bowling or somewhere else.

In other words, this money will not end up in my pocket. I want to make money on intelligence, not stupidity. I hope that you all do too.

This rule will become effective starting next Monday. 13th of August, yep 🙂

I’m warning you in advance, childish babble of “this wasn’t in the spec” will not fly. Why? Well, because one of our values states: We think beyond what’s suggested. Don’t understand how to do it? Ask!

By the way, about the mission, values, and vision. These aren’t just words. These are principles by which we make decisions. So if you haven’t learned them yet – learn them and use them in your work.

That’s all for now. If you have any questions – don’t be shy, come on in, ask.

Your beloved CEO 🙂

A Few Thoughts

Ah, where to begin. First, I think it’s safe to say that this letter will probably not be great for morale. I mean, it may not be Neal Patterson bad, but it’s pretty depressing.

Second, the edict against freelancing feels like an overreaction to a specific incident (or a person). If that’s the case, it’s too bad because there’s nothing inherently wrong with freelancing. I might even argue that freelancing can make you a better developer.

Finally, charging people for bugs could very well backfire. If they actually do have a culture of carelessness, this policy is unlikely to change that. On the other hand, it is likely to drive away great devs and testers who won’t want to put up with such nonsense (unless of course there’s nowhere else for them to go, which may well be the case in Ukraine for all I know).

The thing is, running a company is damn hard. I can completely appreciate the desire to get the best out of your employees and keep your customers happy. That said, there are much, much better ways of doing both.

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This post got 6 comments so far. Care to add yours?

  1. An email like that would have me updating my resume, plain and simple. I think that for me the worst part isn’t even the draconian, un-trusting policies being implemented, but the breezy, faux-light-hearted packaging of the message. The policies are bad enough, but the implication that I should be happy and excited about having them imposed on me would be too much to stomach. The message itself is simple adversity, but this email insults the intelligence of everyone who reads it.

  2. Irina M. says:

    Oh, this is priceless. The translation really does not do justice to the original.

    • Alex Tatiyants says:

      I did the best I could, but translations are tough to do well, especially to get the tone across.

  3. Latasha Lopas says:

    Loved the quotes. They really make me think.