Yesterday the CEO took me out to lunch to try get me to stay. The conversation started by saying "well if you don't have anything new lined up, it doesn't hurt to stay on". When i explained that for normal people spending a few weeks off work is preferable to spending a few weeks working, he changed tack to "but we can make it worth your while".
I am being paid 18000元 per month here, which is 20-30% less than what i was making at my previous job in Shenzhen. I have mentioned several times to HR and management that i am being underpaid for my skillset and the answer has always been "well we can't afford any more than that". Meanwhile they have been advertizing exactly the same job i am doing for up to 30000元 per month. But, you know, i don't care enough about money to make a fuss. I live extremely cheaply. I have plenty of cash left over at the end of each month. I think software developers are grossly overpaid and i don't want to be a part of that racket.
However! If you are working people over the government-mandated 44 hour maximum with no overtime pay, and you are expecting them to be available till midnight on-call, and you are denying them vacation time, and you are banning office naps/siesta, and you are only paying 75% of the advertized salary with expense claims expected to fill up the other 25%... If you are providing people with all of these un-perks, then yeah you better pump up the base.
I pointed out that at my last company i was not only being paid more money, but also there was a hard 40 hour week - the managers strongly encouraged you to go home if you were working over. People could work from home. There was more annual leave. And - here's the kicker - the work was more interesting too. Not because working on robots isn't interesting. Working on robots is super interesting. But this company isn't working on robots. That's the bait and switch.
This company is doing a shady, shady fucking rebrand of a Chinese company's robots. My job has been to build a replacement front end so that we can sneakily resell to foreign customers and hide the fact that they can get the same thing much cheaper and with a more reliable line of support from the original vendor. Component-for-component cloning the other company's systems? Decompiling their software so we can copy it? Willfully infringing Amazon patents? Yeah, that's all part of the business plan. It's the most stereotypical Chinese tech company bullshit you can imagine, except it's the brainchild of an American who justifies it by saying stealing IP is legal in China. (This is false.)
So, there is no exciting work happening here. In fact, there is a lot of ethically questionable work being done here.
"But it will be different now that all the poor performers are gone, we can finally start building our own system!" This was the next angle of attack. Never mind the fact that for the last few weeks the CEO has been frantically hiring new poor performers - against my direct advice.
When i raised the point that back in December the CTO tasked me with building a factory robotics system from scratch and it was specifically the CEO who brought on two junior guys and told us all to build a front end instead, the CEO said "well that factory system was a worthless idea anyway, we don't have any factory customers bla bla bla". I explained that the reason we needed to build a factory system first is because technically it is a much easier system than the one we actually want to build, so it would be a first step and proof of concept that would be immediately saleable while we built on top of that to make the more complex thing...
Aaand then it was back to how we had no choice in the matter because our sole customer is complaining that a feature doesn't work in the front end. That feature is something the Chinese system does not support, never did support and never will support. The CEO sold "our" system to this customer by saying it could do a thing that it straight-up does not do. So, to cover up the fact, he wants some snazzy user interface and database hacks that make it look like we are solving the problem (even though we aren't) as some kind of stop-gap measure. I suspect it is just some dirty sales trick so he can get the final invoice paid out before the customer realizes we don't have the feature.
Anyway, after it became clear that i wasn't going to come crawling back, the CEO started shouting at me. Literally. Over lunch. In a public restaurant. He shouted at me about how he is going to own the whole industry. How he has all of these patents, how all he does is write patents, how he has hundreds of customers lined up, how everyone says his idea is revolutionary. He is going to be "the biggest fucking robotics company" in the world! Like, this guy is yelling at me about how much of a privilege it is to be working with him and how he hand-picked me for the honor. I mean...
Before i left the office yesterday he sent me an email hitting all the same points. Since he had to leave on a business trip in the evening i thought it was over.
But no, it wasn't. Because his wife also works at the company. And in the past two months they have started this weird good cop/bad cop thing, where he yells and screams and acts like the asshole that he is, then she buys treats for everybody and talks softly to them and tries to make them feel like this isn't a toxic workplace. Then she takes stuff said to her in confidence and feeds it straight back to him.
So she called me in for a one-on-one, where she started to give me the same spiel he did. How i am special and the best person they ever hired. Even if i didn't know for a fact that they gave the exact same talk to C when he quit, it rang hollow because they don't back up these words with actions that show they care about their employees (e.g. more cash, no overtime, better tools, work from home). I said no.
And then she tried an even more desperate tack. She decided to try play on my resentment of S (the incompetent "architect" who they foolishly hired back in November) and said that C is now working at the same company S is working at. She said that the only reason C quit is because S poached him away to get back at me. Apparently S has had it out for this company for months. You see, S got fired in early January, then spent the next 3 months evilly plotting how to fuck the company over. His diabolical coup de grace was - wait for it - to poach the most junior developer.
I could have pointed out how utterly insane this conspiracy theory was, and how there are far better ways to fuck the company - starting by reporting to the authorities the various labor and IP laws that are being violated... but instead i told her "people don't leave a company that they like".
I said, look, you guys are paying less than other companies, you are making us work longer hours than other companies, you are far less flexible on holidays and work from home than other companies, then - to top it off - the work you are having us do is far from interesting.
I didn't say that also her husband is an abusive fuckwit who treats everyone around him like garbage, to the point that an anxious, closeted kid like C literally had a nervous breakdown and was advised by his doctor to quit for health reasons.
So she came back saying "but software developers always work long hours, that's normal in this industry". Yeah. It's normal. AND WE FUCKING HATE IT. Jesus, just one week ago there was a huge online protest by Chinese developers over this nonsense. See https://github.com/996icu/996.ICU - 200,000 developers have "starred" the repo, showing their support. Come on. If someone offers you the exact same job you are already doing for the same pay but less hours, who wouldn't take that offer?
I don't think i changed her mind. Because if she acknowledged the fact that people do not want to work at this company, she might have to consider that the sole constant through all of these resignations is the CEO himself. And God forbid he would ever take responsibility for anything.
You see, both the CEO and his wife independently tried to tell me "i didn't know anything about how little you were being paid, i had no idea". Which is 100% bullshit.
The CTO had a budget of zero. He was told he could not hire a team in the US because it was too expensive. The Chinese staff all had to pay for their own illegal VPNs to get over the Great Firewall because the company would not pay for a registered corporate VPN. I had to pay for my own IDE (a basic tool developers need to code). We spent a month cobbling together free software for our development workflow because the CEO did not want to fork out the cost of a cup of coffee a day for a turnkey solution.
And i know HR also had no power over salaries. On my first day i was asked to sign a contract for 15000元 with a verbal agreement that they would cover 5000元 of my expense claims each month. I told them that was total fucking bullshit because my offer letter said 20000元. So who did HR have to contact to cut a special deal for me? Oh that's right, the fucking CEO and his wife. They explicitly approved my 18000元 a month because i point blank refused to expense my personal life against a company account.
So who the fuck set my salary? These same motherfuckers who are claiming that they had no idea about my salary. Their lying is so blatant, it's so transparent. I can't even believe they think they're getting away with it.
And then i realize, perhaps they don't even realize they're lying any more. The CEO is so wound up in thinking he is the greatest technical visionary in the world, he can't take responsibility for any failures. It would burst his whole bubble. So he just keeps constructing ever more ridiculous realities where he can keep on being the center of the universe.
Okay, fuck. I needed to get all of that out. This has been the last 6-8 weeks of my life.
Today i clocked out for the last time.