OET Culture is Toxic and Abusive

Note from the insider: this is almost exact copy of the internal document. All names have been removed. Published on Shitlassian October, 2021

TLDR: OET Culture is based on negativity and abusive mental stress meant to motivate you to grow and excel beyond your comfort. That’s all wonderful in theory but is pretty awful to experience as a human being that thrives on positive reinforcement. Especially when your results for CSS and OET are pretty great.

Hi! I’m the [removed] for the Tooling POD, primarily focused on Single Queue. I’ve invested an enormous amount of my being into building a product that CSS Operations can use to manage their queues. I’m pretty proud of what my team has accomplished so far but I’m about to be fired because I don’t live up to the expectations of OET leadership; Specifically K. Nevermind that under my leadership, we’ve accomplished something that CSS failed to do three times prior when converting our queue management practices from GSAC to a new tool. (The only thing I won’t take partial credit for is the Status feature which C. knocked out of the park).

See, the problem is that I don’t reflect the communication style or techniques that K. expects. There are other, less important reasons, but that’s the main one. The results aren’t as important as how I communicate with K. The crew I work with directly is consistent with their feedback that I add value and improve the effectiveness of our product. Many of you in operations enjoy the sessions we have together to discuss Single Queue and how we can improve the work you do. However, I don’t broadcast this (or my other accomplishments) to CSS Leadership and thus I’m not worthy of my position.

In OET, there’s an understanding that ‘feedback’ is a gift. This feedback is generally ‘constructive’ or in all honestly extremely negative to the point of challenging anything you feel confident about. The more awkward and uncomfortable you feel, the better the criticism. The more you think you excel at something, the more that something is critiqued and challenged. This routinely causes employees of OET to question themselves and doubt their ability to perform the role they were hired to do. From an OET perspective this is meant to provide an opportunity for growth and explore your insecurities to better yourself. The disconnect comes when the feedback is tied to your job and livelihood. When the head of OET claims you aren’t capable in the areas you were hired for, you start to lose faith in yourself. How you respond is what K. is looking for.

This is abusive if you don’t respond the way he or OET leadership wants. I know I’m a good communicator. It’s what has made my career. Challenging that aspect of my skill set did indeed trigger me to the point where I got defensive. Being defensive is right where leadership wants you to be. It gives them an angle to berate and define you. The gift is a constant beat down on your identity with the promise that you’ll be better after recovery. That said, you know who you are, and no one else will define that for you. If your boss had a management tactic meant to break you down by challenging who you are rather than leveraging your passion or skill set as a positive, that would be abusive and counter productive. It’s old school, uninformed coaching and it would demotivate you and cause you to doubt yourself. That seems to be OET leadership's MO. If you can’t take the abuse, and grow from it then you’re not fit for OET.

This puts me in an uncomfortable position with Atlassian. I love this company. I love the people I work with. I love the product we’re building and the partners we’re building it with. I like to believe I live the values that define this company. It’s why I’m writing this post. I feel if I don’t share my perspective, many of my coworker’s lives won’t improve. I may burn bridges with OET leadership, but if they take a moment to reflect on themselves and the culture they promote, then maybe things will improve for the team members I care so much about. I’ve watched my manager go from an optimistic servant leader to an overworked and sullen (abused) representative of OET culture who’s doing her best to ‘grow’ as a manager when she came in as one of the best managers I’ve ever worked for. This is a problem.

I really don’t want to come across as some jaded employee who resents being fired. I have other opportunities that will compensate me more than what Atlassian has to offer. I really just want OET to be a healthier department where the drive for improvement doesn’t mean everyone feels like they are a failure. Where positive feedback isn’t dependent on the individual to define and fight for while negative feedback and deficiencies are highlighted by leadership as often as possible. This ratio is close to 10 negative gifts to 1 positive. All while our department is viewed as a net positive worthy of more involvement and investment from CSS. That should mean our individual members are doing something right. If you listen to OET’s leadership though, we are all failing at our role. That should tell you something B. Ask any of my coworkers if I should be fired. I'm confident in their responses. But K. believes otherwise. Why is that? Is that healthy?

I don’t expect anyone else from OET to speak up. Doing so exposes them to the abuse and we all really do love what we do. No one wants to lose the opportunity. But I feel if I don’t speak up, nothing will change.