Salary Negotiations, Addendum

I just thought of another perverse incentive introduced by salary negotiations - they promote territoriality.

Negotiating 102: Deal from a position of strength. How can an employee get the upper hand? By making themselves essential. It’s not good for the company to have essential employees. Employees get sick. Employees go on vacation (or try to). Employees get pregnant. Employees have children, which is a whole world of conflicting priorities. The company needs to be able to run smoothly while they’re away.

If employees have to bargain, they’ll strengthen their hand by hoarding information. You become an essential employee by not sharing knowledge. You become “the only person who knows …” In tech companies, it’s pretty easy to be the only person who understands a critical piece of code, or knows how to configure specific servers. You generally have to work to not find yourself in that position. But almost anyone can do it. You do it by not writing things down. You don’t document requirements, decisions, client requests, lessons learned, policies and procedures, or the reasons behind them. You keep it all in your head. You prevent it from becoming institutional knowledge.

The people who write everything down, the ones who work up procedures that everyone can follow, write code that everyone can read, and explain all the whys and wherefores of what they do? These are the ones who really create value for the company in terms of institutional knowledge. And if they’ve done a really good job of it, you can replace them at a moment’s notice. Again, the ones who are the most valuable are the ones you can pay the least. But which do you want to encourage?