My time at Buffer wasn't great

A lot of people hold Buffer up as an amazing company who are doing all the right things and making all the right moves.

Just over a year ago I had a trial at Buffer that didn’t work out – they weren’t happy with me and I wasn’t happy with them.

I wanted to write my thoughts down on why I have come to realise that Buffer isn’t the company I thought it was going to be.

I don’t want this to come across as an attack on the company, and certainly not as one against some of the amazing people that work/worked there. But there are some specific examples and general things that happened that I really don’t agree with.

The truth is working at Buffer completely knocked my confidence as a developer and as a person. It kicked off some of the darkest times with my depression and I honestly believe that I am only now starting to come out of that slump.

Maybe you will read this and think, jeez this guy has a real chip on his shoulder, hopefully I don’t come across as too much of an asshole.

Finally, I will be using this post as a resource when I get asked by people if I would recommend working there! If you think I am an ass for writing this then there is every chance you will be a better cultural fit with Buffer than I was.

The first joke I was called on

The first sign that Buffer may not be a long term thing for me, and equally that I was likely not a good fit for buffer was on the first day. In the introductory email in fact!

When Joel introduced me to the company he used a phrase like “I am kind of excited to…” (note: I am paraphrasing any quote).

I jokingly responded with “Kind of excited? You should be super excited!” It was clearly a joke.

The feedback I received shortly after was that this could be construed as me having a high opinion of myself, whilst I understand how out of context that sentence can seem self important, in context I couldn’t disagree more.

The net result was I felt dumb and like I had offended everyone on the first day, not a great start!

There was a lot of what felt like forced happiness

Whilst the team was made up from folk from all over the world and living in several different locations the company felt very “American” – By that I mean the perceived forced happiness stereotype you see on TV.

Interacts with some folk seemed very forced and that any positivity was manufactured and not genuine.

Whilst this is fine when simply chatting for the sake of chatting, when discussing work related issues it felt like unnecessary cruft.

In small amounts overly happy interactions are enjoyable, but all day every day honestly left me feeling like either everyone was putting it on or there was something flawed in me for not being that positive all the time.

The über positive interactions meant you could never quite tell what people were actually thinking

One of the main impacts of these positive interactions was that I felt like people were keeping stuff inside that they shouldn’t have. Ironically this is at complete odds with the open by default mantra that Buffer has adopted.

At different times I asked folk for feedback on how I thought I was getting on and some didn’t respond and some responded only with positive remarks. Later during a review I was told some of the not-so-positive things people thought.

For a company that is so open I felt blind-sided by this.

Support Issues ahead of new features

On the topic of not-so-positive things people thought about me, one of the bits of feedback I received later was that I was too keen to jump onto support issues ahead of working on new features.

Admittedly this is completely at the discretion of the company you work for where the priority sits. And if I remember correctly when I was being told this it was described as a bit of a grey area when working out what to prioritise.

In my opinion bugs and support issues should always come ahead of new features – I have never understood building on top of shaky foundations.

Another joke I was called out on

I was working at Buffer around the time it was decided to share the wage of all members of staff publicly, of course we were all asked if this was OK and no one had any problems.

When the page was put live we were asked if everything seemed accurate.

I made a joke about how my pay was missing a few extra zeros at the end. Learning from the last time I dared to make a joke I even prefixed it with “haha”.

Again it was deemed that I seem too entitled and that others may have thought I thought I deserve more money than them.

This really grated on me – no one at Buffer was in it for the money. It was painfully obvious that everyone was there because they cared about the product.

When people screw up they should be told as much

Not in a horrible way and maybe not publicly, but I honestly feel there was too much beating around the bush a lot of times when the productive and altogether kinder way to talk to someone is to straight out say “You did this wrong”.

This again feeds into the idea that you couldn’t tell what people were thinking.

In closing

This is hardly a fair and balanced review of Buffer, and it certainly came out more ranty than perhaps I would have liked but I really wanted to get this off my chest.

I wonder as well if this is a US cultural thing and most US based companies are like Buffer? Even if not I would be very wary of working for an American or American-Styled company again in the future.

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