Motion and option is a situation in which an employee of the company, usually an engineer, does light (or no) work and at the same time continues to be employed in the firm, receiving a full salary and a stock option. For experienced engineers, these options often bring in more money than salaries.
After the engineer enters the Motion and option mode, he fills his working time with trips to technology conferences, as well as programs for pleasure, communicates with friends on social networks and ponders his future career.
Business Insider has interviewed several people who know firsthand how it all works. Some of them were themselves members of this club. Others were human resources managers who tried to get these people back on track. Many admitted that Motion and option is a common, though not advertised practice in their companies. In their circle, such people are called “idlers”.
Their lifestyle is diametrically opposed to that of many high-tech people. The latter stay up late at work and are under great pressure from their firms, which demand from them boundless dedication and commitment to their work.
Protection from competitors
An engineer can become an idler for a variety of reasons. Manny Medina, head of Seattle’s fast-growing startup Outreach, has been on both sides of the barricades. He was an idler himself for a short time, and then, after working at Microsoft, he saw how this technology giant rationally uses such employees. In addition, he himself tried to lure some of these engineers on vacation into his startup.
According to Medina, he found himself in the position of a non-working high-paid employee early in his career, when he was studying for a master’s degree and working as a software developer. He completed his project months ahead of schedule and warned the company that he would leave after graduation. For the remaining time under the contract, he taught others to work with his software, but the firm did not commission him to develop new programs. All these months he was stuck in the office, filling in some documents and answering questions that he was sometimes asked.
“You allow a talented engineer to work in your field without letting competitors take him over from you,” he says. “This is a very correct approach, a kind of protective measure.”
A few years later, Medina ended up at Microsoft and saw how such highly paid professionals, either as engineers or in the research and development department of Microsoft Research are used. He says the company hunted for unique talent in promising fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, speech recognition, quantum computers, and more, often allowing them to continue teaching or working in university laboratories, while still paying salaries at Microsoft.
In other companies, it’s not about taking precautions, but about becoming indispensable. For example, Facebook has a secret bonus program called discretionary stocks. The essence of the program is that the company transfers to the engineer a considerable number of restricted stocks, the price of which is hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is a parting gift for a job well done.
It also discourages the person from leaving the company because over time the company grants an option on new discretionary stocks. These are bonus offers, signed by people from the top management of the company, sometimes even by Mark Zuckerberg himself.
“All the old folks on Facebook have got discretionary stocks. Their stocks have quadrupled and they are not going anywhere. They are very good engineers and they are really irreplaceable. And they don’t stay late at work after five, ” said a former engineer at the company.
Another variety of idlers are the people known in the Valley as “tenfold engineers”: rare specimens that are said to be ten times more efficient than an ordinary engineer. a tenfold engineer is said to do a job in an hour that would take a common man all ten. Some of them are real geniuses. Others may not be so smart, but they know thoroughly how the system works.
“When people have been working in a particular field for a long time, they can have got valuable skills that are not easy to see at first glance. They know where the pitfalls are, they can be called in at the last minute to debug a project, or they can be put on a team for a decisive breakthrough, ” says the former idle engineer at Facebook.
“We had one guy on Facebook who couldn’t be seen at all at work, but if the site collapsed, he would find the cause of the problem when no one could do it,” he recalls.
Another type of idles is a long-term employee of the company who has risen to senior engineering positions and no longer has to work with the same diligence to maintain the won positions. These are not tenfold engineers, but people with a lot of experience who know how, without overwork, to be appreciated by their superiors and receive an annual portion of premium stocks.
All sources unanimously claim that this type of idlers is the most common on Google.
“Most of my friends at Google work 4 hours a day. These are senior engineers and they don’t need to work a lot. They know how the system works, and they know when to really get into work. They are engineers, so they were able to organize their production cycles in the best possible way, ”said one engineer.