A fascinating discussion arising from an anecdote about a startup starting to charge the engineers for the sodas they drink:
I had lived through this same conversation four times in my career, and each time it ended as an example of unintended consequences. No one on the board or the executive staff was trying to be stupid. But to save $10,000 or so, they unintentionally launched an exodus of their best engineers.Bear in mind that Silicon Valley engineer salaries are $100k-$300k, and the cost of a new engineer hire is roughly 30% of their first year's salary. Suddenly this cost saving looks phenomenally stupid.
The comments are equally interesting, as long as you don't subscribe to the notion that the plural of "anecdote" is "data":
At the last start-up I was at, the CEO gave the floor to the CFO at an all-hands, and the CFO then explained to us how much we were spending on sodas and snacks, and invited comments. the consensus was that we were willing to pay "something".Frankly, if your typical engineer drinks 1-2 sodas per day (say, $2), costs you $400/day for a 10 hour working day, and loses 2% productivity by not having money for the soda he wants, you're still down on the trade by making him pay for sodas. Really, it's cheap at the price. This completely ignores your loss when engineers, feeling unloved, go to the startup down the road who provide free sodas, coffees, and have cats in the office that the engineers can pet.
That something turned out to be a quarter, and three months later the CFO was able to announce that consumption had fallen to a quarter of what it had been.