Omg! A Facebook Employee Committed Suicide September of 2019 !!

Oh wow, that gives all new meaning to the “postmortem” we’re so used to doing post-software-event. Apparently, the guy was under H1B visa and was about to lose his dream job at Facebook when he jumped from 3rd floor at Facebooks ‘a shiny brand spanking new Menlo Park California-designed HQ office. I’ve worked with a lot of Facebook engineers. They are very intense and very serious about their SEV’s. I squirm even hearing about the SEV preceding the jump. It’s like a court martial for a soldier or an officer. There’s punishment and shaming.

This isn’t cultural shock to Chinese people btw, workplace suicide happens often in Chinese high tech companies, apparently, our most hated competitor Huawei was at one point a suicide factory during its earlier years too. Again, Silicon Valley company has copied the Chinese: Squeeze a Chinese until he’s empty.

I’m seeing some people showing sympathy to these poor foreign kids. I would do the same, but I know the effort you and your family made to get you here. The realist would probably try to reassure you that:

  1. If a coworker is young, old, or seems unsure–trust your feelings! The young and inexperienced has no experience and shouldn’t be in a position of power and I don’t care if all the VCs wants to give money only to young kids. Youth with underserved power is as dangerous as Mark Zuckerberg–dangerous in all the good and bad ways.
  2. If the guys old, he’s got experience to kick your ass, so watch out!
  3. If he seems exceedingly nervous, that really does mean something is wrong–get out, get out now before you jump from that roof! Trust your feelings, just because the company entrust I don’t care if it’s billions of dollars or top secret information to him, doesn’t mean you should trust him with your family.
    If he’s not nervous while being in charge of billions of dollars, he is probably on drugs. Sometimes they’ll even tell you and refer you to his doctor/vendor. Take it, at your own health risk of course, but don’t jump from the roof. You would be an outsider among your coworkers if you don’t take their drugs–substance or “religion.” the company appreciates your sacrifices, you may even get a raise from starting to pay for it.
    If he comes from a country with a history of racist practices, ehem, will refrain from naming them, there are many many… watch out!!!!!!!! Their unconscious bias has built in normative directives to enforce hierarchical social structure around them–they will be more submissive where it is normal for them to be and they will be dominant to those under them. So study up, brush up on world history. And knowledge of modern geopolitics wouldn’t hurt either. Like, can someone explain to me the dislike between German and English people? I don’t get it.
    If he doesn’t speak English, don’t trust him. It’s okay to have an accent here in Silicon Valley. Doesn’t matter if your job is super important and mostly human management or communications, you don’t have to speak perfect English. Your boss’s bosses, although all American-raised, probably failed English in high school anyways, ask them to settle a grammar dispute and they probably will not agree with each other on the right answer. When there is a manger or a powerful person who is difficult to understand for you, it means that your communication with him will be difficult. No matter if his placement is strategic, if it walks, swims and quacks like a duck–it is a duck. Don’t complain about it–it seems to be a punishable offense like questioning someone else’s religion or politics at work place. Find help! There is hope! Heck, I’ve taken up learning at least 4 foreign languages in an effort to understand foreign accents. (It doesn’t help your comprehension, but may give you the same accent too.)
    A bad person is a bad person no matter his power or stature at work.
    A bad act is a bad act no matter who does it. It could be president of the United States, and if he does a bad thing, that act is still bad.

Perhaps I am naive to think these thoughts may help anyone. The source of these horrendous pressure is partially from the company’s need to appreciate in market cap, but also partially due to foreign competition… These people are likely not being worked to their deaths because someone enjoys torturing other people or due to their own personal greed. A more likely explanation is external competition. Other countries are whipping their slave citizens this way, and we can’t achieve the same results without doing the same to our people.

People grown in countries should have to experience an orientation with specialized population to ensure they understand freedom, equality, and our sense of fairness, our traffic laws before being allowed to roam free and work in this country.

Disclaimer: what I say about what may possibly happen at high tech companies in Silicone Valley has no relation with my own experience at any of my former employers. I am in no way speaking about something that happened to me. But if you find yourself in a situation as I described, I hope this is helpful to you in some way…

Pre-script. Just read that at least a bay area employees at google experienced being offered therapy and drugs for reporting discrimination on the BBC(and NBC, yahoo! News, and others…) Seems that I’m not completely crazy for imagining I was being nudged towards medication to cope with work stresses of all forms. But, to be fair, the news articles did glob work-diagnosed and work-prescribed medicine with racism, sexism and AI ethics. (At least the 2021 version of this story did.) I guess a positive spin here is that these AI ethicist may be taking their work very seriously now feel as much stress as the employees running the systems that make billions and billions of dollars. This is actually great news, if they are related. Ethicists work is that important. This is wonderful news if true. And plus therapy may save lives, I mean Facebook did let their employee jump from their beautiful HQ building. In the context of Chinese employee committing work-place suicide, these colored people and minorities being offered therapy and drugs for their perception of racism and sexism at other companies nearby seem relatively caring and humane treatment. Additionally, offering mental health service can be done in a fair way even if done for unethical reasons. It may not be such a bad thing if all minorities are offered mental health service. It wouldn’t hurt to hear from the people who deal with conflicts of the mind to suggest solutions to their experience with racism and sexism. Maybe the minority people are all crazy here, who knows? It wouldn’t hurt to find out if that’s the case according to the doctors. If you believe the stuff you can find on Google, large, highly productive organizations, like on the order of nation state organs, often are run on drug fueled members. (Example: Tesla’s Musk talks about Ambien dependence in 2018. What does his direct report feel about that? Maybe they feel superior to Musk and don’t need Ambien to both care and work hard and sleep. Or maybe they feel it’s normal to take drugs to help them cope with work. Are they all white people? Maybe not, but, as far as I can tell, white people are not completely excluded from these pressures, complaints or not. (Which is probably to say that the whole psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and mind-altering drugging were all invented by westerners. Easterners like myself can’t even claim to have invented taking drugs to boost productivity… unless you can’t tea which is like a really old invention compared to these things))

P.s. to complete that SIP, providing and encouraging minorities to attend to mental health care is absolutely a very compassionate act. As I have blogged before, “offensiveness” should not be a high priority criterion for ethical determination. Being offered mental health care is quite an insult and very demeaning in almost all cultures. Even in America, “seeing a shrink” and being “shrunk” is used quite derogatorily. But at the end, it might be really what is needed. Even if the shrink says “hey, look, you have to start some where. Try to accept discrimination as a fact first and go along with it before trying to make it better.” That can still an honest and caring attempt to help a minority employee. Minorities do not have support structure that their society would normally have in their native lands. They are disadvantaged. They should be helped. We promulgate the idea that being American is a higher being, higher than all your aboriginal religions, cultures and sciences. Immigrants are tempted to reform their culture to prosper in American society and politics. But the result is that Americanized religions and culturally linked social networks lose some of their natural therapeutic value–they don’t heal the wounds of minds and hearts as they may have in their homeland.

P.p.s. In one of the imaginary companies the fictional I worked for, there was this practice of “compassionate empowerment to advance(CEA).” Essentially, those in power should empower his subjects with power to do and be their part, with emphasis on “advancement”. Advancement being interpretable: doing your job well, or carrying on the desired culture, or literally advancement in responsibilities and powers. This, in retrospect, is a far superior declaration than I dared to hope when I imagine myself hearing it first time. A company, clearly not aforementioned FB at the time of that suicide, declaring and exercising CEA as its core practice is at a pentacle of human realization of Rawlsian Equal Opportunity Principle.(the particulars require some imagination. Instead of viewing it on the genetic, cultural or demographic dimension, this company chose to view it on the economic or political class dimension. The more advantaged/developed class is held responsible to advance those who are less advanced/developed in the dimension of wealth and power. The rich and empowered classes such as management and leaders are responsible to provide equal opportunity for the less empowered.) Partially, CEA may have help to inspire my idea of Bounded ETA Matching Fairness(BETAMF). Basically, ensuring the feeling and fact of empowerment to advance, the managed employee is given to (E)xpect that s/he will (A)rrive at a better state before the (T)ime for the next periodic performance review. That target clearly is represented by a (B)ound quantity or quality. E.g. benevolently reign over all of front end dev teams. Achieve the next eng, product or data science career ladder levels, sell to a larger territory, taking over branding too, to become the CEO, etc. FAM version is obviously modified to apply universally to more general society in wider variety of situations for the purpose of fairness. The BETAMF is a weaker prescription than CEA in that we merely summarize a important requirement. Instead of what may be arguably the best means of achievement(empowered self advancement), we leave the design, implementation and integration out of the BETAMF requirement. This frees adopting society or organizations to creatively innovate their own cultures and practices, in short, to achieve fairly.

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