Non-disparagement Agreements

A few years ago, an interesting thing happened on the internet. A former Reddit employee was holding a Reddit AMA about his termination from the company. After the employee stated that he was fired, likely because several weeks prior he'd raised concerns about donating 10% of ad revenue to charity.  The CEO of Reddit, Yishan Wong, stepped in to explain what really happened.

You were fired for the following reasons:

    Incompetence and not getting much work done.
    Inappropriate or irrelevant comments/questions when interviewing candidates
    Making incorrect comments in public about reddit's systems that you had very little knowledge of, even after having these errors pointed out by your peers and manager.
    Not taking feedback from your manager or other engineers about any of these when given to you, continuing to do #2 until we removed you from interviewing, and never improving at #1.

Criticizing any decision about this program (link provided for people who aren't familiar with the program and its reasons) had nothing to do with it. Feedback and criticism, even troublemaking, are things that we actively tolerate (encourage, even) - but above all you need to get your work done, and you did not even come close to doing that.

Lastly, you seem to be under the impression that the non-disparagement we asked you to sign was some sort of "violation of free speech" attempt to muzzle you. Rather, the situation is thus:

When an employee is dismissed from employment at a company, the policy of almost every company (including reddit) is not to comment, either publicly or internally. This is because companies have no desire to ruin someone's future employment prospects by broadcasting to the world that they were fired. In return, the polite expectation is that the employee will not go shooting their mouth off about the company especially (as in your case) through irresponsibly unfounded speculation. Signing a non-disparagement indicates that you have no intention to do this, so the company can then say "Ok, if anyone comes asking for a reference on this guy, we needn't say he was fired, just give a mildly positive reference." Even if you don't sign the non-disparagement, the company will give you the benefit of the doubt and not disparage you or make any negative statements first. Unfortunately, you have just forfeited this arrangement.[1]

I happened to see the original AMA and my first thought was "this is not going to end well." My next was that it was impressively stupid that the OP (original poster) was using his former employer's social media platform to as a soapbox for his supposed insider knowledge. So when the CEO of the company stepped in with his impressively factual and direct response to the question about why OP no longer works for Reddit, I wasn't at all surprised. In fact, I think it was very very smart.

First of all: non disparagement agreements are truly in the employees favor. In return for not trashing their former employer, they won't trash you -- it's as simple as that. Which means the FE can say anything they want about why they were let go and the company won't disagree, and may even give a neutral or positive reference.

Secondly: If someone in management hadn't stepped in -- AFTER the OP started trashing internal systems, the community, the culture, AND started promoting his current employer as a much better place to work -- then the current employees would have started to wonder. Not about the FE, but about why the company was letting him making nasty comments and getting away with it. Nastiness spreads, like old gum on your shoe.

Third: The FE deserved some form of punishment for breaking the agreement he signed. Cheaper, by several magnitudes, to do it by responding specifically and factually to the lie that he stating (that he was laid off, not fired).

Some commenters seem to feel that the CEO was out of line, or particularly mean. I disagree. I think he was doing his job: protecting the company and its employees to the best of his ability. (But I am absolutely certain he had a lawyer review his post before he hit 'send'.)

[1] from: https://np.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2iea97/i_am_a_former_reddit_employee_ama/cl1ygat/?context=3

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