Employees pan Tony Fadell-led Nest as poorly managed, fear-driven machine

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2016
Once the darling of Silicon Valley, connected device company Nest -- with former Apple exec Tony Fadell at the helm -- is being described by some workers as a place where a toxic corporate culture has taken hold.




"Nest's every step is administered to death" by company chief Tony Fadell, one former Nest employee told Business Insider. That micromanagement is said to have created an environment where it's "always crunch time," as last-minute design changes result in unrealistically tight deadlines that force employees to work late nights and weekends.

Other former employees who spoke to the outlet "highlighted an atmosphere of 'fear' and said that sitting near Fadell's office meant hearing a constant barrage of shouting."

Criticism of Fadell in particular and his executive team in general has grown sharply following a spate of issues with his firm's flagship products.

Last month, software glitches forced some owners of the company's digital thermostat to wake up in the cold as the thermostat rapidly drained its own battery and shut down. Perhaps more worryingly, Nest's smoke detector faced a safety recall and is now without its tentpole wave-to-silence feature.
Some employees said that "sitting near Fadell's office meant hearing a constant barrage of shouting."
Discussion of the article on tech aggregator Hacker News prompted a second volley of complains about Fadell and Nest.

"I worked there. It was literally the worst experience of my career - and I have worked at all of the hardest charging blue chips and two successful startups - so it is not about high expectations - but abuse," one commenter wrote. "I still wake up with something like PTSD occasionally from getting yelled at and bullied by Tony Fadell almost literally every day while I was there."

The Nest thermostat "fails spectacularly at the ONE thing it's supposed to do, which is to let us set a comfortable temperature for our house," said another.

The thermostat "is a dream compared to the smoke detector," read one reply. "The smoke detector goes off all the time -- without rhyme or reason. With a normal detector, you can just pull the battery if it refuses to shut off. With Nest, you actually need a screw driver to open the battery compartment to turn it off."

Dysfunction at Nest has already begun to cost the company some key employees, including Dropcam founders Greg Duffy and Aamir Virani. While it remains to be seen what, if anything, Alphabet chief Larry Page will do to energize the struggling unit, one HN commenter did have a suggestion:

"Frankly, if I could offer Larry Page once piece of advice it would be to take Tony out front of TGIF and fire him publicly -- all of this comes from Tony."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 58
    Wow, that's some scathing commentary about Tony.  I wouldn't doubt that things are tough there - the pressure to show value for the $3 billion acquisition cost has to be immense.  But I too have worked at enough companies where leaders go unchecked in their verbal, emotional and sometimes even physical abuse, that it isn't a stretch to think that Tony is likely a person that is better as a mid-level manager to be managed by someone over him, not trying to lead the company - that would be evident if he truly is micro-managing everything. 
  • Reply 2 of 58
    Is this Nest or NeXT? (I kid, but only partially)
    mr o
  • Reply 3 of 58
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,585member
    Shhhh! Let's just let them implode... Sweet revenge aimed at Google...
    jbdragonmacky the mackycalibrakken
  • Reply 4 of 58
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,486member
    now you know why Apple got rid of him, he was trying to be a steve wanabe and failed at, but then again steve failed many times at first to get people to see it his way. But a Nest is not a great product and as people use it more and more I am hearing it not as good as people thought it would be
    roxsocksRayz2016brakken
  • Reply 5 of 58
    Poor babies don't want to be yelled at. Leave.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 6 of 58
    I wonder if people are taking books about Steve Jobs as a guide to leading people in Silicon Valley. This isn't the first time I've seen a leader be ousted for behavior like this, and Tony is on his way out soon. What Steve Jobs accomplished worked for him and his personality. There's a lot more to leadership than shooting from the hip and telling people what you think. I'm always surprised how often the rise and fall of corporations, governments, kingdoms and civilizations depended on good interpersonal skills.
    icoco3argonaut
  • Reply 7 of 58
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,423member
    This is what money does:  people have one lucky success, sometimes because of their own genius, but more frequently because they were in the right place at the right time and were awarded company stock and they think to themselves, "well, if I'm this successful, then I must be doing everything right and can do no wrong" and ego drives everything.   Or they think, "well if Steve Jobs behaved like this, I can too". 

    They've watched too many TV shows where the Captain says, "make it so" and magically, the impossible gets done.

    Even though the Nest had a nice design, I always thought the concept was flawed.   If you can remote control the thermostat, you're going to tend to heat up or cool down the house before you get home.   This is going to use more energy, not less if one would have ordinarily adjusted the thermostat so that it was using less energy before one left.   Only in the case where people kept the house at a comfortable level even when they weren't home would a Nest device save energy.

    I've worked for companies where they kept on deferring adding certain functionality to the product (an enterprise application) because they didn't want to make the investment (which was phony anyway, since doing it or not doing it didn't change staffing levels).   Then they get some new potential client who wants to see that functionality in a demo and the company head says, "we've got to build this in 48 hours" and everyone has to give up their nights and/or weekends to scramble.   But of course, it's not built well, so it all has to be tossed when it's built for real, which it usually isn't until the next client to wants to see that feature.    So it's management by chaos and I'm surprised we're not seeing more 35-year-olds with heart attacks because of it.      
    damonficoco3argonautpalomine
  • Reply 8 of 58
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,458member
    roxsocks said:
    I wonder if people are taking books about Steve Jobs as a guide to leading people in Silicon Valley. This isn't the first time I've seen a leader be ousted for behavior like this, and Tony is on his way out soon. What Steve Jobs accomplished worked for him and his personality. There's a lot more to leadership than shooting from the hip and telling people what you think. I'm always surprised how often the rise and fall of corporations, governments, kingdoms and civilizations depended on good interpersonal skills.
    People take one quality of a good leader and try to run with it.  It does not work.  There are many things that work together in order for that leadership to come through and be effective.
  • Reply 9 of 58
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member
    Don't care about Nest; but this is the kind of article I would expect to see on some Apple Hater site. Except with the word "Apple" in place of the word "Nest". But same kind of thing.
    1983
  • Reply 10 of 58
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,458member
    zoetmb said:
    ...
    I've worked for companies where they kept on deferring adding certain functionality to the product (an enterprise application) because they didn't want to make the investment (which was phony anyway, since doing it or not doing it didn't change staffing levels).   Then they get some new potential client who wants to see that functionality in a demo and the company head says, "we've got to build this in 48 hours" and everyone has to give up their nights and/or weekends to scramble.   But of course, it's not built well, so it all has to be tossed when it's built for real, which it usually isn't until the next client to wants to see that feature.    So it's management by chaos and I'm surprised we're not seeing more 35-year-olds with heart attacks because of it.      
    Do we work at the same company????  hehe  B)
  • Reply 11 of 58



    Godfather my arse  - the break thru on the iPod was the wheel and that was Schillers idea from what I've ever read - 
  • Reply 12 of 58
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 323member
    Unfortunately, Nest sounds a lot like most corporations.
  • Reply 13 of 58
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,491member
    maestro64 said:
    now you know why Apple got rid of him, he was trying to be a steve wanabe and failed at, but then again steve failed many times at first to get people to see it his way. But a Nest is not a great product and as people use it more and more I am hearing it not as good as people thought it would be
    We don't know if Jobs got rid of him or not. Like many executives, he retired from the firm he worked for, only to turn up leading another small one. That's not unusual. He likely left Apple because he had this idea, and he wanted to run his own company. Then the lure of mucho money from Google gave him the excuse to sell the company, while still leading it at Google. Again, not unusual.
    edited February 2016
  • Reply 14 of 58
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,157member
    Is this Nest or NeXT? (I kid, but only partially)
    We have at least one ex NeXT guy here I know of who always posts excellent comments.   I hope he chimes in to answer your question.  I could be wrong but I was under the impression SJ was a great leader at NeXT, Pixar and of course Apple.
  • Reply 15 of 58
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,491member
    bdkennedy said:
    Poor babies don't want to be yelled at. Leave.
    Have you ever worked at a company where the head yelled at employees on a regular basis? That's a very bad environment. It takes a toll. My partner used to be like that. I'd have to grasp him and pull him back into his Office and tell him to calm down. I would tell people to tell him that I told them to do whatever he was ticked off at so that he wouldn't yell at them. Even though he couldn't do anything to me, that, and the constant deadlines we had, gave me migraines which amazingly went away when we sold the company in 2004.
    stompybanchoSpamSandwichicoco3dysamoriamacky the mackyargonautpalominemrboba1
  • Reply 16 of 58
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,491member
    sog35 said:
    Eh, they pay you $200k to do a job.  If you fail I see no reason for the boss to yell at you.

    Now if this is real abuse then that's different.
    You're using the word "reason". Reason has nothing to do with it. It's emotion that controls that.
    mrboba1
  • Reply 17 of 58
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,794member
    bdkennedy said:
    Poor babies don't want to be yelled at. Leave.


    Constantly yelling at someone doesn't result in better work. If anything, it results in less work because it will eventually get to the point where you just don't give a shit because you're going to get yelled at anyways. Its no way to run a company (or a division of a company). How would you like it if your boss came in screaming and yelling every day at you? How would you feel about working there? How would you feel for others around you who are getting yelled at? As others have said, sounds like he's trying to be a Steve Jobs and thinking yelling gets work done, when in fact its the opposite. 
    stompybanchodysamoriaargonautbrakken
  • Reply 18 of 58
    19831983 Posts: 1,160member
    He appears to be wearing one of the model's in Patek Philippe's range of Nautilus wristwatches...I like that, as for Nest...couldn't give a f..k!

     PS. How hard can it be to get a thermostat and smoke detector to work properly? LOL!
    edited February 2016 argonautbrakkenpalomine
  • Reply 19 of 58
    mtbnutmtbnut Posts: 191member
    Well, you gotta figure that someone wants to be the next Jobs. Whether they go about it organically or not is up to them. A hint is when they show up to their first meeting as CEO wearing a gray v-neck t-shirt and Sauconys with belt-less 513s (skinnier version of 501s), with a bottle of Soylent in hand.  
    edited February 2016
  • Reply 20 of 58
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,503member
    A great leader inspires you to do better.  That is what Steve Jobs did.  This guy is just being abusive not to do better in the world (like Steve did) but to justify his company valuation.  Period.  Big, huge difference.

    I have a friend that works at Nest.  He made out like a bandit for sure.  I suppose if the money is good enough, one will simply just take it.  I couldn't work for that company as I don't believe in the products they make, and with Google owning them, I certainly don't trust those same products either.
    buckalec
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