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Megacorp vs small company
Old 07-15-2013, 10:11 AM   #1
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Megacorp vs small company

I've noticed quite a few references from the folks in this forum to their experiences in "megacorp", and the general observations that after a number of years working in these places, the job becomes monotonous, tedious, stressful, unrewarding, etc. It seems that some of the experiences you've had at megacorp have led to your desire to retire early.

I'm curious if anyone has noticed a difference in overall perspective of one's ability to enjoy work, feel like it's meaningful, and be less exposed to the bureaucracy and politics of larger corporations if they also spent some time in a smaller company. I haven't worked for a megacorp in over 20 years, and while I had my own reasons for leaving my position in a smaller company, I don't share some of the sentiments that others have shared in their megacorp experience.

Has anyone noticed a general trend in one's overall job satisfaction in smaller companies vs. megacorp's on this site?

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Old 07-15-2013, 10:28 AM   #2
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The company I work for is effectively 30 people. We were acquired in 2001 by a company of 200. And that company was acquired last year by a megacorp. Our situation has been governed far more so by financial fortunes rather than by how large of a company we were at the time.

The most fun I ever had at a job was when working for a very large (successful) company.

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Old 07-15-2013, 11:08 AM   #3
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As long as my boss was compatible I was fine, small company or large.
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Old 07-15-2013, 11:25 AM   #4
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Looking back over 23 yrs at dozens of companies large and small all over the U.S., I'd say my experience at the bigger companies was better. The little ones were more interesting, but the people in charge tended to be more psychotic.

If I had it to do all over again, I think I'd get a cushy job at megacorp, keep my head down and let everything bounce off me, save and invest early and often, and retire at 40 or sooner.
And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don't know.
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Old 07-15-2013, 11:53 AM   #5
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Overall I'd go with megacorp. As bad as it was, it payed well and benefits far better than the small companies. No retirement, 401k matching, and many with no health insurance. They lack expertise in many areas so things get run in a haphazard manner. In some cases you are the only one a with a specific job specialty and end up in complete isolation with no peer to have a discussion with.

In either case it's still a j*b
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Old 07-15-2013, 12:01 PM   #6
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I worked for both megacorps and for startups. The managers at the startups were more ethical, more honest, and more intelligent. I had a couple of similarly good managers with megacorps, but I also had a manager who was a sociopath, and a couple of others who were full of hate. I experienced some of the absurd plotlines of Dilbert while working at megacorps. Much of that came from mindless Human Resources departments.
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Old 07-15-2013, 12:09 PM   #7
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DW and I have worked for startups and larger companies (though not quite megacorps). Working for the startups was more fun and challenging and we felt like our efforts really made a difference. On the other end, job stability was inexistent while the pay and benefits were sub par (though that was offset by the potential for our stock options to pay big time). Larger companies offered better pay and benefits, but the bureaucracy and the office politics were deal killers for us. Plus our contribution to the overall organization often felt minute, so we didn't have the same feeling of "ownership". DW now works for a midsize company (~350 employees) which basically combines the advantages and disadvantages of both worlds: big enough to have to deal with "ergonomics audits", small enough for her contribution to matter.
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Old 07-15-2013, 12:13 PM   #8
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I am working for a fortune 50 company. The re-org happens at least twice a year. Employees are like pebbles getting thrown around and re-grouped again. We are constantly getting new manager, new group name, and new VP.

Each new manager wants a new way to get their reports, how to fill out reviews etc. 90% of the work is now outsourced (I am in IT). Many groups have only one employee or no employee left with knowledge.

This is very tiring and no one knows what will happen next. Company already cut pension, retiree health benefit and reduced 401K match. I am on my OMY so not for long now.
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Old 07-15-2013, 02:14 PM   #9
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I've always worked for the same "megacorp" (U.S. Govt). Before that, I worked for a very small company, which I hated. The owner's wife watched everyone like a hawk, even following me into the ladies' room to ensure I didn't overstay my break! There was no health insurance, and when I burned my hand rather badly in a kitchen accident, she only wanted to know "when are you coming back to work."

When I started my internship with the Govt, it was such a relief to discover that nobody cared how often I went to the bathroom!

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Old 07-15-2013, 02:37 PM   #10
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Don't think there isn't politics in a small company. Often it is worse because a small group of people are totally in control.
I'd rather be governed by the first one hundred names in the telephone book than the Harvard faculty - William F. Buckley
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Old 07-15-2013, 02:59 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Amethyst View Post
There was no health insurance, and when I burned my hand rather badly in a kitchen accident, she only wanted to know "when are you coming back to work."
My last director (megacorp) was mad that I missed a meeting after I had a miscarriage while I was at work and ended up in the ER.
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Old 07-15-2013, 03:35 PM   #12
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I worked in little companies pre-college and Megacorp post college, though of course, in different roles. My preference is a Megacorp because of the better pay and benefits and the ability to escape an orifice superior with a lateral transfer without starting all over at a new company. Little places tend to be run by family and you, as an employee, will never be family.
Yes, I have achieved work / life balance.
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Old 07-15-2013, 03:39 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by FIRE'd@51 View Post
Don't think there isn't politics in a small company. Often it is worse because a small group of people are totally in control.
Man, you can say that again.
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Old 07-15-2013, 04:00 PM   #14
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I've worked at both. And as much as my megacorp reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon strip - the benefits of a large corporation outweigh the downsides of a mismanaged small company.

Small Company #1: Privately owned. Owner held the belief that he owned the employees as well. He would go into rages over things like chairs not pushed under the table properly after a meeting. He canceled all raises and bonuses the year he bought his first private jet. (Bonuses were a significant part of our compensation - salaries were low to offset the bonuses... it was my first lesson that bonuses should NOT be factored in compensation when taking a job.) He also went into a rant and threatened to fire the entire engineering department because he thought someone working on the weekend had swiped his personal stash of diet cokes. (They hadn't). He's now a tax exile from the US and Canada - lives in the Caymen islands because he refused to pay taxes.

Small Company #2: Privately held. Had such restrictive non-competes in the employee contracts you'd be precluded from working in engineering anywhere in the larger metro area. (I had to get a lawyer involved to be able to rehire back at a former employer.) When the main product was sold off the owners thanked the team that developed the product - and laid off most of them. (A lucky few were hired by the megacorp that bought the product.). Again - owners looked at employees as sub-human.

Both companies - benefits sucked compared to megacorps.

That said - Megacorps have layers of bureaucracy and processes... turf battles... hr departments that make it impossible to hire the appropriate job applicant. And you can still be stuck under a terrible boss.

Given my choice between the two - I'll take the megacorp - flaws and all.
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Old 07-15-2013, 04:04 PM   #15
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I can only speak to large companies as that is the one and only company I ever worked for and it was the mega of mega companies. 750K people worldwide. In reality it was like 135 companies as each plant was a company in itself. At a plant you had your own management structure with the plant manager being the top guy.
What he said was gospel except for the orders from HQ. After all, he had bosses also. Depending on the plant, your life could be great or miserable depending on that plants management team. In my 34 years I spent time at six different plants. Five of those plants were great and I loved those years, while the year at the other plant was not so good.

In reality, I don't know how one would ever do a comparison between large and small companies. It all rests on the management team at that particular location.
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Old 07-15-2013, 05:31 PM   #16
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Some really insightful replies - thanks everyone!

I clearly get that benefits and often compensation are better in larger organizations. What I was noticing most was the feeling that my contribution was making a difference in the organization. In large organizations it can seem like no matter how hard you work, at best your local management may notice, but beyond that, it will have little impact on the overall company.

I have always considered myself somewhat entrepreneurial, and felt very stifled in large corporations. I wonder if that may be more of a factor in choosing large vs small rather than focusing on benefits and comp.

Certainly from the experiences you've shared so far, there are a lot of really bad managers out there running small companies. That has not been my experience in my career...but I guess I was always a relatively senior manager in each of the companies I worked for, so maybe I didn't notice it!
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Old 07-15-2013, 06:32 PM   #17
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There is always the third option, no profits.

Small company experiences - Two stopped paying us, I left the another one before it went under, a big political thing at the fourth, run by a husband and wife who then brought in their daughter to do great things.

Mega corp experiences - Lots of bureaucracy and reorgs but the paychecks never bounce. Had the same job for 15 year with different managers and different groups. Works for me.

Non Profits - Worked at a professional association and a non for profit hospital. The second and third on my tenure list. Not necessary high paying but good benefits and reasonable work environment. Both had reorgs though but not as much as the mega since they had a reasonably stable revenue stream.

So, based on my tenure, the most time has been spent in a mega. DW has worked 32 years for the same mega.
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Old 07-15-2013, 11:06 PM   #18
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Since graduating college, I've worked for:

Two megacorps that I joined.

Two pre-IPO startups that failed.

Myself, as a real estate agent.

One post-IPO startup (well, it started as a startup, but was big enough by the time I joined it really wasn't a startup anymore) that got acquired by a megacorp about a year after I joined.

One pre-IPO startup that was a true startup at the time I joined, and I'm still there.

I can honestly say that I would NEVER go back to work again at a megacorp. If I were forced to stay in the IT field indefinitely, I would hop from startup to startup, try to join when they were around 40 or 50 people, and then leave when they got to be 400 people or so (give or take). That's the point at which I feel a company starts changing and becoming a lot more bureaucratic, and the BS bucket starts filling up. Especially as new managers to the business start land-grabbing and trying to stake their turfs.
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Old 07-16-2013, 09:10 PM   #19
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I have worked at the gamut: from small privately owned company of 100 employees, to a medium sized company, to a megacorp.

I've found a great deal of my happiness at work depends on the team dynamic of those I work closely with. I like to be able to move around within the company (not jeopardizing my vesting, health insurance, etc) if I want to work in a different growth role or with a different group of people. That is why I prefer a larger company.

That being said, I have seen some privately owned companies that have warm office politics and whose owners treat their employees REALLY well. If I found myself in one of those, I could see staying!!
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Old 07-16-2013, 09:33 PM   #20
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I have 3 brothers and this has been an ongoing discussion over the years. One of my brothers went the megacorp route as I did, and overall we both enjoy the megacorp experience (its not perfect, but it has never reached the "burnout and suck your soul out" level mentioned here). My two other brothers both went the small company route, eventually starting and running their own companies. We each ended up in the route that the other 3 (as well as our sisters, who have had more varied company careers) observed best matched our personalities and interest. For example, the "megacorp" brothers tend to be more mathematical and analytical, and find it easy to deal with business processes, while the "small company" brothers tend to be more charismatic and outspoken leaders, and less "rules driven". So perhaps the negative issues are more likely to arise when one's personality does not match well with the company size environment.

Current target FIRE date: June 2017 or +50K to the portfolio, whichever comes first
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