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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."