Corporate Leader Makes A Google Doc To Tell Employees Exactly How To Work Well With Him — ‘I’m Not A Morning Person, Find Me Between 3pm - 9pm’

Duolingo co-founder Severin Hacker says it's a helpful guide for employees, but others feel like he needs to get over himself.

arrogant micromanaging boss Pressmaster / Canva Pro

We all have unique ways of doing things and aspects of our personality that impact how we work best at our jobs. But are these nuances so important that you need to issue a Google Doc to every co-worker to ensure they know your various preferences and rules?

For Duolingo co-founder and CTO Severin Hacker, the answer is yes, and it has many feeling his approach to leadership veers into toxic, entitled boss territory.


Hacker has a Google Doc to tell workers how to work with him, and it's struck many as being full of red flags.

There's no doubt that Hacker is a brilliant entrepreneur. He's part of the team that has made Duolingo the number-one language learning app in the world since launching it in 2011 while at Carnegie Mellon University, and he's done it in part by making his own rules.

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But there's a point at which blazing your own trail starts to become… well, a bit entitled, and many feel a recent LinkedIn post of Hacker's definitely crossed that line.

"It takes a while for people to figure out exactly how to work with me," Hacker wrote in the post. "I wanted to change that… so I created an 'owner’s manual,' AKA a guide for working with me that could act like onboarding for new team members."

That sounds reasonable enough, but some of the details Hacker included have struck many as an exercise in the kind of egotism that has become a cliché in the upper echelons of business, especially in the tech industry.

Hacker's Google Doc includes details about what time of day he likes to be spoken to and what his priorities are.

Hacker calls his Google Doc "nothing fancy," but rather a simple guide that can be provided to new hires so that the normally long period of time it apparently takes to adapt to his work style isn't necessary.


The doc, he said, "is divided into three sections: how to interact with me, how I think about things, and who I am as a person." It's already giving the vibe of the type of celebrity who demands nobody make eye contact with her. Hacker's approach isn't quite that bad, but reading between the lines you can definitely get that impression.

Duolingo CTO Severin Hacker's LinkedIn post about having a Google Doc to tell worker how to work with him Severin Hacker / LinkedIn

Hacker's guide on "how to interact with me" included the guidance that he is "not a morning person," so "if you want the best of me, find me between 3 p.m. - 9 p.m." The fact that the majority of that time frame is outside normal working hours is just one of several red flags.


As for how Hacker likes to manage his time, he wrote, "At any point in time, I try to have one high-priority project and spend 80-90% of my time on that." Which makes it seem like if you need his input on something else, you'll probably have a hard time getting his attention. Red flag number two.

@yourtango A boss was not happy with an employee who upgraded to first class while the boss had to fly in coach #worktok #toxicboss #airtravel #firstclass #aita #reddit ♬ original sound - YourTango

In the "Who I am as a Person" section, Hacker said, "I never compromise with sleep, and lunch is sacred." Which is great! Hopefully, though, you're not the type who goes to bed early since you have to be available until 9:00 p.m. every day if you "want the best of" him.

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Hacker's post generated tons of criticism from those who felt his approach to management was narcissistic and arrogant.

Hacker's post definitely didn't go over well online, even among the brainwormed environment on LinkedIn itself. "Wow, you must be a peach to work with," wrote one fellow tech professional.

One CEO was even more pointed. "I don’t think there is any way to say this more succinctly," she wrote. "This is the most narcissistic thing I’ve ever seen on LinkedIn… If I worked in your organization and you dropped this on me, I would roll my eyes and start looking for the exit."

comment on Severin Hacker's LinkedIn post about his Google Doc to tell workers how to work with him Lindsay Blanton / LinkedIn


For Ashley Herd, an attorney, veteran HR professional and management consultant, what stood out most is that Hacker's approach is all about his demands with seemingly no concern for his employees' needs or realities.

"This is an approach that a lot of senior leaders take… like, you need to adapt to my style," she said in a video about the post. "There's nothing in this post that talks about understanding employees and direct reports and things like their preferences and working styles and how you support those."

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Several commenters agreed and pointed out the glaring realities Hacker seems either unaware of or unconcerned with. "My kids get home at 4 and go to bed at 8:30," one woman wrote. "Does he not have a family? Because most of his co-workers probably do."

Others felt that having a sort of "user's guide" for a boss could be potentially helpful, but even they agreed that Hacker's micromanaging approach is problematic. It sets him up as a sort of king to whose will the other employees must bend their schedules, workdays and lives. As one TikToker put it, "this checks off the 'I’m more important than you' list boxes. All of them."

Hacker's justification for the Google Doc — that his "newest direct report" told him they like it — is telling, too. As a user in the LinkedInLunatics subReddit mockingly wrote in Hacker's voice, "'The people with the absolute most to lose for telling me I’m an idiot say this is a great idea!'"


Sure, C-suite jobs are demanding, and requesting that your preferences be met when you're the boss isn't entirely unreasonable. But there's a line where preferences and requests start to stink of the kind of oblivious privilege often afforded those at the top. And as anyone who's worked for someone like this can tell you, that entitlement is typically not only impenetrable but also cruelly indifferent to others. "Red" flag doesn't even begin to cover it.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.