Abstract: My Boss Rocks: Exceptionalism in the Dot-Com Workplace

Dalit Baranoff and David Kirsch


What was it like to work in a dot-com firm during the boom years of the late 1990s through early 2000? Did everyone really believe that their stock options would make them millionaires before they turned 30? Did they all take their dogs to work at their hip, open-floor-plan offices with foosball tables? The Dot-Com Workers Survey (developed by the authors) collects workers' own accounts through an on-line oral history survey in order to create a fuller picture of the dot-com workplace. Our initial findings lead us to believe that dot-coms were exceptional workplaces, but not necessarily for the reasons that contemporary observers thought. Former employees describe exciting, dynamic work environments, where money, perks, and stock options were only a part of the appeal. At least as important were their relationships with fellow employees, their feelings of autonomy within the work environment, and their sense that they were doing something new and exciting and making a difference—despite working at companies that, by the workers' own retrospective accounts, often suffered from poor strategy and bad management.