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Maintained by
Megan Pittman
Stephanie Murray
Tiffany Hui
Aaron Stanley

Code of Conduct

Anti-Harassment Training

Your Personnel File

Corporate Travel & Expense Policy

Moonlighting Guidance

Computer Refresh Policy

Involuntary Terminations

Employment Posters (US)

Code of Conduct


This Code of Conduct (“Code”) is to act as a guide for behavior to assist us all in making good (and legal) decisions, however, it is not meant to be a legal contract. Employees are expected to read and comply with the requirements stated in this Code, as well as all applicable laws and regulations.

This Code is subject to change at any time at dbt Labs’ sole discretion. This Code supersedes all preexisting policies of dbt Labs to the extent that they conflict with this Code. Only dbt Labs may modify this Code. This Code is meant to work in conjunction with the employee handbook, and if there is any perceived conflict between the two, please address concerns with your People Business Partner or for non-employees to

Open Door / Speak Up Policy

If you have any questions concerning this Code, or are unsure about appropriate conduct in a situation, we encourage employees to consult their manager or their People Business Partner. For non-employees, contact

If you suspect that a crime or a violation of the Code has been committed by dbt Labs, another employee or a visitor or client, please immediately report your concerns to the company.

We are committed to preventing any occurrences of unethical or unlawful behavior, and to halting any unethical or unlawful behavior that may occur as soon as reasonably possible after discovery. We are also committed to promptly investigating reported concerns in a prompt manner and taking appropriate remedial action. Investigations and reports will be treated as confidential to the extent feasible and permitted by law. Violation of this Code or applicable laws or regulations may result in disciplinary action up to and including immediate termination of employment.

Furthermore, dbt Labs is committed to protecting the rights of those individuals who report concerns to us. No individual will be retaliated against for making a complaint in good faith regarding a violation of these policies, or for participating in good faith in an investigation pursuant to these policies. If an individual feels they have been retaliated against, the individual should file a complaint using the procedures set forth above. This protection applies to all employees, agents and customers of dbt Labs. Lastly, nothing in this Code prevents, restricts or prohibits employees from reporting to an appropriate governmental agency, regulatory authority or other entity, conduct that the employee believes to be violation of law.

Equal Employment Opportunity

dbt Labs is an Equal Opportunity Employer that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, pregnancy (which includes childbirth, breastfeeding and medical conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding), gender identity, gender expression, religion, disability, genetic information, age, marital status, sexual orientation, military and veteran status, family and medical leave, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local law. Our management team is dedicated to this policy with respect to recruitment, hiring, placement, promotion, transfer, training, compensation, benefits, employee activities and general treatment during employment.

dbt Labs will endeavor to accommodate the sincere religious beliefs of its employees to the extent such accommodation does not pose an undue hardship on dbt Labs' operations, and make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities to, at least, the extent required by law. If you wish to request such an accommodation, please speak to your People Business Partner.

Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Policy

It is the policy of dbt Labs to provide a work environment free from all forms of discrimination, including sexual harassment and harassment based on any protected status. dbt Labs is committed to the elimination of all harassment and discrimination in the workplace and will not tolerate the harassment of our employees, whether by another employee, customer, vendor, business partner or guest.

Discrimination includes, but is not limited to: making any employment decision or employment-related action on the basis of any of the protected classes listed above. Harassment is generally defined as unwelcome verbal or nonverbal conduct, based upon a person’s protected characteristic, that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward the person because of the characteristic, and which affects the person’s employment opportunities or benefits, has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the person’s work performance, or has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Harassing conduct includes, but is not limited to: epithets; slurs or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts; or denigrating jokes and display or circulation in the workplace of written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group based on their protected characteristic.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when:

  1. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
  3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to: unwelcome or unsolicited sexual advances; displaying sexually suggestive material; unwelcome sexual flirtations, advances or propositions; suggestive comments; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; sexually-oriented jokes; crude or vulgar language or gestures; graphic or verbal commentaries about an individual’s body; display or distribution of obscene materials; physical contact such as patting, pinching or brushing against someone’s body; or physical assault of a sexual nature.

Human Rights

dbt Labs is committed to protecting basic human rights for all individuals as outlined in the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. In compliance with these principles, dbt Labs is guided by the “protect, respect, and remedy” framework. Our commitment to these principles means:

  • We will not engage child labor, nor buy from or support companies who are known to exploit child labor.
  • We oppose forced or compulsory labor and human trafficking.
  • We ensure fair treatment and work conditions for all employees, including the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

A copy of the UN principles can be found here.

Professional Conduct Policy

dbt Labs expects its employees to adhere to a standard of professional conduct and integrity. This ensures that the work environment is safe, comfortable and productive. Employees should be respectful, courteous, and mindful of others’ feelings and needs. General cooperation between coworkers and supervisors is expected. Individuals who act in an unprofessional manner may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including immediate termination of employment.

Drug and Alcohol-Free Workplace Policy

dbt Labs is committed to providing a safe work environment and to fostering the well-being and health of its employees. This policy applies to all employees and other individuals who perform work for dbt Labs.

The unlawful or unauthorized use, abuse, solicitation, theft, possession, transfer, purchase, sale or distribution of controlled substances (including medical marijuana), drug paraphernalia or alcohol by an individual anywhere on dbt Labs premises, while on dbt Labs business or while representing dbt Labs, is strictly prohibited. Employees and other individuals who work for dbt Labs also are prohibited from reporting to work or working while they are using or under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substances, except when the use is pursuant to a valid prescription from a licensed medical practitioner and the licensed medical practitioner authorized the employee or individual to report to work. However, if an employee’s authorized use of prescription drugs interferes with the employee's ability to perform their job or otherwise poses safety concerns, in the workplace, the individual may be removed from their position, reassigned to a different position, or discharged if the circumstances warrant. To be clear, employees have no right to report to work under the influence of medical marijuana, except as permitted by and in accordance with applicable law.

This restriction does not apply to responsible drinking of alcohol at business events and related social outings where alcoholic beverages are served, and events for dbt Labs where alcoholic beverages are served. It is the responsibility of every employee to drink responsibly at these events. You should not drink and drive. dbt Labs will reimburse you for the cost of reasonable transportation to get you home from any event you attend as part of your work responsibilities. dbt Labs will not excuse bad behavior due to your failure to drink responsibly and we assume no responsibility to monitor or limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages. The goal of this policy is to balance our respect for individuals with the need to maintain a safe, productive and drug-free environment. Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.

Conflicts of Interest


dbt Labs recognizes the right of employees to engage in activities outside of employment which are of a private nature and unrelated to dbt Labs’s business. Please contact your manager or your People Business Partner, if you have questions regarding a possible conflict of interest or outside activity that might interfere with your job responsibilities with dbt Labs. Also, you may at times be asked to complete a questionnaire dealing with possible conflicts of interest.

Conflicts of interest are common in (but not limited to) the following four situations.

  1. When an employee or a member of the employee’s family has significant direct or indirect financial interest in, or obligation to an actual or potential competitor, supplier, partner, reseller or customer of dbt Labs, or any entity in which dbt Labs has an interest;
  2. When an employee conducts business on behalf of dbt Labs with a supplier, partner, reseller or customer in which the employee’s relative is a principal, an officer or a representative;
  3. When gifts worth more than US$200.00 from a current or potential supplier, partner, reseller or customer are accepted by an employee, a member of the employee’s family, or any person, charity or other entity designated by the employee;
  4. When an employee misappropriates information obtained in the course of his or her employment.

Customers include (i) those who buy our services, and (ii) those who can exercise major influence on our customers.

Improper Payments / Anti-bribery

dbt Labs specifically prohibits offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving any form of bribe or kickback. These are criminal acts and can result in criminal prosecution of both the individual involved and dbt Labs. All gifts to federal, state or municipal employees or other public officials are forbidden.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

dbt Labs complies with all laws and regulations concerning bribery to foreign individual and entities (ex. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in U.S.A.)

Any payment to a foreign official for the purpose of influencing that individual to assist in obtaining or retaining dbt Labs business for any person, including any business organization, our any of our clients is prohibited. dbt Labs strictly prohibits any employee from making any payment on dbt Labs’s behalf or on behalf of one of our clients that would violate those laws and regulations. Employees who violate this policy are subject to disciplinary action up to and including immediate termination of employment.



It is dbt Labs’s policy to uphold and comply with antitrust laws. Strict adherence to these standards will help employees and dbt Labs avoid criminal and civil penalties. Such adherence also will ensure that dbt Labs will continue to act as a vigorous but fair competitor within the marketplace.

Antitrust laws

The Antitrust laws have evolved over a period of many years in response to a need to promote vigorous competition at all levels of commerce.

There are two principal federal antitrust laws that affect your business discussions and dealings:

  1. The Sherman Act
  2. The Robinson-Patman Act

The Sherman Act The most widely recognized activity that is illegal under the Sherman Act is price fixing, conduct which includes agreements or arrangements to "stabilize" prices with distributors or competitors. Less well known but equally illegal, are arrangements, understandings, discussions or "gentlemen's agreements" with competitors about allocation of production, customers or territories. Discussions or "understandings" with our distributors regarding bidding arrangements, agreements to boycott certain customers or suppliers, also are strictly prohibited as a matter of dbt Labs policy. Regardless of how innocent discussions of these topics may seem, they may be illegal.

The Sherman Act also makes it illegal under some circumstances, to require a customer to buy one product as a condition of purchasing another product. Such arrangements are called "tying" agreements and may be illegal. The Sherman Act further prohibits you, under some circumstances, from insisting that customers deal exclusively with dbt Labs and not purchase services or products from its competitors.

The Robinson-Patman Act The Robinson-Patman Act is concerned with discrimination in the prices charged to various customers. The basic purpose of this Act is to protect small businesses by requiring that price discounts, favorable marketing programs and promotional services be made available to all customers regardless of their size or purchasing power. There are a number of exceptions to the Robinson-Patman Act. For example, volume discounts may justify cost differentials. A lower price may be quoted to a customer if it can be demonstrated that it is necessary to do so in order to meet a similarly quoted price from a competitor.


We preserve and protect the environment. Because our fully-distributed workforce does not commute to offices, we reduce our carbon footprint daily and we recycle obsolete equipment. We are committed to finding more ways to utilize sustainable energy, source “green” products, and prioritize reuse and recycle initiatives. We encourage employees to suggest more ways of protecting and preserving the environment.

Workplace Health and Safety

We are committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees, whether they are working on-site in a dbt Labs owned or leased property or working remotely from home or in a co-working space. dbt Labs provides an annual stipend for employees, which should be used to purchase items such as ergonomic work equipment, proper lighting, or other equipment or modifications needed to allow our employees to work effectively and safely from their chosen location. Because our workforce is distributed, we must rely upon our employees to ensure that work areas are kept safe and free of hazardous conditions. Before starting work each day, please survey your workspace to ensure it is free from any hazards or health or safety risks.

dbt Labs intends to comply with all health and safety laws applicable to our business. If you become aware of any safety-related concern, hazardous condition, or other workplace injury, accident, or illness, you must immediately report the matter to your manager or your People Business Partner.

Anti-Harassment Training

We are committed to taking all steps possible to prevent employee harassment. Anti-harassment training and policies are either highly recommended or mandated in most countries to guarantee a basic right to be free from bias and harassment within the workplace. We aim to provide best-in-class training and clear policies that support a healthy workplace culture.

All employees must be trained once per year, regardless of position within the company. The training course you will be assigned will be determined based on your location and whether you are a people manager or not.

Learn more about our policy within our Code of Conduct and check out answers to FAQs about the training.

Your Personnel File

We appreciate that you entrust us with personal information like your address and telephone number, we keep the record of it in your personnel file. Please help us keep your file as up-to-date as possible. Submit a #people-support ticket to share of relevant information changes, for instance:

  • any newly acquired specialized training or skills
  • changes to visas (if required for your work)
  • changes of address, marital status, etc. (for accurate tax withholding/ benefit coverage)
  • new emergency contact (avoids health or safety risks from out-of-date information)

By signing the handbook, you consent to your personal information being shared in connection with your work for us. This will be used by you (or us) as you set up your work station, log into platforms, set up tools, choose passwords, communicate with customers, perform job functions, etc. We also use the data to meet our employment law obligations including but not limited to paying payroll, managing benefits, communicating with you, meeting diversity goals, creating an employee directory, and financial analyses necessary to run the business. You also consent to the recording of some video conference calls, as needed. Recordings are used for training, product development, sharing information between time zones, etc.

Corporate Travel & Expense Policy

Our Philosophy

We strive to hire people who share our values and we trust our employees to do the right thing. Abuse of this trust is counter to the dbt Labs culture. This policy is meant to act as a guideline to assist employees in making good decisions around the use of dbt Labs’ resources during travel and other incidental expenses.

  • Reimbursement requests for spend are to be submitted in Airbase within 30 days of when they are incurred. Timely expense submission provides us with expense visibility and ensures we are capturing costs in the correct period.
    • At fiscal quarter ends, the accounting team will request submission of all outstanding expenses to ensure appropriate expense capture in the period.
  • Managers are required to review expenses to ensure they are consistent with this policy.
  • To maximize our tax deductions, receipts are required for spend greater than $50 USD (or local equivalent).

These guidelines can’t cover every possibility, so use good judgment. If you’re still not sure, contact the Accounts Payable team at or on the #finance-support Slack channel.

Travel arrangements should balance economics, safety, and logistics while still accomplishing the business objective.

  • Plan meetings thoughtfully and in advance.
    • To maximize cost savings, flights should be booked 10 days or more and hotels booked 7 days or more from the travel date.
  • Book with Navan: All business travel (including flight, hotel, rail and rental car) must be booked through Navan which can be accessed through Okta or here. If you need to book outside of Navan, please submit a ticket in #ask-finance-support for Accounting approval.

Book Travel


As a general rule, all flights should be booked in economy class, with the following exception:

  • Travelers booking flights of 5 (five) hours or longer one-way (excluding layovers) may book Premium Economy as available. Business class and First class upgrades are not a reimbursable expense.
  • L8 and above travelers booking flights 12 (twelve) hours or longer or taking a red eye that is 5 (five) hours or longer may book business class.

Unless provided with other instructions, choose non-refundable options as these are more cost effective than refundable options.


Choose safe and comfortable hotel accommodations near the venue or purpose of travel to minimize additional commuting time and costs. If you need to change or cancel your reservation, it is your responsibility to cancel your stay in Navan prior to your intended travel to avoid “no-show” charges.

Ground Travel & Rental Cars

Business ground travel including train, taxi and ride-sharing (i.e. Uber, Lyft) are reimbursable. Book the most economical option, where available. The use of rental cars or car-sharing (i.e. Zipcar, Getaround) should not be used other than for extenuating circumstances and must be pre-approved by your manager. Review the guidelines for purchasing rental insurance: Automobile Rental Guidelines.pdf.

Meals & Entertainment

Meals and entertainment expenses incurred for business purposes are reimbursable. The names of all attendees (employees, customers, prospects) must be included in the expense notes.

Use of Personal Vehicles

Mileage is reimbursable for business travel using your personal vehicle (i.e. driving to a customer or an offsite). You will be reimbursed at the applicable IRS mileage rate, which includes fuel costs. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage for your vehicle. Your normal commute (i.e. from home to the office) is excluded from mileage reimbursement.

Internet while Traveling

Hotel and airline Wi-Fi internet fees during business travel (i.e., GoGo In Flight) are reimbursable. Hotel and airline Wi-Fi internet fees during personal travel are not reimbursable.

Traveling Parents

The cost of a milk shipping service is reimbursable for breastfeeding parents on work travel.

Other Reimbursable Expenses


Stipends, as part of our benefit program, are reimbursed primarily through Benepass. Learn more here.

Employee Relations and Team Events

Each department has up to $100 per employee per quarter to spend on team-building activities. As the benefit is intended for team building, gifts or gift cards are not allowable for this program. Note that the budget does not rollover; it is a use it or lose it budget per quarter.

Managers should request a virtual airbase card (instructions here and provide the names of the attendees, dates, and a note of what quarter this is for. Use the expense category of Employee Relations in Airbase.

Corporate Cards

The distribution of corporate cards (physical and virtual) at dbt Labs is limited. If you have a corporate card, only business-related expenses are permitted to be charged and you must adhere to the Corporate Travel and Expense Policy. Personal expenses and stipend purchases are not permitted. If a personal charge is made to your corporate card, the Company has the right to deduct the value of these charges from your paycheck; the decision will be made by the Head of Accounting. Your corporate card spend is part of the corporate budget, so keep in mind budget considerations. The use of a corporate card is a benefit, and so we ask you to do your part in operationalizing its use.

Categorization and providing a description of all transactions should be provided as soon as the charge is incurred, regardless of the charge amount. At a minimum, physical card owners are expected to code and provide a description for all monthly transactions by the 2nd business day of the subsequent month, regardless of the $$$ amount.

Receipt submission (if greater than $50) should be provided as soon as the charge is incurred. At a minimum, physical card owners are expected to provide receipts for all quarterly transactions over $50 by the 2nd business day of the subsequent quarter.

📢 Non-compliance with the above deadlines will be tracked and should there be 3 consequent non-compliance events, the physical card will be revoked.

Failure to abide by these expectations may result in disciplinary action, including revoked card privileges, termination, and in the worst case, criminal proceedings. While we absolutely do not expect this to be an issue, it's important to be clear that any suspected misappropriation of our shared resources will be taken extremely seriously.

Software Purchases

Software purchases that assist in executing one’s role and day-to-day responsibilities, i.e. Dux Soup, Microsoft Azure, GitKraken, should be purchased using an Airbase Virtual Card. To request a virtual card, please follow the Procurement Process. These purchases should go through a virtual card as they allow us to track software spend more accurately, identify duplicative subscriptions, and consider appropriate security implications of using the software.

Software purchases that are related to professional development, i.e. Grammarly, Udemy,, should be purchased using your Professional Development Stipend through Benepass.


Read answers to FAQs here.

Moonlighting Guidance

What you do in your own time is your business, including additional employment. We understand that many employees are involved in their communities in a variety of ways, paid and unpaid. However, dbt Labs employees are expected to comply with certain guidelines for work and other activities spent outside of your dbt Labs working hours (”moonlighting”), to ensure such activities do not interfere with, conflict with or put the company at risk. We encourage transparency, and provide these guidelines for you to consider and discuss with your manager. Acceptable moonlighting:

(1) is not during working hours that you set with dbt Labs (whatever those hours may be - the hours that you agreed upon with your manager);

(2) isn’t performed on dbt Labs materials/property/hardware/systems;

(3) is not being provided on behalf of dbt Labs, i.e., the activity is completely unrelated and unaffiliated with dbt Labs, your client is under no assumption that they’re receiving dbt Labs services, you don’t represent yourself as acting or speaking for dbt Labs, etc;

(4) does not involve using or disclosing any confidential information or otherwise breaching any of your obligations with dbt Labs, including those under your agreements with dbt Labs; and

(5) does not conflict with the work you’re doing for dbt Labs, including, but not limited to, (i) doing work for a competitor of dbt Labs or (ii) doing work for an entity that one of our customers would take serious issue with (not necessarily a competitor of our client, but maybe an entity causing direct harm to our client. If in doubt, talk to the People team).

Lastly, moonlighting is not an excusable reason for lesser or poor performance for work at dbt Labs. dbt Labs reserves the right to prohibit (or revoke a prior opinion that the activity was not prohibited) an employee from engaging in any moonlighting it deems may not be in the best interest of the company.

Thanks to all our employees whose energy and commitment makes dbt Labs and the larger community a better place!

Computer Refresh Policy

All new hires are given a company-owned laptop (a new or like-new MacBook Pro with specs determined based on role)- please do not use personal computers to perform company business.

All team members are eligible for a new laptop after 3 years of use.

What if my computer breaks before the 3 year mark?

Depending on the age of your Mac and the cost of any potential repairs, the Mac will be repaired. A member of the IT team will work with you to facilitate the entire repair process. You will receive a shipping box with prepaid postage to Apple's repair center and a loaner Mac to use in the interim. For next steps, reach out to IT.

What happens to my old Mac?

  • Laptops more than 3 years old or damaged beyond repair are decommissioned and erased by IT in accordance to NIST standards.
  • You will receive a shipping box with prepaid postage to return your Mac.
  • Old Macs will be e-recycled or donated.

Involuntary Terminations

Throughout this section, the core tension being managed is the tension between the interests of the company and the interests of the employee. Often, employer/employee relationships are zero sum: think Amazon fulfillment center employees. Amazon tries to milk as much productivity out of those employees as possible while paying them as little as possible. Turnover is incredibly high. Workers and the company have a generally adversarial relationship.

That is not the relationship we are interested in having with employees at dbt Labs, and it's not the one that exists today. The company and its employees are *highly aligned—*via equity-based compensation and simply by the nature of the business that we're in (innovation).

But employee termination is one of those areas where the interests of individual employees and those of the company can become misaligned. Our interest is in navigating this situation thoughtfully and with care, attempting to do the very best job that we can to align incentives even through the end of the employment relationship.

There are a lot of ways to end any relationship, and we want employment relationships at dbt Labs to always end in the best way possible.

Types of Terminations

There are, generally speaking, three types of terminations:

  1. Layoffs and business-needs based terminations: Layoffs typically happen due to economic circumstances. The most common reason a company does layoffs is if it underperforms its financial plan. And there are situations where the needs of the business change and old roles are eliminated or new skill sets are needed. Both of these situations can lead to terminations that are unrelated to the performance of the individual employee.
  2. Terminations for misconduct: Terminations for misconduct are exceptional situations and often result in immediate termination. These may involve things like inappropriate conduct, negligence, and violation of employee agreement, among others. This does not include making a mistake.
  3. Performance-related terminations: These terminations are where an employee is not performing in their role and the company decides to terminate the relationship. This is the most common type of termination that arises in the normal course of business.

The focus of this section is performance-related terminations.

On Governing Law

The employee/employer relationship is subject to laws, which may vary based on country, state, and municipality. dbt Labs will, of course, follow all applicable laws in all jurisdictions where we have employees. In any case where something in this document is found to conflict with relevant laws, those laws will govern. On the subject of law, this document is not a contract, and is subject to change at any time without notice.

A Note on Language

We typically refer to ourselves as a team and to individuals as team members. This language reflects our working relationship with one another—collaborative, collegial, minimally-hierarchical. In this document we use the word "employee" because we are zooming in on the nitty-gritty of the employer/employee relationship, the manager/managee relationship, etc.

We also typically would use language like "let go" instead of the more harsh "terminated." While this softer language reflects the actual emotions experienced by people throughout the organization when a termination occurs, the word "termination" is the more specific, well-defined way to refer to this event and so is used here.

As a result of these language choices, this document can feel a bit cold and inhuman. That's not the intent; the intent is to have a clear, honest, transparent conversation about the topic at hand. Given that, using unambiguous language is important.

1. Managers are expected to make employment decisions based on what is in the best interests of the company.

There is a very wide spectrum of employer / employee relationships, ranging from a "job for life" to "terminated the minute you make a single mistake." We are definitely not at either extreme end of this spectrum. Given that, the question becomes: where exactly do we position ourselves on it?

❗ It's important to reiterate here that dbt Labs is an at-will employer. The company does not provide a guarantee of employment for any particular period of time, and employees may be terminated for any reason, or no reason at all, within the boundaries of the law.

In data science, the "optimization function" is the algorithm that evaluates how good a given solution is. Our optimization function is simple: we make employment decisions based on the best interests of the company. That may sound obvious—don't all companies do this?—but it's important to call it out. Each one of us is employed by dbt Labs today because the company believes we are uniquely qualified to help it succeed.

Team construction, including hiring, firing, performance management, and coaching, is how the company makes that critical determination: uniquely qualified to help it succeed. Here are some questions managers at dbt Labs ask when considering whether to terminate an employee:

  • Is this person making everyone else around them better or are they holding their peers back?
  • What are this person's qualitative and quantitative impacts on the organization:
    • ...relative to the expectations for their position?
    • ...relative to their goals?
    • ...relative to their internal peers?
    • ...relative to an ideal external candidate for their position?
  • What has been this person's trajectory? We prefer to evaluate the slope of a line rather than its Y-intercept.
  • Does this person embody and act in accordance with our values?

None of these questions are singly determinative, but they are each useful lenses when thinking about the impact of a given individual and their continuing role on the team.

  • Are employees "replaceable"?

    The above could read as a justification for the company to treat employees as replaceable cogs in a machine—the minute that someone screws anything up, just hire someone new to take their place! This is not how we see it. This would be an overly narrow and insufficient interpretation of the company's interests for two specific reasons.

    1. Psychological safety is an incredibly important component of creating a high-performing, innovative team. Teams that lack psychological safety don't say hard things, build strong relationships, or take shared risks—all of the things that are absolutely required to build groundbreaking products. Terminating employees, even if those employees were underperforming, chips away at psychological safety. This is unavoidable outcome of a termination, as those adjacent to the terminated employee end up thinking "is my job safe?" We can do two things to minimize these impacts. First, we can be transparent about expectations, process, and accountability for termination decisions (which is why this document exists). Second, we can consistently demonstrate as an organization that we only use terminations as a solution as appropriate and that we take performance management extremely seriously.
    2. People are not actually cogs. Think of all of the things that are locked up in your brain. You possess not only your functional expertise (which is often the first thing we think about when evaluating our own job performance), but also your internal and external relationships, knowledge of existing processes, knowledge of our product and customer, and more. This context is incredibly hard to replace, and replacing it costs real time and money. And time, especially, is a resource that is in very short supply for us today.

    It is truly in the best interests of dbt Labs to invest in long-term employee relationships. In situations where an employee's performance is trending downwards, dbt Labs makes a dedicated effort to provide team members with the support and structure required to get back on track and meet the minimum requirements in their role.

  • How do we square employee terminations with our "We are human" value?

    It's important to highlight this point, as it's a hard and uncomfortable truth: it is a very inhuman thing to evaluate fellow humans that we care about solely on the basis of their impact on our organization. Humans in our more traditional social structures—tribes and families—do not act this way, and it is deeply socially uncomfortable to do so.

    Without letting this document get too mired down in a conversation about whether modern capitalism is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, let's instead just all admit that we are collectively employed at a for-profit entity within a capitalist system, and that this is not a surprise to any of us. Fundamental to this is that we need to build the most high-performing team we can. Ultimately we will succeed or fail as a business based on the strength of that team—both its team dynamics and its composition.

    Our "We are human" value, then, encourages us in this case to navigate the environment in which we exist with every shred of humanity we can bring to bear. You'll see this reflected throughout this document, and you're absolutely encouraged to suggest ways in which we can do this better.

  • Do we look into options for an employee who is underperforming to transition into a different role on the team?

    We often do. While in practice moves like this are hard to make (so many things have to align!), managers are encouraged to look for other internal roles that the underperforming employee is well-positioned to excel in. If you're currently trying to determine whether there might be a good fit for someone elsewhere in the organization for someone you manage, please contact your People Business Partner.

2. Surprises are bad and we will work hard to avoid them.

One of the questions that a termination always brings up for any team is, "If I were about to be terminated, would I know?" Our goal is to have the answer to this be as close to 100% as possible. Having an open dialogue about performance between a manager and an employee is the most important part of performance management.

Our company-wide investment in bi-annual performance reviews, 1-on-1s, and feedback training demonstrates just how much we care about establishing strong feedback. This feedback is the bedrock on which we have created, and are continuing to create, a high-performing team.

Important to note is that it is both hard and important for a manager to directly link a conversation about critical feedback to potential future termination. Sentences like these are important to say out loud:

  • "I'm really happy to work with you on this area but please know that this does need to improve over the next [period] or we may have to talk about transitioning you out of this role."
  • "We've been talking about this area of your performance for a [period] now, and I haven't seen meaningful change. If I don't start to see significant change in this area over the coming [period] we'll need to let you go."

Making the link between critical feedback and potential termination explicit is so important because otherwise it is hard for employees to differentiate "standard fare critical feedback"—which is normal and healthy—from "potentially career-disrupting critical feedback." Without a clear ability to differentiate between these two situations, it is only natural for anyone to react to feedback with a "worst-case scenario" mindset, which will naturally lead to low psychological safety and often defensiveness.

It is our goal to create an environment where receiving critical feedback is normal, and employees don't need to over-index on every piece of critical feedback they receive. It's a manager's job to help create this environment.

  • I notice the answer wasn't "100%", it was "as close to 100% as possible". Are there exceptions where I might be surprised about my performance-related termination?

    There are a few, which include:

    • Sometimes we make hiring mistakes. We try our very best to assess the fitness of a given human with a given role, but it is impossible to perfectly assess fit during even the ideal interview process. In the first three months of an employee's tenure, it may become clear that they just aren't a good fit for the role and should be transitioned out. Terminations during this period may happen more quickly as new information about an employee's performance becomes available.
    • Feedback failures happen. While we strive to give clear feedback that directly links performance to potential termination, we also recognize that managers are also fallible humans. While this is a serious failure on the part of that manager (and will be referenced in their own performance review), this failure should not and cannot prevent us from at all times doing what is in the best interests of the organization.
    • Sudden or severe downturns in performance. There can be instances where the performance of an employee takes a rapid change for the worse and it is critical to make a change faster than our regular feedback cadence is wired for to minimize negative impacts.

    Our goal is for surprises to happen almost-never, but we also recognize that "no surprises ever" is also not an attainable goal (no more than is "zero downtime"). As in all things, this is something that we are always focused on improving.

  • The thought that my job—my source of income!—is subject to the inherently imperfect judgment of my manager and the inherently imperfect processes of a fallible company makes me queasy. How do we create an environment where I feel like I have some protection against capriciousness?

    One of the reasons that employee terminations are so fraught is a mismatch between responsibility and impact.

    • Typically there is some shared responsibility for the outcome on the part of both the terminated employee and their manager / the company. It's not in anyone's interests for an employment relationship to end in termination, so there is a combination of hiring failure, management failure, and individual performance failure that happened to get to that point.
    • The brunt of the impact is always / nearly always felt by the terminated employee. Being terminated is a significant life event.
    • The manager to whom the terminated employee reported is typically very minimally impacted.

    This mismatch between who-is-responsible and who-gets-impacted can create a bad situation. In the most extreme case it can result in managers abdicating their responsibilities in performance management altogether and using terminations as the solution for far too many performance challenges. This creates a toxic work environment where employees feel unsupported and always at risk of termination. This is definitely not the outcome we are looking for—purely from a commercial perspective, this is not the type of environment that results in productivity and innovation (see: psychological safety, above). This also just wouldn't be the kind of environment that any of us would be proud to be a part of.

    • Is using a PIP a good solution here?

      One possible solution to this is for the People team to introduce a formalized process that managers need to go through in order to terminate an employee. This is often known as a "PIP"—performance improvement plan—and it typically plays out over the course of 30-90 days. Because the process is run by the People team, there is a level of assurance that the manager cannot act exclusively on their own authority.

      The PIP, though, has negative connotations, often from companies misusing them and stories that no one 'survives' a PIP. We believe that they can be used differently and have introduced Development Plans into the manager's toolbox.

      • Not every termination will be the result of a development plan, there are reasons we may opt to not use one.
      • Additionally, not every development plan results in termination. Ideally, they are used to improve performance and grow the team member in a positive way.
    • Other ways we address this problem?

      When framing this problem in terms of a mismatch between accountability and impact, it becomes more clear what good potential solutions are. The question decomposes down into two distinct sub-questions:

      • How do we minimize the impact on the terminated employee?
      • How do we increase the accountability of managers and the organization as a whole?

      Minimizing the impact on terminated employees is the primary motivating force behind our severance policy. We have a generous severance policy specifically because we want to minimize the impact of a termination on the terminated employee.

      Increasing accountability of managers is something we know how to do as well. We employ the retrospective as a tool throughout the company to post-hoc determine the causes of an event. This could be a product outage, a project that failed to be delivered on time, a missed quarter, or (in this case) an employee termination. Retrospectives are an incredibly pro-cultural tool because they do not assume any fault—the goal is simply to determine causation. But in knowing ahead of time that there will be a retrospective conducted, everyone involved knows that they will be asked to give their own account of what happened and why in front of the rest of the group. And while the goal is not to assign blame, the simple act of transparently assessing causation (rather than allowing terminations to happen in the shadows) creates accountability for everyone involved.

      We conduct retrospectives for all (or nearly all) terminations that occurs at the company. Each retrospective involves:

      • the terminated employee's manager and the entire hierarchical chain above them, up through Tristan.
      • People Business Partner
      • if the terminated employee was hired in the past 90 days, the talent acquisition partner who ran the recruiting cycle.

      Each retrospective will focus around the answers to the following two questions:

      • What went wrong that led to this outcome?
      • What can we do better as an organization to prevent this from happening in the future?

      To be abundantly clear: our expectation for managers at dbt Labs is that they use terminations sparingly. While at times this solution will inevitably be needed, we expect that managers will put in the performance management and feedback work before arriving at this outcome.

      Performance management is the most fundamental duty of any manager at dbt Labs and we have an extremely high bar for the care required to appropriately discharge this duty. This is a significant component of the performance evaluation for managers at all levels of the company.

    • I'm not sure that this fundamentally solves the problem of my uneasiness around this topic.

      That's totally, 100%, reasonable. The employer/employee relationship and the manager/managee relationship have been fraught since the beginning of industrial capitalism. It's important that we do everything in our power to try to discharge our responsibilities as an employer with the utmost respect for our employees, but it's also important to say out loud that these are inherently hard things and we will not always be perfect.

      Fundamentally, the only answer that is appropriate to this concern is trust. You either believe you are working for an organization that cares about its people and does its best on their behalf or you do not. It is our job at every point to earn this trust—this is one of the goals of this document!—but it is also your job to engage with the organization openly and in good faith about where you don't feel like the company is living up to your expectations of it today. This dialogue is critical for our long-term ability to earn and keep the trust of all of our employees.

      If you do feel like the organization is not living up to your expectations in this area, there are very productive pathways for you to voice these concerns. Talk to your manager, to any member of the leadership team, to anyone within the People Team, or to your peer advocates. We really care about this topic and constructive feedback is critical.

  • Is there a straight line between "I failed at something / screwed something up / missed my numbers" and "I'm likely going to be terminated"?

    This is so incredibly, unbelievably important! At dbt Labs, failure does not result in termination (subject to exceptions in extreme circumstances).

    Imagine a company where avoiding failure was the highest goal, because failure meant getting fired. This company is not going to be successful at innovating because innovation inevitably involves failure. Failure is just a part of the process of taking risks, of trying new things.

    While we try hard to succeed at the things we do, we also have a blameless culture where we learn from our mistakes and continually engage in a process of improvement. And the most important ingredient of that process is open and honest feedback.

    The important distinction to draw when it comes to performance management is which situation someone is in:

    1. The person is unable to succeed in their role. They are consistently not demonstrating the traits / skills / behaviors required for success.
    2. The person is fundamentally demonstrating the traits / skills / behaviors required for success in their role, but has made some mistakes / has some areas for improvement.

    All of us, from the most senior to the most junior, make mistakes and have areas for improvement! It is the responsibility of the entire organization to give each other the feedback that we all need to get better. Withholding feedback out of a desire to "protect" someone is actually depriving them of exactly that most critical of raw materials they need to improve.

3. A generous severance policy is in the best interests of the company, the team, and the terminated employee.

Our goal is to have a generous severance policy in terms of both cash and benefits. Amounts are determined based on tenure, level, and termination circumstances.

4. The team needs information to move forwards - departure announcement guidelines for managers.

❗ Managers should partner with their People Business Partner to draft the message and communication plan.

Our goal with this messaging is to manage the tension between our value of transparency, respecting the privacy of the departing employee, and creating unnecessary stress within the organization. It’s important to communicate departures immediately with those that worked closely with the individual, and we strive to do so in a way that shares the facts, addresses any concerns and allows everyone a path forward with their work.

Learn more about departure message guidelines here.

Employment Posters (US)

Please review the employment posters for the state you live in, and also the federal posters which apply to each US employee. All posters can be found here.