Startup Employee Survey – Why Do They Enter The Non-Startup Mode?

I have been interviewing a lot of techies for a position at my startup. Most of them are working for a startup or want to work for one. The last question that i ask them is, why do you want to move on? The most common reply is, “i have learnt enough and now i want to move into a more stable job with higher compensation“, this is a typical case when their current startup is not doing very well.

There are few other interesting reasons that surfaced during the interview which i personally never thought would be so critical. But given the fact that these are highly skilled and experienced humans, this is worth paying attention.

1. Founder Over-ridding decisions – A couple of candidates complained of the founder communicating to other junior employees, reporting to the candidate, to get things done. Like a founder communicating to a trainee programmer to make changes on the site. The candidate believed that even the smallest of things coming under his responsibility had to go through him. Which looks pretty justified as you can’t be expecting people to take up responsibilty if you are over-riding his authority.

As a founder we love our baby so much that we just can’t let the minutest of changes taking place without being in total control. Even if we are not the best guys we always have a bias to what we think as “looks better”. At times these small changes are experiments for personal satisfaction.

In areas where the guy incharge has a better experience, it is best leave the decisions to him. Let him own that piece of the organization. Advice him, discuss with him but don’t tell him. As an organization its part of the work to let people grow, let everyone be leaders. You will not be around forever but the organization has to survive, because it is not just about you but also about the other people who believed in your story and have invested growing years of their career with it.

There is an interesting article on Skipping and Dipping which summarizes the point as, it is good to Dip into hierarchy to cross check the work but never Skip the leader in hierarchy to get the work done.

2. Doesn’t speak my language – That is what the candidate literally meant. The guy who he was reporting to had a different native language. At times he would go about saying something in his native language, which the candidate found unpleasant or insulting. Although all communication was done in a common language but those small gestures and jokes that came in a different language was very uncomfortable. He wouldn’t even know if it was sarcastic. Since the other guy was senior, he had the liberty to pass with any statement but that destroyed the environment.

I believe this wouldn’t be a problem in most startups but given the diversity of India, maybe this deserves some attention.

3. Tracks the wrong metrics – The other team members including the founder always discussed the wrong metrics. The candidate supposedly always concentrated on the end result. He believed that there is no-use of getting extra 1000 visitors through ads if your conversion rates would fall. The guy was working for a marketing/promotions company and believed that generating leads for clients with all the inefficient means where the leads wouldn’t convert doesn’t make sense. On interrogating the candidate did say, they were paid on per lead generated and not conversion ratio. Much appreciate his long term vision to maintain credibility of his service.

A guy like him is what you would want to work for you. Someone who doesn’t let long term vision be shadowed by short term goals.

4. Bother about my work and  my holidays – When your employee asks you for a leave, take time to ask for reasons. By bothering about it you are actually making him feel that his work is important.  Ask about it and don’t give sarcastic replies. When someone asks for leave make sure you grant it to him because now that he has it in mind, he wouldn’t be efficient in his work. Know the reason and grant it.

Not only with holidays, if he is asking for anything, invest time and energy to understand ‘why’.

As a founder it is okay to sometimes miss few things when you have so much in hand but you need to cope up with it just to make sure that your startup maintains that growth and dynamism not only in numbers but with the people as well.  Failing which you might either enter into the sarkari mode or become a 1 man organisation, none of which will grow.

Recommended Read: HR Mistakes to Avoid In a  Startup.

[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]

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