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Hi Manager Tools,

The podcasts are such an eye opener as to what quality management should look like. By your example, I have to say that my employment-scape looks dysmal.

I work as a programmer in a small organization of about 20 people. (this is a startup). I've been here three years since college, and at this point it feels my ability to develop or grow professionally or personally has stalled. My dream is to run my own company, and anything I do between now and then MUST prepare me for it. If not, I am wasting my time.

There is a very negative / low-energy 'vibe', and in large part in comes from what I would characterize as bad management: flat raises across the board, no feedback positive or negative, deadlines slip w/o any serious comment. We have had SERIOUS underperformers and deadweight, who ultimately only left under the wieght of their OWN guilt, with no adjusting feedback or performance improvement ultimatums. In short, the good and the bad are treated alike, and no one is given feedback for improvement. This has had the effect of really sapping team morale.

The company will ultimately succeed, we are doing the right stuff in the right place, because our founders are very intelligient and savvy and our technology sound, but I feel I am picking up bad habits from those I work directly for or with, and so no moderate success in the near future is worth that to me.

So my question is: Fix or move on? Fix to me would be something along the lines of taking more initiative and ownership, and guiding the team, either by 'coaching' my manager, or taking more responsibility on myself. We are fairly flat, so perhaps this is possible. Maybe I shouldn't expect poor and good performers to be differentiated since we are so small. Any advice on where to begin would be most appreciated.

Alternatively, I could move on. This might be into another programming job, but I'd like to broaden myself a bit, perhaps technical recruiting or an MBA. Some step to further prepare and advance myself...

Any thoughts? When you are in such a small company, how can you address and fix these issues? Or is a small company composed this way unlikely to change in any substantial way?

Thanks!

Aaron's picture

Let me add that a large part of this dilemma for me is that this company has been my first serious job, and these people are like family. For those who are further along in their career, perhaps knowing when to switch jobs, or persevere is more obvious, all my mentors are associated with this company. So it's hard / awkward to ask this question of them.

bflynn's picture

[quote="Aaron"]Let me add that a large part of this dilemma for me is that this company has been my first serious job, and these people are like family. For those who are further along in their career, perhaps knowing when to switch jobs, or persevere is more obvious, all my mentors are associated with this company. So it's hard / awkward to ask this question of them.[/quote]

No one has responded, so I'll make a suggestion - it sound to me like its time to move on.

Yes, there are good reasons to stay - the opportunity, the chance to move up, the success, probably a good chunk of money at the end, etc. You have a good part of yourself tied up in this venture and its partly your baby.

But, it sounds like you're not happy. You have the choice to try to fight to make this into something that makes you happy, but you'll be unhappy along the way. And, you might struggle for years to realize that it isn't working. You only get one trip through life, its not a rehearsal. If you're not enjoying what you're doing, go find something you do enjoy.

Evaluate the company as objectively as possible. Is there likely to be change? (I presume no). Will they succeed? (sounds like yes). If you believe these things, its time to start looking before the negativity affects you too strongly. Once you've landed a new position, negotiate to see if you might be able to vest any remaining options and buy them out - a lot of time, it can happen because they want to keep good relations.

My advice, based on what I read into your posts. I've tried to qualify what I'm thinking, but I could be off. Let me know if I am.

Brian

Mark's picture

We must be getting somewhere - Brian waits all of 24 hours before noting that no one's posted yet. ;-) Sometimes I do admit to waiting because I skew the conversations some times.

Brian, thanks for sharing your thoughts. This is the community part of Manager Tools I love.

My thoughts:

BOTH.

I recommend you both stay on and try to make a difference as best you can, as well as prepare to leave.

I think one of the most important meta-lessons I've learned in the last 10 years is that the decision is better stated not as "stay or go" as it is "stay or look."

I recommend a two pronged assault. A, put yourself mentally in play. Update your resume - listen to that cast. Reach out to friends and recruiters. (This is called the R3 approach - resumes, relationships, and recruiters.) this will take you several weeks, and as you go through this, your thinking differently about your situation will - in my experience - bring you new insights about what you like and don't like about your firm now.

While you're doing that, ask yourself (sounds like you already have) what you don't like about your firm. And then, if you choose, make an effort to change it.

Starting with yourself. It's usually pretty ineffective to lobby for change up the ladder. they think things are going pretty well - you said they would ultimately succeed. So, change YOUR behavior. Become an example of what and who you want YOUR company to be. You don't have to poke your finger in anybody's eye... just start doing what you believe to be right.

When it comes to errors from the top, politelly provide some muted feedback, and then with your behavior show how different behavior works better.

Tell your team if you have directs what you want the company to become. Be clear about your motivations to improve things. They'll get it.

The real question is how the leadership responds. If they do so with benign neglect, keep setting a different example. If you're not getting punished, that's good.

If you get ostracized, or get a lot of feedback, it's time to move on.

If you make some headway - it will be slower than you want - stick around.

If you get a great offer, compare it to this new effort you're making.

All the while remembering that it's your career, and whatever you do will probably turn out fine. I've been fired and quit two highly promising jobs, and things seem fine here.

Hope this helps!

Mark