Nobody Tells Startup Founders This

Startup Founders

There is one aspect of being a startup founder, senior manager, CEO etc. that is rarely if ever discussed. It’s a stress & intensity that has nothing directly to do with revenue or business strategy, it has to do with people and more specifically your team. And if it’s your business, your startup the intensity is that much more. It’s not what you think. It’s not about recruiting or keeping employee morale high, it’s an arguably a much more extreme & intense honor that is bestowed upon you that may drive you to tears and tears that you can’t show to anybody else.

They don’t teach how to cope with this in business schools or management courses as far as we’re aware. It’s just something that you’ll have to learn how to manage and likely manage alone.

You will be told bad news, and at times horrible news, by your employees. Bad news in their lives that nobody else knows about and news that you can’t tell anybody else given often the highly confidential nature of such information. There are many tragedies in life and many of them are kept secret, or at least secret for a period of time for various reasons; however, there is a very good chance you will be first to learn of such tragedies as the person’s livelihood is in your control.

Many of the examples our founder, Otis, can’t share for obvious reasons, but we can share one from Otis’s experience that involved a relatively new twenty three year old employee, let’s call her Jackie, who lived with her mother and her mother alone (which for India would be considered an extremely small family unit where additionally here in India it’s the norm for children to live with their parents here for their entire lives). Otis got a call from Jackie informing him that her mother had a cardiac arrest and died soon thereafter. Otis was one of the first people to know about this and was requested to not tell the team as Jackie didn’t want any sympathy from the team. Otis figured that in the coming days Otis would be able to inform the team and Jackie would return to work in a few weeks. However that was not the case, not only did Jackie request Otis to not tell the team at Jagaha what had happened, she requested him to come in the next day & thereafter to work as she couldn’t bare the idea of being home all alone with her mother’s memories around her. She said ‘she wanted to pretend as if it never happened.” How could Otis not grant her this wish?

For the next few weeks, Jackie of course underperformed massively, was taking off half days for the all the paperwork that is involved with a death and needless to say wasn’t mentally checked in, obviously. The team at Jagaha started to complain daily about her unimpressive behaviour, but all Otis could say was just “trust me on this,” “let her be for a  few weeks.” In the team’s mind, Otis was being weak and soon after there was rebellion by the other’s at Jagaha against this poor girl Jackie and growing distrust that the owner of the company couldn’t lead in a manner beneficial to Jagaha. It was a disaster and needless to say extremely stressful for all.

We unfortunately don’t have a coping mechanism to deal with handling bad personal news & tragedies, it’s a part of life. It’s intense, but it’s something that should be flagged to business owners and especially those that are just starting out with their own business. As a business owner handling these tragedies is a very real and important part of your job, be prepared and act with compassion, love, understanding and of course it’s mandatory to keep confidential information confidential regardless how difficult it may be for you to not discuss it, you cannot.

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