If you have a ‘fight with your founder’ or a major difference of opinion with the CoFounders’ you work for, what could be the likely consequence? Most often, its an invitation to quit, isn’t it? The first time I saw my colleague fight with our CoFounder/CEO, I was terrified by the consequences. My colleague was fired on the spot and sent home with his cheque. At least the money part was addressed. But, when I look back now, I can imagine the shock and the mental scar that must have left on our ex-colleague.
The first time I had a major argument with my founder at another firm, I felt I might also need to quit the next day. This time I survived, because the context and the person were different. Founders are unique personalities, their passion; vision attracts us to them while they interview us. But, they can also instill a sense of insecurity when we work with them. If you are ‘opinionated’ types, should that make you an unlikely fit in an entrepreneurial setting? Does it depend on the founder or you? Both to an extent! However, it’s up to the Founder to make the first move. Now, as I reflect as an entrepreneur, I feel its a one-sided battle. If you are an employee and pick a fight with your Founder, you better know your Founder well. If s/he are people who like to hear their voice (like me😎), then god bless you! However, it’s impossible to work in any setting, let alone entrepreneurial firms without having a difference of opinion with your boss.
The question is how to deal with founders with whom you may land up in precipitating situations? I always felt the best approach is to negotiate with them as it allows things to go forward with them. The founders I worked with allowed dissent; they mostly held their ground but also allowed the ideas they did not like when pursued relentlessly. When I look back now, I can see a few reasons why those difficult situations passed without me or some of my peers having to leave.
- The fighting employee was taking responsibility for his/her decision.
- We negotiated than complaining or threating to quit Founders always have a bias for accountability and action.
- We knew how the founder thinks and works
- We had a reasonable track record as performers.
I know a fight is a rarity, and maybe too strong a word and difference of opinion are more likely when you work with entrepreneurs.
I always felt Founders liked people who had strong personalities and stood their ground than the yes men. However, one can’t keep fighting with your founders and then not meet their performance benchmarks. That would be a recipe for disaster. Am I flattering myself here?