I received this email from a reader:

We four friends started an advertising company. I was given the role of business development manager. I love the job but during the course of time, the two partners who are better skilled became the self-proclaimed CEO and CMO suddenly. Then started the unfair treatment. They made us two feel like employees and often insult and humiliate us in front of people working under me. In fact, all the employees feel the two are senior management and I am working under them.

One partner quit the company because he couldn't take it anymore. Both of them being workaholics has affected my personal and social life (which is literally dead). We work an average of 12 hours a day often reaching home after 11 pm only to come back to work the next morning at 11 am. The stress level has increased. No amount of hard work I do is appreciated. One small mistake and it's stuck to me like a leech. They say one small weakness overpowers all my hard work.

Once I was under immense depression due to a break up (my fiance cheated on me). They said I should not mix personal life to work life and gave me an option to quit since I was underperforming (of course a lecture with humiliation).

What am I to do in this situation. Is this enough reason to resign and start finding a new job though the business prospects are good.



First of all, this is not an unusual situation. Friendships (and sometimes marriages) wither and die under the pressures of starting a new business. And sometimes, they explode kill all remaining vestiges of friendship, which is what appears to be happening here.

Your question is is all this pressure and jerky co-founders enough reason to find a new job and leave? really should be obvious if you take a step backward. What did you do when you found out that your fiance was cheating on you? You don't say, but I bet you didn't put up with it. You kicked him to the curb. But what do you do when your former friends turn out to be horrible people? Worry about your resume.

This is a mistake that a lot of people make. Of course, you should worry about your resume, but one blip doesn't doom you, and this isn't even a blip. If you're in a job interview and they ask (because they will) why you are looking for a new job, the answer is easy: "I started this company with three of my friends, but it turns out I prefer working in an established company, so I'm moving on." Easy peasy and it doesn't have you bad-mouthing your jerky co-founders.

You may say, that's not a true statement--you want to be a founder! I'm not sure that's true. You're complaining about working 12 hour days. A lot of time that is what it takes to get a business off the ground. It can be done without 12 hour days, of course, but it's common enough that I'm pretty sure this isn't your baby--it's your friends' baby and you are feeling like a babysitter rather than a parent.

Now, could this have been avoided? Well, jerks are going to be jerks, but you can often stop a lot of that by making a plan in advance. You said they became they "self-proclaimed CEO and CMO." That was a mistake that all four of you made. No one becomes a self-proclaimed anything in a four-person startup. You determine who will take what role from the beginning and you draw up legal documents that explain company ownership and all those annoying little non-creative details. You're letting them treat you as an employee (although note, bosses shouldn't treat employees like they are treating you) when you should be an equal.

So, before you run off and find a new job, you should probably consult with your attorney. If you're a co-founder you should have an ownership stake in the company, and you don't necessarily have to stay there to profit from that. If you don't have an attorney (which I'm guessing you don't, because if this had been set up legally decisions about positions wouldn't be accidental), now is the time to hire one.

And while it can be great to work with friends, it's often better to work with people who you have strictly business relationships with. There tends to be a lot less drama when business is business only.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.

Published on: Apr 20, 2017
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