• Corporate Gaslighting

My Way Or The Highway

I worked for an early stage startup founded by two Europeans (which is important for a bit later on in the story and not just wanton nationalism). 


I took a role that was a step up for me in terms of seniority and responsibility. Throughout the interview process we both talked about how there would have to be a lot of trial and error and learning on the job. It sounded like a great opportunity. 


When I joined things a little different to the vision I'd been sold. 


The CEO had 100% faith in his idea, which was great, but there were some obvious flaws in the product that I noticed, users I spoke to had pointed out; and, the ultimate test, almost everyone who tried the product stopped using it very soon after. However, the founders were so protective they couldn't take any criticism on board.


I used to stand my ground - and then for the hours that followed they'd stop talking in english (a language we could all communicate in) and start talking in their common language (a language I couldn't communicate in). 


Hearing two people, who you've just had a heated discussion with, muttering in an unintelligible language and occasionally saying your name is pretty scary.


Working there made me feel really down and I ended up seeing a therapist to try to find a better way to deal with the stress. 


The therapist pointed out that my issues were all valid reasons not to like working somewhere and that it was an issue with their behaviour rather than mine that was causing problems. But he did give me some processes and tips for raising my concerns and dealing with them better. I spoke to them but their shitty behaviour carried on even after articulating why it was causing me issues.

The final straw for me was a "Beginners guide to PRODUCT X" I planned to produce.


I worked on it for a couple of days planning what information would be included and showed the CEO what I'd done. And, I was well prep'd ...


CEO: "It's ok - but I'd have done it better"


Me: "Better how?"


CEO: "I don't know - but I'd have done it better"


Me: "That isn't helpful, I need some constructive feedback so I can improve it"


CEO: "Fair enough, but I can't really give you that... I just wanted it to be different"


Me: "Different how?"


CEO: "I don't know - I'd just have done it a different way"


*2 mins later*


Me: "Ok, so is there anything that you can point at and tell me how you'd improve it? "

CEO: "No, I might do my own version though"


It was a fairly common occurrence, but that day it pissed me off more than normal and handed my notice in the next day. 


I've since worked with some really supportive, wonderful managers who have helped me realise my value to the teams I work in. And they also helped me realise how bad things were before - those fuckers. 

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