I don’t like flakes either, so when Mark Suster wrote, “Never Hire Job Hoppers. Never. They Make Terrible Employees,” I cheered him on.
Then I thought about the private conversations I had with a few startup employees who changed jobs recently, and I realised there’s something else going on here.
If you look at where many of these guys go after quitting a job you’ll see that they’re usually not moving to more glamorous jobs. If you talk to them in private, you’ll hear that they’re often escaping a situation they were mislead about.
If we’re going to call out job hoppers, I think it’s only fair to also call out startup CEOs and VCs who mislead their employees. Here are few ways they do it.
A few ways employees are misled
“Stick with me and you’ll get rich kid.”
I’ve heard of CEOs who actually sat their employees down and showed them how rich they’d be based on what price the company is sold for. (“If we sell for a billion, I get a jet and you get a yacht.”) The truth is that most stock options that employees get are worthless. When someone who’s been worked like a slave realises he’s getting blank paper, it’s hard to stay put.
(In my interview with Julia Angwin of the Wall Street Journal she explained how MySpace employees’ options became WORTHLESS even when the company had an exit to News Corp. Noah Kagan talked openly on Mixergy about how many options he got when he worked at Mint and how little they would have been worth if he stayed till after the company sold to Intuit.)
“I’ll mentor you. I’ll make you ready to be a CEO yourself!”
Most startup CEOs aren’t ready to mentor anyone. They’re still trying to figure things out for themselves. Even if they could, where would they find the time to mentor? Today’s bon vivant CEO blogs, and vlogs, and Tweets, and pontificates on stage at events, and can’t sit still long enough to give the new guy any guidance.
(Jessica Livingston said on Mixergy that the common thread throughout her interviews for Founders at Work and in her investments in 200+ startups is that much of startup’s success is unplanned.)
“We’ll change the world together. You’ll see.”
Really? That might be the goal on day one, but once a CEO takes funding, she has a fiduciary obligation to raise the value of her business. That’s when changing the world gives way to “just increase page views!” and the job becomes more about the mechanics of SEO and link-baiting.
Changing the world is something worth working 80-hour weeks for. Being the first to report Ricky Martin’s revelation that he’s gay, isn’t really worth waking up in the morning.
Why am I writing this?
Non-funded startups are damaged by these lies too. I remember trying to hire people who used to work for funded companies and hearing, “What about my options?” Employees are trained to make certain demands, to be showered in stock options, to rub elbows with powerful VC’s, and learn at the feet of the guy who’s “smart enough to raise millions of dollars from investors.” Non-funded companies are forced to deal with those false expectations.
What’s the solution?
- I’d like to see LinkedIn show the turnover rates for companies in their system. If we could call out the flakey companies where new hires keep rushing out the door, it’ll be enlightening. (Plus it’ll be fun to hear CEOs give their excuses for why so many people don’t want to work with them.)
- It might make sense to create a site like TheFunded.com for employees to *privately* rate their employers.
- If employers talk to past bosses before hiring an employee, I think employees should similarly contact a company’s former employees before taking a new job.
Beyond that, I don’t know. What do you think?
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