Founders vs. Employees

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 5 Scaling Up Stage, skmurphy

Abishek Desai wrote an interesting post in April of 2008 “What Happens With People Having No Aim?” that I commented on (it appears that he has changed blogging systems and lost comments from his older posts) and I came across my answer and thought it would make a nice short blog post.

First Mr. Desai’s question

Right now my company has around 50 people on roll. We are doing development in various technologies like .NET, PHP, Facebook Applications etc. We do really interesting development which is good for company and developers.

Now for some reason we thought that our company needs some more structured technical growth and for that we need to scrap one of the holidays in month people enjoy. Right now first and third saturday are holiday here. For training we have to scrap first saturday so that we can get full day for training and at the end we can have monthly event (We do fun event once a month). The moment we announced this there was outburst in the company about scraping one holiday.

People were obviously not happy with the decision which was expected but there was something which was more disappointing. I found that most of them don’t know what they want to do in life. They think that life will just go on like this coding, developing, testing etc. Nobody wanted to be the best in whatever they are doing. They wanted to enjoy the holiday they get just like any other unambitious person.

Please note that I am not criticizing my own team. We have a very strong and dedicated team who are good in whatever they are doing and I really love my team but there is always room for improvement i.e. to become the best. Lack of this quality makes any person so lifeless, at least to me.

This kept me wondering what happens to people having no aim in life ? do they really do something important in life ? or they are just like people wandering around in zombie movies ? I love my team probably that is why I am more disappointed.

Please correct me if I am wrong somewhere, I am sure I am wrong somewhere but I am not able to find it. Regards, Abhishek

I thought this nicely captured the tension between founders/owners whose life is the company and employees, who although they  be quite dedicated, have competing priorities. My answer:

No one wishes they spent more time at the office on their deathbed.

There are many kinds of excellence and accomplishment, not all of them are work related. With 50 people in the firm surely not everyone has the same stake in success as you do. Also, there are limits to how much you can improve in a given period of time. Rest, relaxation, meditation, play, time with friends and family, volunteering, arts and crafts, reading, and many other activities are required to make a well rounded person.

Your employees may have aims that are very different than yours. It seems  a little aggressive to take more of their free time, especially without offering them an option to not attend or paying them more.

If they are not requesting the training I would be suspicious of imposing mandatory Saturday training sessions. If I were in your shoes I would ask folks individually and in small groups what’s holding the firm back, it could be many things that you could fix unrelated to having them work more hours.

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