How to make the most of startup life (even if your manager sucks)

Managers. We all have to deal with some version of them. Even the companies claiming they have a flat organisation structure. There’s always someone you report to. There’s always someone who, if you’re lucky, you look up to. And if you’re not, well, that’s an entirely different story altogether.

I didn’t always work at a startup. My first job was at a big corporation and the development team at my location consisted of 100 odd people, divided into teams that reported to a team lead (TL) and TL’s that reported to a project lead (PL) and PLs that reported to a… well, you get the drift.

If you were lucky, you’d get the right fit right away and if not, well then you were shifted to another team and this process would continue until you got the right fit or they got tired or you got tired and one of you just gave up.

In a perfect world, we would all have great managers. They would make us feel valued, inspire us to do more and would be generally, just great people to be around. But that isn’t always the case.

So what happens if you do have a bad manager? You don’t let it affect your work ethic. That’s what.

Put in 100% every single day

When you’re at work, be present. You owe that much to the organisation you work for.

If you’re slacking at work, it isn’t fair to your employer, your colleagues or your customers. While your manager’s job probably is to give you a good reason to come back to work everyday, your job is to actually do your job in the best way possible.

Don’t kill your creativity (even if someone else tries to)

This someone else is often, a manager, but it could also be a team member or a difficult customer. In most workplaces today, and more often than not, in software, creativity is applauded (as it should be). But there are times when say, you’ve found a great solution (albeit an unconventional one) to a problem, and your manager shoots it down.

It’s happened to me and it’s probably happened at least once in the working lifetime of most people. All I’ve got to say is: Pick yourself up, pull out that bullet, and keep going. Creativity is a great asset and one you need to nurture.

So what if it didn’t work out in your favour this time? You’ve got more opportunities ahead and better days worth waiting for.

Keep a stronghold on your integrity

Hate your boss? Well, don’t tarnish your reputation by complaining about your boss to other people. Trust me. This will only come back to bite you in the you-­know-­what.

If you cannot have a one-­on-­one talk with your boss about what’s disturbing you, then it’s time to move on. Start a job search on the stealth. Keep doing your job in the best way possible.

And above all, keep your integrity intact.

Loyalty is earned

Midway through my time at my first job, I got assigned to a project under this amazing TL, who didn’t hamper my creativity, who actually listened to the things I said and gave me opportunities to argue my points of view. He earned my loyalty and my respect. He earned all the extra hours I put in. He earned all the time I spent fretting over a bug I couldn’t fix, a deadline I needed to keep or a file I’d forgotten to check in. He instilled in me, that feeling of ownership over my work, which is exactly what good managers do.

When it comes down to it, what I’m trying to say is this: it’s okay to be loyal to your boss up to a certain extent. But don’t be tied down by your job just because you work there. Remember, they aren’t your family. You have no obligation to them except what I mentioned first: giving your very best on every single day you go into work.

Having worked under several managers over the course of the past six years, I’ve come to understand that my career is my own. And hampering your growth just because you don’t like the person you report to, is only going to hurt you in the long run.

Image by Kumar Appaiah via Flickr

Surekha James


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