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“I am a fiercely competitive entrepreneur who wants his startup to grow at a fast rate. I want to be covered by magazines, be on the cover page of publications, outwit my competitors, and be the best in the market. At the same time, I want my team to grow, develop, and enjoy the work in my company. I am not only about bottom lines and revenues. I am also about happy teams and a good work environment. I want my employees to grow, make good money, and live a good life.

However, as much as I want a good team and help in their development, I don’t see the same enthusiasm in my team for learning and growth. Most of them lack the skill to be proactive. All the actions and decisions are taken on a reactive basis.

This is in complete contradiction with my style of work that is pre-planned, disaster-proof, and structured.

Owing to such contradictions, I recently had an altercation with a team member. She has good experience, good performance, and has an eagerness to grow. However, she has ego issues, does not deliver on time, takes decisions on the spur of the moment, and does not get along with a few team members.

I have tried counseling, being tough but nothing seems to work. It is as if I am stuck in a loop. There are days when I think letting her go will bring about more positivity in the workplace but when this is weighed against her performance, I feel as if I will be making a big mistake by letting her go. I am not sure what to do”

– Director of a growing startup

What is the problem?

This was a question raised by a director of a growing company ( I’m going to call him Mr. YZ) when I first met him. Mr. YZ was quite frustrated with the entire situation and did not know what to do.

One of the major problems that you observe in the question above is a complete culture mismatch between the owner and the team. The values held by the owner are in complete contrast with his team. This happens with most startups. When a company starts growing, they hire on a reactive basis to manage the workload. There is absolutely no thought given to the values that the company holds important. Due to the lack of this understanding individuals are taken without being evaluated on values or core principles. There is absolutely no focus on finding individuals who are in tandem with the culture of the company. This mistake leads to most of the “HR problems”. In-fact as per a study done by one of Stanford Project on Emerging Cos, found that companies that bring in HR first were the fastest to go public &least likely to fail


Answering the above question, I completely believe in the old adage of ‘rotten apple spoils the barrel’.This lady in question may be outstanding in her performance but if her attitude and work style does not match with that of the company, be rest assured there will be more problems in the future. It is easy to train for skill but not for attitude. Moreover, her values do not match company values.

  • The company believes in timely delivery – She does not meet time deadlines
  • Company values interpersonal relationships – She does not share good relationships with the team

It is clear from the above points, that she is in complete contradiction with the company values and it does not make sense to let her stay. Yes, for a startup performance is the key. However, not meeting deadlines would mean upset or lost clients that would eventually affect the bottom line. It is best to let go of such an employee who does not fall in line with your values and way of working.

Moreover, every group has norms/rules. As head of the department, there are chances that her team may also follow the same work rules as her. There will be increased negativity and eventually it will affect your company’s growth.

Most startups focus on performance alone and ignore other things as behavior, attitude, and interpersonal skills. This may seem trivial in the initial stages and easy to ignore but it will pose a big problem as the company grows. It can also lead to the downfall of your company.

Hence, be proactive and create an idea culture.

By Gauri Palekar

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