I’ve always maintained that being an entrepreneur or working for one is not for the faint-hearted, but I was still taken aback when a particularly enterprising friend of mine (who works at a Dubai-based startup) confessed to feeling a crushing sense of frustration at work. As one of the company’s early recruits, I remembered him being a passionate champion of his employers, and yet, here he was now, looking disillusioned and demotivated. “I’m really overloaded,” he said to me, as he complained about his overwhelming workload. There were just too many tasks being thrown on his plate for him to execute, he explained, and adding to the pain was the fact that when things invariably fell through the cracks, he felt himself being at the receiving end of the blame. “Everything [that goes wrong] seems to be my fault,” he said. “I feel sorry for myself.”
For all of the conversation about the bravery of entrepreneurs in building businesses, there isn’t enough being said about the daring shown by the people who work for these upstart founders. After all, the risk these people take by choosing to work for a startup (as opposed to putting their talent to use at a more established company) is pretty monumental. More often than not, these are driven individuals who are ready to go above and beyond what they are expected (read as: paid) to do. I believe that my friend was one such kind of person, and so, his work circumstances must have somehow gone south for him to be so forlorn and glum. I found myself giving him a few suggestions on what he could do to get out of his misery:
STEP ONE: COMMUNICATE
Your work at a startup shouldn’t come at the cost of your well-being, physical or emotional. Regardless of your feelings of loyalty toward your company, I can assure you that wallowing in a murky pool of self-pity is definitely not worth it. If you have a problem, voice it to your employers- your bosses are entrepreneurs, and they have a hundred different things on their minds all the time, and so it falls on you to bring issues to the table.
STEP TWO: SET A DEADLINE TO EXPECT CHANGE
It’s one thing to take your problems to your employers; it’s another thing altogether to see solutions come from them on the same. This, however, doesn’t mean that you should have to wait indefinitely for change to happen- as I told my friend, doing so will only see you fall back into despair. In order to avoid that, set a realistic deadline for expecting your entrepreneurial bosses to affect change in your startup environment. If they value you as an employee, they should make an effort to help- and I do believe this has to come from the top. As we have repeatedly attested to in Entrepreneur Middle East: a company is nothing without its team, and the people at its top should remember that.
STEP THREE: DECISION TIME
If, after all of the above, nothing changes in your environment once your personal deadline has rolled in, then I’d say that it might be time for you to make a career move. I can’t say there’s any job worth being miserable for, and while you may have signed up to be a part of the madness that is a requisite of a startup, it shouldn’t be so overpowering that you become dejected and disappointed. Making the decision to move on from a company that you invested so much time and work into is difficult- but it may be well worth your while.
Related: What's It Like Working For A Startup