I agreed on a software project to deliver a system. As part of our agreement, I'd be getting a developer of my choice. My pay is a certain monthly amount. On top of that, I'd be getting a portion of the product. "What portion" isn't pinned down yet, but my monthly pay is. There's no written agreement, all is verbal.

Also, I relocated for 3 months to the project site with expenses covered.

I'm there now - flew in 2.5 weeks ago. What I ended up with is:

a) I'm given, without options, a "backup developer", say Jeff, that one other senior member of the company, say Bob likes. A very strong clique here - "boys' club" (I'm female), and professional seniority has no place. Jeff has a definite attitude towards me, it's even scary.

b) I've been paid less than my month's pay this month. My travel expenses are yet to be reimbursed.

I did the following on these so far:

For (a), defined one part of the system as a somewhat independent component, and said something like "I'd need Bob's help managing Jack for now." Bob is OK with this, even liked it, went ahead of me at it and said "we'll finish in 3 weeks, you just do your part don't worry about this." That system doesn't finish in 3 weeks, and I can't even wrap my head around the rest of it. It's not a standard system, they gotta be hearing me on what, even how to do.

For (b), mentioned this to the director 5 days ago in a meeting. Was a pleasant/smooth talk and heard it'll be alright. Nothing happened since. Also from that day, I'd also be forwarded some resumes to sift through - nothing on that either.

I am now trying to figure what, how to handle it. I could use any input. Right now, I'm in the mood: "I'm being had, just can't see how" and this can't be good. I like the project, and want to handle it right.



This is an open-source project with more than half of the staff working remote, getting paid by Bitcoins. Apart from maybe 2-3 here (and that's about the office space and the like), noone has a written agreement. There are several projects under one big umbrella-project. Mine is one of those projects.

  • What is your question? – Tom W Nov 11 '17 at 16:12
  • This seems like a "help! I thought I'm moving into a house but in all the fog when I arrived it looks more like a shed half fallen apart, what do I do to make it a house as soon as possible while so far only seeing a half-comfortable bed?!". I.e. the question currently is wide-open, unspecific and we only have a few limited data points hardly stable enough to build on. That being said - get everything in writing or assume you won't get anything more than you are getting already. That the team works like a family is not that worrysome, that their contracts with outsiders are verbal promises is. – Frank Hopkins Nov 11 '17 at 16:20
  • @Darkwing - more or less, but this the nature of it. pls see my edit. I brought in good credentials/contact and already made a major impact. Being brought here like this is distinctive credit to me as opposed to rest of the staff, and this is one reason i'm under the spotlights. – javaDoe Nov 11 '17 at 16:30
  • @TomW - guess it is "how to handle a clique", or how to digest it. I wont be working on site forever-- not with this! – javaDoe Nov 11 '17 at 16:33
  • Management has preferences, that's not a problem you can fix. You didn't present much in terms of concrete and narrow problems we can help you with. If there is more specific behaviour you want help dealing with, you might want to focus on that in your question. Your second point is very much distinct from the first - if the company's not paying you the agree-upon amount, you really shouldn't stick around to let them keep treating you like that, and you should consider reporting their (probably illegal) behaviour. – Bernhard Barker Nov 11 '17 at 20:34

If the question is how to handle/work with a clique, in the best case the optimal strategy is to become part of the clique.

That is assuming the clique dynamics are acceptable, i.e. if they accept opinions based on their technical expertise over the level of friendship they have with the person voicing them etc.

Clique-driven development can be quite effective, if the clique dynamic is positive productive, i.e. there is no sub-clique politics, no mixup of friendship and professional criticism, but mutual trust and friendly collaboration.

Given that you are the only female in a male clique, you will have to set some boundaries. There may or may not be some inappropriate joking and or prejudices (and/or jokes around those). When you are becoming part of the clique, you may be included in their banter etc. You need to decide which topics are off-limits to you and how to integrate. Also, you may need to make clear that this is a professional relationship to you, not a dating opportunity.

If the clique accepts you as one of the pack, you automatically should be recognized as an equal, get the same protection and support of the others. Maybe you need to kick some prejudices (e.g. women can't do anything techy), in the balls - i.e. prove to some guys that you know what you are talking about.

With regard to "Jeff", I wouldn't have someone else involved longterm unless he is frightening in the sense that you think he might grossly overstep and harass you.

If the clique is dysfunctional or has dysfunctional members (you ultimately cannot work with closely), you may need to take another route and only interface with them on a very professional and strict level. This will give less optimal results but will avoid to be dragged into their internal affairs to some degree. This assumes you really want to stay, as in such a dysfunctional case I'd suggest to run and look for a better opportunity.

That all aside, the real problem doesn't seem to be clique or not, but the chaotic organization and fluid reward situation. You are being promised things from one communication partner, but once you're in the field this seems to change, certainly not a solid basis to build on.

After all it seems like it is in many startups, you may gain experience and have fun doing it, but you shouldn't expect big financial or career rewards, they may happen but are unlikely. Do it if you have fun doing it, otherwise, it seems the rational decision is to look for something more accountable.

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