I work in a very successful software startup. Our business relationships have always been handled by technical staff, and we have built a reputation for this. A year ago we reached the point where we had to bring in more senior people. These new senior managers all have 10-20 years of experience more than us technology experts, and their previous companies worked in different markets, for different software. We have always been very collaborative and productive, working together to make the company successful. Now we got to the point where:

  • product management is led by somebody who does not know our field and won't accept any feedback or input from experts of our domain; as a result, they have discarded our old roadmap and are working hard on features we decided not to pursue many years ago, because customers are asking for them (but we knew money was not coming)
  • sales made the company fire all customer-facing technical staff who previously contributed to customer engagements, unless such engineers accepted to become salespeople or field support
  • engineering absorbed all remaining technology experts, so that all code written in the company is now authorised by a single person, the CTO (who tried hard to fire our VP of Engineering as first thing into his new job)
  • while we partnered a lot with many software vendors, now all partnerships are managed by a single person, and there is a long backlog which is ignored because this individual doesn't have the time, or because it's not from him

So product won't allow others to suggest features; engineering won't allow domain experts to try new things; sales won't allow technical staff to speak to customers or bring opportunities; the person in charge of partnerships won't recognise anything if it's not from her.

I can see how these new managers are strangling the company. Of course, they are exclusively hiring old colleagues, and our job descriptions are simply impossible to satisfy if you are an actual candidate.

However, they can always tell me "we have 20 years of experience more than you (in a different field and market, though)". And if they left, I would not be able to personally re-implement all the processes and structure they brought with them, and that might make the company weaker.

So, the company is limited if they stay, but will get weaker if they suddently leave. But it's also not possible to work around them, because they control everything they can. And no, we are not making more money than before they joined. It's a big thing to build a case against senior management.

Question: can something professional be done to contain damaging senior management without damaging the company?

  • 13
    Who has the authority to reign in these new managers if they aren't being wholly productive? Who hired them, and why aren't they concerned?
    – Jane S
    Jun 4, 2018 at 0:00
  • 8
    And is he aware of your concerns?
    – Jane S
    Jun 4, 2018 at 0:03
  • 12
    You're not the CEO. You can't fix this. Get out. Get out now. If you're staying for stock options, know that they will become worthless anyhow. Jun 4, 2018 at 6:47
  • 5
    @paparazzo plenty of reasons, but the most obvious being "but they're not willing to pay for it".
    – Erik
    Jun 4, 2018 at 18:06
  • 3
    @paparazzo Erik is correct: those features were previously discarded because customers didn't need them badly enough to pay for them.
    – user38290
    Dec 28, 2018 at 19:45

2 Answers 2


You are too far down the chain to be effective. I was told once stay within your sphere of influence not your sphere of concern.

There is no going over the Executive Chairman (EC).

If EC made these hiring decisions without consulting other he is not going to listen to others now.

Sounds like a sinking ship and they are making the leaks bigger not smaller.

You should start circulating your resume.

This is a reach but the investors are aware revenue targets are being missed. Write an anonymous letter to the investors telling them why. Be careful about the level of detail that would pen it on you.

  • 5
    For using sphere in the same sentence, twice, correctly.
    – Neo
    Jun 4, 2018 at 17:52

can something professional be done to contain damaging senior management without damaging the company?

In a word, no. You cannot fix this, as it has been mentioned by many in the comments to the question.

In my view you have several options. First, if you trust the Executive Chairman's judgement, give this new management structure more time to figure things out. In this same line of thought, consider that they may actually have a plan, and you're not in on it.

The second option, the more obvious option, is to leave. It is chaotic, it is a start up, so no one can fault you for that.

And finally, a more risky option. You could, and I mean could, if you have a relationship with the Executive Chairman, share your concerns directly with them. If you do not have a strong relationship with them do not do this. Even if you do have a decent relationship with the EC, this is a risky move as you will likely make some enemies by taking this action.

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