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My situation is a combination of incompetent bosses and unclear demands, and a lack of efficient communication. I work in a startup with 3 engineers, 2 of them are 50% shareholders (and friends) and I am the only paid employee. I report to both of the bosses regarding technical issues.

Let me break down the situation a bit:

-The bosses decided to undertake a new project. They are supposed to be experts in the field according to their resumes, but it's been 3 weeks and nobody is clear about how we should proceed.

-This situation affects me the most because I'm supposed to be informed about the direction we are going to take, but since nobody knows what they are doing, they can't assign me a work with concrete expectations. All they have done is ask me to find relevant resources and compile a report, which I did, but the report didn't satisfy them. When I asked how I can improve the report, they both just said "I don't know, but I'm sure you can make it work".

-The bosses are probably aware of the situation but they don't want to look bad in front of a newly graduated engineer. All of this boils down to them expecting me to come up with a miracle (the word is used in a conversation) kind of work which will define all hardware/software requirements,set the path we will follow, and assign each people a role; while I do all this, they won't give me any credit.

So, I'm expected to devise a work plan, design, and do the programming. I'm sure I am qualified to undertake all of that, but it's not a one man's job. And I won't take any credit for all that work.

Before you ask, I applied to a position in another company and I'm invited for a second meeting soon.

How can I alleviate the situation? Should I talk to the bosses about how I feel? I don't want to jump ship in the middle of a project, where they clearly need me.

  • Big picture is that you're in a doomed workplace. Don't lose sight of that. – Dark Matter Aug 31 '18 at 18:54
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Your last paragraph shows your conflict.

This shouldn't have anything to do with "how you feel", or about jumping ship when "they need you".

They've given you a task without clear expectations. And they're unable to give you feedback about improving what you've already developed. They are bad managers, and I'm not convinced that they're any better at being engineers.

You should have no moral qualms about leaving.

Until you do have a new job, you owe them the normal amount of effort and diligence that somebody in your job would demonstrate. Since you're a recent graduate, you can't be expected to come up with a miracle. What you can be expected to do is isolate issues and work on them.

Go back to one or the other of the two owners, and ask for specific feedback on one part of your report. Then address that. Then get feedback on another part. If they are unable or unwilling to give you any more feedback than the non-answer they gave you before, then call them out on it.

"I'm a recent grad, I don't have enough experience to just come up with this entire thing. I don't know why you expect me to be able to do this, but it's clearly not the case. You're experts in the field, and all the feedback you're able to give me is 'I don't know what's wrong, but I'm sure you can come up with something.' I have reached the end of my capabilities to do this. What can we do together to get some momentum or definition on this new project?"

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  • Thanks for the answer. There is another guy starting this Monday. I'll train the guy as much as I can and complete as much work as I can before I quit, to complete my part of the deal and not burn any bridges. – erdem Sep 1 '18 at 14:34
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let me tell you something: this is business and everything is reciprocal. if you work for them, you either get your payment or learn something from them. apparently, these guys are not qualified enough to teach you, so stop being idealist and do just what they ask, nothing more nothing less, until you find a new job that satisfies your expectations

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