1

Long story short: My manager is being often controlling to people in my team, but he also happens to be a co-founder of the company (a rather small start-up).

He is the type of guy that believes he knows everything and is better than others even if he is lacking IT knowledge. He is always trying to push through his ideas and telling the other co-founders that our team is not doing as well as we should be.

What can I do to stop this behaviour?

  • "What can I do to stop this behaviour?" - find a new boss? – Mawg says reinstate Monica Oct 4 '18 at 8:06
  • You mean like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak? Does your co-founder have the Reality Distortion Field of Steve Jobs? Just deal with him the way Apple employees used to deal with Steve Jobs. (Jobs did the same thing to Lisa and Apple II teams). Apple employees would bring vendors in to help with technical issues and hide them in closets if Jobs entered the building. Later, when Jobs learned he was wrong and a new path was needed, Apple employees had the vendor solution ready to go. (True stories). – user25792 Oct 8 '18 at 13:41
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Realistically your chances of "solving" this are slim I'm afraid - unless the co-founder's peers are aware and dislike their actions (and are in a position to oust them) you probably have to accept that they are going to be there for the foreseeable future and are unlikely to change.

That said there are some things that you can do both to protect yourself and potentially enable a solution in the long term.

First and foremost document everything, everything this manager says or does that is either untrue or detrimental to the business - "I think this guy is an a##h##e!" isn't an argument senior management are going to listen to for getting rid of someone." On the other hand "Mr Bloggs forced through decisions x, y, and z and that cost the company $1 million in lost revenue/profit" is much more compelling - and even if it is not enough to get rid of them it can be used to bring them into line and curb their more.. troubling behaviors. If you can get the rest of the team doing the same thing then that's even better - one dissenting voice can be dismissed as someone with a grudge or a one-off malcontent but if the whole team is saying the same thing it becomes a great deal harder to ignore.

I do have to say though that based on my own experiences in similar situations I don't like your odds of success - as distasteful as it may seem to you sometimes the best option is just to keep your head down, grit your teeth and start job hunting I'm afraid.

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There are some reasonable defensive ideas in the answers so far, but I want to offer a different perspective. Maybe this cofounder, despite his arrogance and lack of skill as a manager, is not entirely wrong*. As a cofounder, he feels intense pressure to make the company succeed, and he knows your team needs to do a better job in order to make that happen. But maybe he doesn't know how to get your team doing a better job, or even what that better job looks like -- so he's micro-managing. It's something he can do in spite of the nagging feeling that he's ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities placed on him. (And that feeling is common among founders, though the best ones don't radiate it to their teams in such harmful ways.)

So if we accept that there's a real concern here, how can we channel that into something more productive? The best place to start would be engage your manager in a conversation about what he's really hoping to accomplish. What are his top priorities and goals? To what extent could your team be helping to address them? If you're not addressing them now, is it because they're not a match to your team's skills, structure, or process? Is it a lack of awareness or concern? Is it a lack of effort? Insufficient clarity in the goals, strategy, or tactics?

Most likely, it is a mix of all of these. You might feel that the main missing pieces are your manager's responsibility to solve, and that's true. But if you can explore these types of questions in a supportive and optimistic way, you might help him become more aware of what your team needs to be more effective, and stand a chance of salvaging some trust. At the very least, you'll stand out as being unafraid of considering the big, existential challenges that face startups and founders. If you can do that and make it inspiring for your coworkers, maybe you're even cut out to be a founder yourself someday!

* Footnote: If your manager is entirely wrong, and his involvement in your department is not justifiable, then it's an issue the leadership team must address. You can try to bring it up delicately with another cofounder, e.g. by asking them to lunch and requesting their advice on how to work better with your manager. But consider that (1) cofounders are going to generally be more loyal to each other than to employees and (2) major inter-founder strife is common at small startups and you could become a powerful force in accelerating or resolving it, but could also become collateral damage.

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If you think you can change someones habits, then you could try talking to him and asking if he knows he is doing it. If you believe he is aware and is just power happy then I wouldn't bother with this and attempt talking to the other co-workers, maybe get backup from the rest of your team to agree with you (if this is the case of course) and if that doesn't work....

Find a new job

That's pretty much it, if it's a co-founder I assume a friend or relative of other co-founders. They trust each other and more than likely take each others side over yours. Your best option here is to leave or start looking and hand your notice in when you think you have a decent offer.

  • My co-workers share similar thoughts on him, but not all of them are interested in going with this together to the the other founders, as they don't want to encounter any problems later (e.g. being fired/not promoted). – ralphie Oct 3 '18 at 13:56
  • I think talking to him would depend on how approachable this Manager is, and how willing they are to listen to constructive criticism. I've met/worked with several Managers who are not remotely interested in what the employees think. – Time4Tea Oct 3 '18 at 15:31

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