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My current employer is a small startup (only 1 year old) and with 10 employees and I have just joined this place after previously working in a very big company with 2500 employees and a decent culture.

The CEO and the Head of Sales seem to be fighting (verbally) quite frequently. We are sitting in a co-working place and they fight and shout.

I find this distracting and it is causing me to be unable to focus on work.

I have two questions here

  1. Is this sort of thing normal for a young startup such as this or is it a sign to resign?
  2. The distraction has meant there is a delay to the project I am working on, how should I politely inform this to my boss?

Update (2019 Feb) - The person who was the Head of Sales, has resigned his/her job and the company got a new Head of Sales.

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    You're getting paid for it. None of your business. If it's really affecting your life then this choice is 100% up to you. – Twyxz Nov 7 '18 at 9:59
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    Do I getting paid to listen to all these noises? We are sitting together. Because of these noise I can't focus on my work (please have a look at second question as well). – Zi Fit Nov 7 '18 at 10:00
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    Is it an actual fight, or is it just lively discussion? – CodesInChaos Nov 7 '18 at 19:16
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This is very common in smaller companies - particularly during the early days when the company is yet to find it's footing. It's not great though and having been there, done that I can sympathise with the way it is distracting.

I think you'll find it very difficult, verging on the impossible to prevent these arguments from happening so I think you need to decide whether you can mitigate the distraction factor (headphones are a tried and tested method) or whether you want to see if the situation calms down over time. I've worked in places where it calmed down and situations like this are generally just occasional blips and also places where senior management were at each other's throats day in day out. The former is bearable, the latter.. not so much.

As for the second part of your question the key is not to make it sound like you are criticizing your boss (easier said than done!) and approaching it somewhat obliquely might be safer.

You could try one of these approaches:

Hey [Boss], is everything okay? I don't mean to pry but at the same time your disagreements with [Head of Sales] are pretty vocal!

or

Hey [Boss], I'm having a bit of difficulty focusing in the office at the moment and I'm conscious that it's causing delays to the Widget Project. Would it be okay if I worked from home till it's done so I can focus and get it done?

  • Disagreements on direction are common. Discussions/arguments over it are. Fights and shouting are not, and its a definite red flag about at least one of those two employees. – Gabe Sechan Nov 7 '18 at 17:33
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Is this sort of [disagreement] normal for a young startup such as this or is it a sign to resign?

It could be either. Startups will pivot, sometimes often, to survive.

You don't say whether they are fighting over the direction the company should go, or the best path to get there.

If the CEO and head of Sales are in disagreement over the direction the company should go, I'd consider that a pretty bad sign.
Having said that, I'll note that some people like interacting this way.

The distraction has meant there is a delay to [my project] how should I politely inform this to my boss?

Is the delay is because of the environment (the yelling) or is the delay because they cannot agree on some details which you need in order to make progress?

If because of the environment, own it and show you are overcoming it.

Although I've had some trouble adjusting to the noise level, I now have ear plugs and louder headphones to wear over them... so this won't be a problem in the future.

If because of the disagreement between CEO/Sales about the direction, leave it up to your boss:

Just so you know I need some answers so I can move forward with my project. I know this might be up in the air at the moment, but I'm stuck because I don't know how to proceed with . Do you have a feeling for how this will pan out? I'm not sure if I should work on , , or is there something else I should accomplish?

  • @JoeStrazzere See the following sentence: "If [they] are in disagreement over the direction that the company should go, I'd consider that a pretty bad sign." Other things (coffee/sports/lunch/etc.) aren't necessarily an indicator - but for the CEO and Head of Sales to disagree about direction... I'd look for a new job if that is a point of contention for more than a couple weeks. But that's just me I guess. – J. Chris Compton Nov 8 '18 at 20:05

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