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I was asked to be part of an online-service start-up by an acquaintance who owns other family businesses. They are heavily superstitious folks and base many (if not all) decisions on advice by psychics, shamans, or mediums of some sort.

For example: whose name to put in as the co-owner -- some initials can bring misfortune; the name of this new corporation must start with certain characters that have the favor of patron stars or something. They also had my name and exact time of birth looked up just to make sure I'm clear (of any bad luck presumably.)

I am responsible for the whole IT department, the sole IT person. And the other owners know the ins and outs of the business world. So the whole start-up plan will likely fail if either of us decided not to move on with a critical decision by the other.

I am expecting a lot of the same situation down the line. I have already told one of them that few important parts of my work and responsibility are not influenced by which star is where in the sky. (Not that any other part of my work are either)

I want to steer them toward the technical aspect of the tasks required to get the company off the ground and not to trust in superstition so much that it jeopardizes the effort. How should I approach them? What should I say when they restrict my decision making to their superstitious belief? My best wish is to have them drop their superstition completely but that would be asking a bit too much.

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    neither of your examples are technical. In their other businesses, are they setting privacy policies or choosing a database vendor or software platform based on the letters in a name or other non-technical matters? They've given you a glimpse of their personal decision processes on trivial matters like a corporation name; what makes you believe they use the same process for technical matters, overriding their paid staff? Feb 8, 2021 at 19:21
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    @Kate Gregory, Actually, he's the CTO/IT person and he was supposedly hired based on a bullshit criterion, isn't that a technical decision? or a decision that will impact technical matters? Feb 8, 2021 at 19:45
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    He could well have been chosen as the best candidate for purely technical reasons, but they might have passed him over if they felt something about him was unlucky. It feels like everyone is sure they know these people are idiots, but all I see here is "be careful who you trust with stuff like how you chose your company name, because they might flip the bozo bit on you forever more." They hired someone who knows their stuff, and have shown no indication of intending to override any decisions. Feb 8, 2021 at 20:47
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    @Kate Gregory One of them have said to stop conducting business with certain bank because "its unlucky color" before but that happened long ago on separated event. The same person said about the launch must be within their lucky year, I did not took that seriously since it should not take that long. The offer is too good to pass. If I stay, there is a chance they might insist or refuse to do things just because some magic man said so. My current stance is just do whatever they ask as long as it's not utterly stupid.
    – Qaf-gecua
    Feb 8, 2021 at 23:33
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    Why did you even consider working for these folks? Is the pay exceptionally good or?
    – Fattie
    Feb 9, 2021 at 14:47

5 Answers 5

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Totally agreed with Phillip Kendall that you should run away.

However, I'd like to add one thing. It sounds like you're at the start of this business and right now money is good because the owner probably has a lot saved up/borrowed. At some point, it's going to dry up and you'll be stuck looking for a job.

My thought is you should stick around until at least you can comfortably find a new job and at the same time not be rushed. If you're just sitting around doing nothing, then expect to get hit by the worst of it.

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They are heavily superstitious folks and based many if not all decisions from advises by psychic, shaman, medium of sort.

Run away as fast as you can to somewhere which isn't run by idiots. This business will fail, it's just a question of whether it's today, tomorrow, next month or next year.

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    and don't look back
    – Kilisi
    Feb 8, 2021 at 17:38
  • Amen! Run away from kooks and dont look back
    – Anthony
    Feb 8, 2021 at 19:19
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    And when you do quit, just say that you had the license plate number of their car cross-referenced with the weight of your shit that morning, and your numerologist just didn't like what he saw. Feb 8, 2021 at 19:35
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When dealing with people who are not rational, you have to consider "what is the most irrational thing that could possibly happen here?". To which the answer is more or less limitless, so you have to account for that.

Let's say the company gets off the ground and is making some small amount of money, enough to pay the bills but not much more than that. The product is super innovative, but for a small market so the profits aren't high. Then, Google walks in and takes an interest because they like your product and want to integrate it. Google offers you $50MM to buy the company, which would be split amongst the C-level employees, yourself included, to the tune of $10MM each. Except, your CEO goes to his shaman and the shaman says not to make the deal because Mercury is in the sky tonight. So he turns down the deal and you're out $10MM.

How would that make you feel? That's not even the most ridiculous thing that could happen, that's just a medium case scenario.

Run away, as fast as you can, and find a company that's run by business people and not by frauds (in the sense that the superstition industry, e.g. psychics, shamans, mediums, etc, are frauds, and your business people are deferring their actual important business decisions to those people)

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Most startups fail, particularly those with innovative and creative ownership or payment strategies instead of innovative and creative products.

Owners like this are best avoided altogether.

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The fact that they are "not rational" may not have much saying with the success of the company, lot's of companies are run by idiots, even very successful ones.

The fact that they are superstitious also doesn't mean: they're going to default on your payments; they're going to deny good money, I've seen non superstitious people deny offers for perfectly invalid reasons - in my opinion; they're "frauds?!".

The important thing is that you and the owners don't see eye to eye, like everyone is crudely stating. If you don't agree on the basics, your professional relationship is probably not going to work. Same as in a job interview.

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