First, let me say that generally I am happy at where I am right now, regarding work. It's a small startup where it's okay to ask questions, and have a happy environment.

Yesterday my CTO and another employee were talking about getting a new lead developer, who knows every corner of the system that we are working with and could help with planning the tasks. They wanted better documentation of the system, so it's easier for a new employee to fill in.

Then My CTO suddenly said out loud: "So we won't get another one like Simon, who doesn't give a ****", followed by, "We're laughing with you, not at you." I guess to ease the blow.

To be honest, I really do take jokes at face value, but this one kinda got me wondering if they even want my skills at the job.

Should I just let it slide, or confront my CTO?

I have no interest in bringing the company down because of my skills. If that's how they feel, they're better off with another employee, because it's not welcoming for me if they're actually wishing they had another developer with a better skill set.

But again, did I take it too seriously?

  • 3
    Seriously I don't understand how someone downvoted this, we all were at some point of our careers in a similar position, have empathy :)
    – Alejandro
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 14:26
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    Without context, it is impossible to tell if they were serious, or if this was a - misguided - attempt at a joke. Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 15:11
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    @Alejando - The question is unclear that is how someone could downvote it. It’s unclear how the comment made by the CTO has anything to do with the author.
    – Donald
    Commented Aug 7, 2021 at 15:16
  • You might want to clarify the meaning of "laugh by me", I think it should be "laugh with me" but if the CTO actually said those words then perhaps a [sic] could be added to the quote?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 5:33
  • "Should I just let it slide, or confront my CTO?" -- So the choice is to act like it never happened or confront your boss? Maybe there is a legitimate gripe here by your CTO. I would keep in mind that talent(s) are multidimensional. They may be unhappy with you in certain dimensions but happy in others, just as, I imagine, the way you are with your workplace. Keep that in mind and try to better yourself along the other dimensions. Start by meeting your CTO for coffee/tea, saying you want to discuss ways to improve. Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 0:25

5 Answers 5


In some countries, there are regular 1-1's with your manager. I would suggest leaving it for now and bring it up there.

In the meantime consider this a red flag. If this is how upper management consider you and your skills you might be better off elsewhere, so look for more incidents like these to see if there is a trend or this is a single incident in bad taste.


You should request a 1-1 with the CTO in order to get feedback about your performance. This should be a normal enough thing to do even without the joke incident. There's no point worrying about the situation when you can ask directly and get an answer.

I suspect this is considered laddish banter. Amongst very macho types its OK to throw a few insults around either ironically (you are actually good but ill just say you suck and we can all have a laugh) or as a "kick" to say hey do better.

You can provide feedback upwards on this too. How far you go depends on how comfortable you feel given company culture. On one level, its not exactly clear communication - you are confused and asking on the Internet. On another level, this type of behaviour will likely worsen imposter syndrome which is a well documented problem in tech. If you didn't grow up in a macho laddish environment you won't know how to respond to this type of behaviour. This will be 100% of women and lot of minorities. Even if not in those categories, you can simply be someone that doesn't like this type of environment. In general, not a particularly inclusive style.

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    This sounds correct to me. Sometimes men insult each other while laughing if they respect each other - it's funny because it's unrealistic... OP actually got a compliment.
    – Chris
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 19:18
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    Depends much on company culture. If everyone is used to a more friendly style, adding just one well placed person with an abrasively macho personality can completely deplete morale and team cohesion within weeks. (Once people start saying to themselves "Why should I prevent or help clean up the mess he made?" and so on). Flip side is, successful teams need the ability to give direct feedback, and too much feel-good culture actually makes it unsafe to reveal technical flaws for fear of hurting the responsible party's feelings. It's not easy, many tech leaders have no control over these areas
    – Pete W
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 19:18
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    Thanks! I don't like this type of macho behaviour at all but as a man I can get used to it. I've recently worked with female colleagues who are off the charts good yet suffer from insecurities. I think if a company let's this type of thing happen then it will have gender diversity problems in the near future. Its like how many investment banks are very diverse when it comes to ethnic minorities but suck badly on gender. I'm sure the macho environment is a big factor Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 19:28

how are you? without knowing the personality of the CTO or your team mates, the best approach to situations like this, in my experience, is to ask for feedback to your direct leader.

On that chat if the feedback is good you can tell about this situation and how it make you feel that you weren't the kind of people they needed for the position.

That will give you a more detailed knowledge about if this is the right place for your your career.

You will not bring the company down on your own, they selected you for something about your career/knowledge/etc. What can happen is that the company changed paths on the way (very common on startups) and it's looking for new skills you don't have YET, and that doesn't mean you need to be replaced, you need to be complemented by someone.

TL/DR: ask for a feedback session, talk about you and your company needs. Take your time, always ask for feedback.


Honestly it is hard to tell. My Senior Developer only started to give me "blows" regarding my coding after 3 years. But it was all in good fun and we just made fun of each others code.

Could be the same case here?

Or your CTO is kinda passive-aggresive and didnt know how to talk to you about it? Since it is a start-up he could have not a lot of experience.

If you adress this, and it was just fun they could feel like they cant include you. Are they doing it to others aswell?

You should adress this, when you dont feel comfortable though. Maybe ask if there was some truth behind it and if he feels like that?

I personally would just watch if I am being singled out and if this occurs more often and then address it.


To the CTO: Who is laughing? If anybody criticises my work in front of others, that’s an attempt at bullying and gets handled immediately. You don’t do that, it’s not funny, and if you’re the CTO and don’t know that, then you don’t know how to do your job.

  • 5
    from CTO: okay, you're fired
    – gnat
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 6:19

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