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I work for a company where the average turnover is around 5 months with employees universally citing our CEO as their reason for leaving. She(the CEO) was observed loudly berating and yelling at an employee which resulted in our company being kicked out of our coworking space. Three separate frontend dev shops cancelled their contract with us over the course of one year. I, as a backend developer, was required to park her car regularly. She hired a marketing intern who she used as an executive assistant. She regularly lied to the board of directors about the feature set of the product.

I have met several members of the board of directors, but it seems underhanded and dangerous to bring it to their attention unsolicited. She is so confrontational it was almost impossible to discuss it with her.

The question is: how can I improve my working situation without creating additional friction?

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    I cleaned it up a bit more to bring it closer in line with our standards. I still think your question is too broad though. What is it that you wish to improve about your working situation? Your CEO is who she is, you are not in a position to change that. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 29 '14 at 16:49
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    "I, as a backend developer, was required to park her car regularly." That is not even remotely appropriate according to any definition of 'backend developer' that I can think of. – aroth Apr 30 '14 at 10:24
  • @aroth The question was, originally, "How to deal with an insane CEO". She generally viewed all of her employees as "hers", requiring us to regularly perform arbitrary tasks well outside of our job description. For the sake of brevity and relevance, I've left out a lot of horror stories. – astex Apr 30 '14 at 18:51
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Some observations:

  • The company's directors / investors almost certainly know about this. It's probably a big issue, and a huge pain in the neck, for them. That kind of employee turnover must be well known to the board. Being client-fired by three different design shops probably came to their attention as well.
  • If the board fires the CEO, one of them has to take over her job immediately and turn the company around. For that reason, it's very unlikely they'll fire her. They could also tell her to hire her successor, but if she won't cooperate there's not much they can do to boss her around.
  • They could withhold future investment. That will probably sink the company unless you're cash-flow-positive.
  • You didn't cause this problem, you can't control it, and you can't cure it. This bad behavior has nothing to do with you, except you have to witness it and catch it on the chin sometimes.

My point is this: you do not need to carry the burden of fixing this problem. That's good, because you can't fix it.

You can defend your own sanity. One strategy might be to consciously redirect any anger you feel towards her in the direction of compassion. For example, think to yourself, "wow, her personal problems must be very serious if she's taking them out on Joey."

Another strategy might be to make an "I" statement. For example, "When you shout at me in public, I feel humiliated. This makes it hard for me to concentrate on my work. Please, if you have a problem with my work speak to me privately about it." The formula: name the behavior. Name your reaction to it. Name the consequence to her. Ask for a change.

She isn't going to smack her forehead and say "what was I thinking? I'm sorry! I won't do it again." She is going to resist if you confront her with an "I" statement. That's OK. Let the resistance roll off you.

Finally, evaluate carefully what is keeping you in this company. If you have strong reasons for staying, concentrate on those. If you don't, it's resume time!

  • Years later: observe that the board of a well-known taxi-app service fired their CEO. Observe what a colossal mess led them to do that. – O. Jones Jul 18 '17 at 16:37
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I used to work for an awesome company, got to travel around the world and the pay was good. However my manager was just like your CEO. He was really good at shifting the blame to us, and constantly finding ways to cut our privileges in order to impress the OWNER. The OWNER was very close with my manager so i wasnt able to get through to Him.

Eventually the environment got really bad and staffs are being treated really bad. For me the next step was straight forward , look for another job.

I handed my resignation and took all my personal projects, codes and system enhancement with me.

I landed an even awesome job a couple of weeks later and never looked back ever since.

My point is that if you are having horrible bosses, dont waste your time or stress yourself out, start attending intervies right now.

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    "took all my personal projects, codes and system enhancement with me." - This could be a very dangerous thing to do, legally. Depending upon exactly what it was that you "took", your contract and local laws, this could be grounds for criminal charges or a civil lawsuit. – alroc Apr 30 '14 at 12:31
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    its mostly projects or codes that I worked on during my spare time at home , while im travelling or during lunch breaks. These codes basically does not belong to the company. I have read through the contract and it was ok. – nigelhanzo May 8 '14 at 8:49
  • Wait a second. You managed to develop awesome side projects while you were full time employee at your current position/company? And that was all done during lunch breaks, and on your spare time at home etc? Why mention it then, it has nothing to do with your current company - or does it? But thumbs up for your approach - it's really hard to change someone's behavior... so the only solution is to simply move on. – stamster Jul 18 '17 at 17:30

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