I work as a programmer at a small tech startup. The team is ~6 people. I've been working there almost 3 years. I am the first employee, but not a founder.

One of the founders has treated me like shit since the beginning. For a long time, I thought this was how he treated everyone, but I've always had a harder time than most.

So I googled it, and turns out, a lot of workplace bullies do it because they feel their job is threatened. This makes sense in my situation. Some backstory.

Over time, I've come to do almost the entirety of the programming here (to the point where I just tell people I do it all; e.g. 99%). Over the years, we even fired a major contractor position and I took over that work.

(It wasn't a hostile takeover; they couldn't pull it together, but I could.)

It's gotten to the point where even the sociopathic founder doesn't have much to do, and we are in this role-reversal where, when I have something he can do for me, I tell him.

I can see his point of view, and I can see how he might feel his job is threatened by me.

Additionally, since I've taken on so much work that others couldn't do, I have been on a deathmarch working >80 hour weeks for going on 18 months now.

My boss (who is also his boss) is aware of many of the shortcomings of his co-founder. My boss has pulled me aside numerous times and basically explained how Toxic (we'll call him that) is not my boss, and if I have any trouble with Toxic, to just let him know.

Unfortunately, Toxic seems to have nothing better to do than to drive me to the point of insanity, and not enough work to keep him from torturing me.

Subconsciously, I realized a long time ago to avoid him. I work mostly nights, or try to work from home. But I still need to interact with the team, and there he is (nothing better to do, remember?).

It's only recently that I've realized he's bullying because I pose a threat to him professionally. On some level, I probably always knew he was a bully, but didn't know why.

I have been so focused on (and overwhelmed by) getting the job done, that really I just wasn't aware of what was going on. Yes, I am a social idiot.

Normally, I would just quit. No job is worth that kind of abuse, right? Most advice I've read online basically just says to GET OUT. And if this were any other job, I would.

But, in my situation, I don't want my years of effort to go to waste. I have a (very small) amount of "ownership" in the company, but even that isn't worth staying for.

Really, what's keeping me, is that I want to see my efforts get to fruition. Forgive my lack of humility for a second, but this whole thing will fall apart if I leave. I don't want to see that happen. I feel like I've put my whole life into this, and for the past several years, I have.

But the mental abuse, combined with the already stressful job, is killing me.


  • hello, consider editing the question to make it better fit site topics laid out in help center. In particular, this guidance may help to learn what is expected of questions here. Good luck!
    – gnat
    Oct 8, 2014 at 8:35
  • I'm not sure how to edit my question to be more on topic. Sorry if it is inappropriate. Please delete it.
    – user27591
    Oct 8, 2014 at 9:24
  • Joe, I already said please delete if inappropriate.
    – user27591
    Oct 8, 2014 at 11:21
  • @user27591 - Try to remove the emotion from this and ask the question in a way that looks at the problem objectively rather than from the perspective of a victim who has been hurt. Oct 8, 2014 at 13:18
  • 3
    btw, you are way overinvested and you need to give up some control. What if you get hit by a bus? Your death march is unsustainable and you're hurting the company by not requesting help. The company is not going to be able to expand if you're "it".
    – mkennedy
    Oct 8, 2014 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


The answer already is in your post. Your boss told you to inform him if you had problems with that coworker. From what you say, you didn't. It's his job to fix this kind of trouble in the company. Go to him, calmly explain what you're going through and how it affects your work. If nothing comes out of this interview, you indeed may have to consider leaving before this drives you insane.

Speaking of insanity, when talking to your boss, don't use terms like "sociopath". Stick to the facts. Your coworker acts like a bully and a gigantic asshole. But this kind of psychiatric diagnosis you're probaly not entitled to make may look pretty agressive towards someone who, remember, your boss once founded a company with.

  • Again, sorry if this question is off-topic in this forum. You're right, I have not gone to him enough. But like you said, I need to think of my approach. I'll think of it and go to him soon. Thanks ero.
    – user27591
    Oct 8, 2014 at 11:26
  • @ero Usually these bullies are people who feel threatened by your presence or your work and then they try to make people less productive at work. For me personally, I think that facing this type of people will only make you resilient. I all the time think that people should give the best out there no matter the wind. And bullies are just wind (As long as they are not committing a crime)
    – Bionix1441
    Dec 6, 2017 at 13:26

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