I started at a software company 3 months ago that is, by most measures, a startup though one with what I would call a large amount of funding. As a part of signing of signing with the company, I took an overall cut in compensation. I was fine with this, until our health benefit was changed and ultimately reduced my compensation by several hundred dollars.

Previously we had the option of a set amount of money that would be contributed towards a company policy pre-tax or have that money given to us as a part of our pay that we could do with as we wished, in my case a better, cheaper, health plan as I am young and healthy. This past month the company removed the second option and forced us onto a company plan, however the cheapest plan was well over the amount they contribute and was sub-par compared to my previous plan.

I realize that the company is well within its right to change benefits as it sees fit, though I understandably feel bait-and-switched by this change.

Complicating this fact is that we have bi-monthly all-hands meetings with the C-level folk, and there is always emphasis on the company being a "lean-startup" and the need to not spend money in a frivolous manner. However, the company regularly flies not only the CTO and CEO back and forth between the east and west coast offices, but does so for regular employees for nothing more than being able to work in the same office for a work or so. Adding further insult to injury, I sit in proximity to the executive assistant to the CTO and overhear her booking a first-class flight for a business trip.

I work in software and have regular opportunities to change jobs, and am in a strong position to negotiate better pay and benefits if I do so, however I don't necessarily wish to leave the current company, especially so soon. My though is I should speak with the CTO himself (as we have a fairly flat, informal hierarchy) and ask for an explanation of the reduction of benefits despite continued expenditures that seem downright frivolous. My prior, and first job was at a company with completely open finances. I realize that is atypical, so how off-handed would me approaching the CTO with this seem? Finding out that the C-level folks are flying first-class across the country with regularity while shafting the regular folks would certainly cause me to reconsider the job, and I feel I should find this out.

Edit I don't mean to imply that this was some premeditated cut, it was also not specifically to my benefits. In my case, I took the money and paid for my health plan and stuck the rest into an HSA. The way things have shaken out, I just took an additional paycut of several hundred dollars per month.

The first-class flights are also not an issue in and of itself, but when the "party-line" is that we as a company need to save money, and we are forcing this cut upon you in order to do so while simultaneously flying first class strikes me as rather tone-deaf. Additionally, given that this is a startup that is presently running on VC money, one could construe the flights as endangering the health of the company and thus everyones' jobs.


From the Employer perspective, I am not shocked they would decide to put everyone on the same plan. Health plan costs are super expensive and there may be a bunch of good reasons why they had to limit the choices. So if we assume best intentions of the Employer side and that they are making logical decisions for the business stage, the issue is really around communication. Compensation changes/info always should be over communicated.

On the first class tickets, I am not sure I would pick that to have an issue with. There could be a number of things that offset this including the fact that I know from experience flying cross country or to Europe and having to work right away after you land (red eye or not) it makes a huge difference flying business vs. coach. You are going to want your CEO to be on their game especially if they are meeting with investors, key partners etc. They could also be using credit card miles (as often happens in our company) so the incremental costs may not be that much.

I DO think talking to your CTO about the change in your benefit when that was part of your calculation to join. When my company has done things like this in the past we would try to do something to smooth the transition for the people impacted. It is always good to have a respectful discussion when something is bothering you so at least you make sure you get their perspective. And, assuming best intentions, your conversations with them may alert them to something that they could have done better or did not consider.

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    Also, on the First Class issue - if the employees are expected to work on the flight, it is much easier to do that in First or Business Class than it is in Coach. In Coach, you will be lucky to find power for your laptop. – Laconic Droid Dec 5 '14 at 14:33
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    @LaconicDroid - Power? There's not even enough room to open a medium or large laptop in coach, these days. – Wesley Long Dec 5 '14 at 22:45

My prior, and first job was at a company with completely open finances. I realize that is atypical, so how off-handed would me approaching the CTO with this seem?

For me, it would seem likely to be a waste of time.

It isn't obvious what your goal in approaching the CTO would be. Certainly you can't expect to change the company's mind and have them go back to the previous benefit plan because it now costs you more.

Perhaps you just want to express your displeasure. You could certainly do so, and perhaps that might help in thinking over future changes, but it seems unlikely.

Perhaps you want to discuss the overall corporate culture and make a decision if it still fits your personal needs or not. That's not unreasonable - just tread carefully so that the choice to depart is yours.

The nature of startups is that pretty much everything changes rapidly. That isn't comfortable for everyone.


They may not have had any choice in the health care changes. Small companies tend to have very little leverage with the insurance companies and they have to take what was offered.

When I last worked in a small company, our coverage more than tripled in price one year because we had three employees or their wives have serious illnesses or problem pregnancies. We went from free health insurance (the company picked up the whole tab) to several hundred dollars a month and since the amount the company was picking up was more than they had been picking up the previous year, they had no budget to offer compensating raises either. Another company had trouble finding anyone willing to offer them health insurance at all. That is just the nature of business.

First class flights are a perk of senior management pretty much everywhere. They meet potential clients that way too which part of how it is justified. Startups need clients, so the seniors go where the other senior managers are to meet them. Even one sale from this fully funds many flights typically. And the owners of the startup may be taking risks you don't know about. If it fails you might need to find a new job, they might lose their house, all of their savings and need to find a new job.