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I've started working at a technology startup remotely as a programmer. The startup is small, around 10 people (including all the higher hierarchy). I've been approached and hired mainly by the CTO of the company. The initial Skype calls looked positive, but once I've agreed to work for them I haven't heard back from anyone except the actual team lead that I work with. So no "is everything fine", "we're happy with your work so far" or any of the like. The only few times that I've been contacted back was regarding payment info and again no "So how are things going, is everything ok?" type of questions, just a plain "Let me know your payment info, bye.". And I'm not even talking about performance feedback which seems non-existent - even the lead never says anything regarding my work - just here's a task, thanks, bye.

I've been working for 3 months so far and they're planning to move me to an on-site position, but I'm starting to have doubts and thinking about cancelling the deal. The cold communication approach of the higher hierarchy is sending a really bad signal. Am I being paranoid?

  • Are you an employee or contractor? "Payment info" makes me think contractor, which I would expect to be treated differently than an employee. – cdkMoose Nov 24 '15 at 18:02
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    Even for a startup of 10 people, I wouldn't expect much interaction between C suite and a contractor. That is the nature of being a contractor, they just expect you to do the tasks you are given. I wouldn't expect any kind of personal interaction from them until/if you are an ermployee – cdkMoose Nov 24 '15 at 18:06
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    Sounds pretty normal to me, and I've worked for and with a lot of startups over the past 15 years. That said, it's not very good practice for them to be giving you so little feedback, and it would be fair enough for you to request more. – A E Nov 24 '15 at 19:40
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    I freelance and have startups as clients. About once a year when we discuss my rate, I usually also include something like "It's been great working with you this year. I value communication and want to be sure that we're all on the same page and that you are happy with my services. You are welcome to let me know if you have anything you wish to discuss in this regard". I find it eases my concern and still is well received by the client. I am mostly over imposter syndrome now, but i used to have it pretty badly, and this is the result of that. – user5621 Nov 24 '15 at 19:53
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    If (1) you're a contractor and (2) there is evidence that moving you to an on-site position is continuing, I'd say you shouldn't expect more from C-level persons. The continuing effort to move you should be plenty of feedback for now. – user2338816 Nov 25 '15 at 0:59
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I've been working for 3 months so far and they're planning to move me to an on-site position but I'm starting to have doubts

Startups work at a break-neck speed, and you are expected to wear multiple hats. So, in case you are uncomfortable, you should immediately talk with the seniors.

And I'm not even talking about performance feedback

When you are amongst the first few hires of a startup, you are expected to do your tasks perfectly and gracefully. So, you wouldn't be receiving any feedback unless and until you are not doing your work properly. So, in your case, there's nothing to be worried about.

And why do they not spend time in meetings and appraisals regularly?

Because startups are extremely fast-growing and most do not believe in hour-long meetings unless and until something very crucial needs to be discussed and finalized upon.

So, it seems like you are indeed being a bit paranoid.

But, you might want to interact with the CTO during your free-time for a brief chat, and discuss how your work is going on and how you are feeling at work.

So, your team lead is the one who'll communicate with you, and you cannot expect the CTO to ping you for a fun gossip or a casual chat.

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    I worked in a startup, and some times I didn't hear from my teamlead for 2 weeks. – BЈовић Nov 25 '15 at 8:08
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    Everything wrong with startup culture in one answer. Thanks! "We don't have time for you people. Think less, code mode". Urgh. – Gusdor Nov 25 '15 at 10:44
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    @Gusdor I don't that's what I meant from my answer. – Dawny33 Nov 25 '15 at 11:25
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    @Gusdor I didn't get that feeling at all. A startup is in live or die mode. They have to build infrastructure in terms of not only codes but also clients. They need highly driven and broad skilled individuals. Work hard and play hard, if they make it to second round investments or go IPO then you can slow down and McDonaldize the process and fold in more human interaction. Until then it's hard work done fast and failure is real painful for your C*O folks who may have poured a lot of personal funds into the company. – Mike McMahon Nov 25 '15 at 16:10
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    @MikeMcMahon in other words ' we didn't budget for treating people like human beings '. There is no excuse for poor management. – Gusdor Nov 25 '15 at 16:13
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Probably paranoid. You are hired to do a job. Only the people who tell you directly what to do and check it really need to be involved with you (that would likely be your manager). Your manager's manager doesn't need to know how you personally are doing. He or she will just talk to your manager how your manager's work is doing.

That said, it would be nice in a smaller company to have a bit more contact.

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Usually the upper executives rarely communicate with their "resources" (employees). They usually go in a hierarchy like executive -> manager -> team lead -> resources and each level maintains communication upwards but never over.

The CTO hiring people suggests that they don't allow their managers/team lead to do the hiring/firing. That is typical with small shops since it's so much easier to communicate between each other. At a larger corporation, you'll rarely deal/hear from anyone above your direct manager/team lead and he also does the hiring and probably leave the firing to HR.

I would say not hearing from the CTO is a good sign. If he does talk to you, then that is considered pretty serious either because the project is important or something is lacking in the project. I would never go above the team lead/manager though as that is generally viewed negatively.

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    "They usually go in a hierarchy like executive -> manager -> team lead -> resources." This seems unlikely for a company with 10 people like what the OP is asking about, though it would be normal for a company with a few hundred or more employees. For small companies, it's perfectly normal to have regular interactions directly with the C-level management and/or owners, though not having such interaction isn't necessarily a bad sign. – reirab Nov 24 '15 at 17:45
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Every startup I ever worked for, I had plenty of personal contact with the CEO. I saw or heard from the CEO at least every other day. But these were very outgoing guys who wanted to be involved, and wanted to get to know the people who worked for them. As a team, we got invited out to their houses a couple of times.

At my last startup, I was a remote employee. But I still had a good relationship with the CEO, because I was a very early hire. The CEO knew me, and always welcomed me warmly when I went to the office, which was maybe every six weeks or so.

You haven't mentioned if you have made any visits to the office. If you haven't, you should scheduled one immediately. As a remote employee, if no one ever sees you, then you will cease to exist. So go the office for a few days. Meet everyone. Try to socialize with some of them after work. Become a person to them. Hopefully it will change your whole relationship with the company.

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    The problem is that I'm from a different country than the company. So visiting is not really possible. We have skype calls now and then, but as I've mentioned the upper management during them seem extremely cold, no "how are things going, do you like working for us, etc". All the talk is always directed towards what needs to be done or what's next. I'm starting to feel like some task executor/tool and I'm surprised that they want to get me on-site as I have 0 connection with them and even feel like cancelling the deal. – user44344 Nov 24 '15 at 17:54
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The fact that you are not receiving constructive feedback is a problem, and you should probably bring it up with your superiors. Even a "how am I doing" conversation is a good thing to have. There is actually a serious section of Managing the Professional Services Firm dedicated to the fact that feedback is essential.

As to contact with the higher-ups, is that a requirement? Yes, it would be nice to have direct involvement with the CEO, but that is sometimes not available based on scheduling and client demands. It does not mean that you're falling behind or not doing well, it simply means that the management is trusting that the processes in place will help you and be sufficient. If they are not, then you should bring this up with your manager.

As a general rule, people need to have high availability to their direct reports an the people they are directly reporting to. It is generally advisable to have some availability to the people two tiers below, but by the time you get to three tiers of leadership, that availability dries up quickly.

But I think, again, that the key word here is "process". If there is a process in place where you have all of your needs met, then involvement by the upper management is not nearly as important.


All of that said, if there are only 10 people in a company, it does seem strange that there is not greater transparency in the organization. It also seems a bit odd that they already have three levels of hierarchy in the organization. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely is not something I would expect. I suppose I would say that it is understandable to have feelings of awkwardness about it, but I wouldn't say that it is a real red flag – again, so long as there is a process in place to meet your needs, then you should not have to worry.

  • I'm not sure the OP said he wasn't receiving constructive feedback. It sounds like he's saying his boss's boss hasn't spoken to him since hire. That isn't unusual. He is hearing from his team lead. – NotMe Nov 24 '15 at 16:22
  • even the lead never says anything regarding my work <– That's what makes me suspect, but you may be right. – cwallenpoole Nov 24 '15 at 16:24
  • I missed that part. :/ – NotMe Nov 24 '15 at 16:25
  • My lead only gives tasks nothing more. If I contact him and say "ok I finished this and that" - his reply is usually - "Good. I'll write you the next brief". So basically no actual feedback, just next task, next task,etc. – user44344 Nov 24 '15 at 16:52
  • To add to this, even just literally asking the team lead "am I doing okay?" is fine. I did this within the first few months of working and felt super unprofessional doing so, but the "yeah, you're doing great, don't worry about it" I got in return made me feel so much better. – user5621 Nov 24 '15 at 20:00

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