Money was tight for our first year, but that's no longer the case. Our company is a team of seven total, including our two founders who regularly boast unapologetically about their extravagant recreational activities.
We worked hard all year — lots of late nights — and haven't demanded company outings or anything knowing that we had a lot to prove, but hoping the founders would step up and do a happy hour once in awhile. In the last year, we've had three company activities, usually initiated by one of us. We didn't have a holiday party because we were told it would look bad to investors to celebrate.
The activities we've had appear to be minimally planned with all expenses spared.
Now they've invited us on a weekend trip. We appreciate the gesture, however, they won't really be covering any of the costs. And we weren't offered raises or bonuses this year, even though we were told what a great job we've done. Another thing that's compounded this problem is that they tell everyone who comes through the door how cool it is to work here and how lucky we are. This has culminated in the depletion of our team's morale.
Is there a way to approach the founders about how this is affecting us?
POST MEETING UPDATE 1/25
Last night EOD we sent an email to everyone requesting a meeting to discuss company culture for today (so it wouldn't feel like an ambush).
Between the time the email was sent and the meeting this morning, there was a small flurry of random activity that suggested that the founders were nervous about what we had to say.
We had the meeting and opened with a clear topic and concrete example of one of their previous successful attempts to cultivate a positive culture. Then we contrasted that with examples to show how the work environment had declined. We were specific that it wasn't fun to work here and that it would be hard to recruit talent given the current situation. We requested more team meetings and suggested that company events didn't always have to involve money, we just wanted them to be initiated by management.
They agreed with our assessment, but readily stated that their business priorities (like making sure we were funded) were always going to trump setting aside time to work on the company culture. They told us that many other startups didn't even make it through the year and that their hard work justified letting the culture fall to the wayside — more or less that we ought to be thankful we still had jobs. As a side note, it's not terribly difficult to find a job in my industry. They appreciated us bringing up our concerns and reaffirmed their commitment to an open door policy. They did say they wanted to do more activities. It felt trite IMO. We will just have to see whether or not they make good on this. They asked if we had any other concerns.
We mentioned the logistics of the weekend trip and tried to give them opportunity to step up and offer to foot the bill. Their response was that they were already covering 90% of the costs (untrue) and they seemed unhappy that it was brought up.
The meeting closed with company updates and on what they probably saw as a positive note. After the meeting, because of the weirdness, the trip was cancelled and replaced with a one day excursion that will be covered.
TBH, our team walked away feeling like we failed to communicate what was wrong. And we didn't particularly feel like they were receptive to our comments. While the advice given here really helped and gave us courage, I think it's clear that it might be time to move on. Thank you everyone for your help. I hope the advice here will help other teams with better managers.