Passive-Aggressive Behavior Is Useless In A Startup

If you are making the move from a big company to a startup, Scott Converse has a must read post up about passive-aggressive behavior titled Corporate vs. Startup behaviors.

I can’t stand passive-aggressive behavior, especially in a startup context.  I’d much prefer a good argument.  The value of being direct is extremely high, especially when faced with the amount of ambiguity that exists in a startup.

I’ve never really worked for a large company (even my time at AmeriData was really more of a big startup since it was growing so fast and doing so many acquisitions) so I’ve never really learned (or experienced) how to survive in a big company.  Nor do I really care since I doubt I’ll ever be in that environment.  However, I do care about how to map big company experience to entrepreneurial experience and Scott provides some very useful insights in his post.

  • Dennis North

    just curious, when you suggest ideas to your startups and they push-back, what percentage of time do you end up agreeing with them vs saying they are wrong?

  • @Dennis – it varies dramatically. The best situations (and leaders) are the ones that are open to different perspectives, bat them around for a finite amount of time, and then make a decision. If I find that a CEO is being passive-aggressive or if I’m “always wrong” I know there is a problem. Alternatively, if I’m always right, there’s also a problem.

  • Surprise, surprise. Startup tactics rarely work any better in large companies. Entrepreneurs often have to resort to sheer force of will to get stuff accomplished and boy does that piss off management 😉

  • Phil Collins

    Maybe in fairy tale amusement park wonderland there is no passive-aggressive behavior in your startup. In reality however, people don’t like most of the people they have to work with. Passive-aggressiveness is the only way people can get along in this kind of unnatural environment.

  • In reality however, people don’t like most of the people they have to work with.

    If this is the case in a startup, it will probably fail. You don’t have to be best buddies, but you have to respect and get along with each other. When hiring you have to take this in to account. If I, as the leader, don’t do a good job at this, the fault lies squarely with me.

  • Maggie Wells

    The number one cause of passive aggressive behavior is micro-management. How many entrepreneurs do you know who don’t have a tendency to micro-manage?

  • I think Brad is on to something here with passive aggressive people in a startup. In my highly generalized world, there are two main kinds of people: whiners and doers. You need to end up with a small number of doers that get along with each other in a startup. Too many doers, they sit in a conference room arguing whether “Goto”s are really good programming or not or whether Java is better than .Net! Whiners may be needed in a large company bit they will suck the enthusiasm in a startup!

  • Steve Bergstein

    There’s are many reasons that I migrated from a BigCo to a LittleCo and this is without doubt one of them.

    Sometimes, it surprises me that any large organization can achieve its goals.