Being stuck in the middle of business owner fights is the worst. It kills employee morale, and all innovation, creativity, and teamwork go out the window. Being marginally productive seems to be the best anyone can do. And fighting is felt more acutely in small businesses because the owners often interact daily with every employee.
Sound familiar? Having worked for four small businesses and several private families, I’ve seen employees quit in mass, partnerships end, friendships end, marriages get pushed to the brink, and companies sold.
So do you stay or do you go? And how do you decide?
First and foremost, you have to gauge your level of investment. Are you there just for some experience, or would you like to stay long-term and be part of the leadership team? Do you need a reference, or can you quickly move on and leave it off your resume.
Second, you have to decide how much the fighting interferes with your work, your professional reputation, and possibly future job prospects. Can you still get your job done, gain some experience, and move on when it’s best for you? Or is the fighting so bad that the company is tanking, and you might lose your job because they are going out of business? And take into consideration that future employers might be reluctant to hire people who worked for the worst-rated company on the internet.
Third, consider the emotional toll. Are you in the room when discussions turn into arguments, accusations get thrown around, expletives get hurled back and forth, and it disintegrates into name-calling? Verbal attacks are a destructive form of communication intended to harm the other person and produce negative emotions. Even if it’s not aimed at you, you still witness the attack and are saturated with negative emotions.
Finally, consider the financial implications. Do you need this job to make your rent payment? Or can you get by long enough to wait for your first paycheck from your next position?
Being stuck in the middle of business owner fights is never easy, especially if the fighting is consistent with no end in sight. It’s important to talk with the owners about how their actions impact your work and overall experience. Although it’s unlikely, your intervention will produce any positive changes unless you are on the leadership team. The best you can do is give them a heads up that you are unhappy, so they aren’t surprised if you resign.
Be professional even if they aren’t. But be prepared; the owners may fire you for being unhappy, sighting you’re not a team player, and you can’t get along with others. Or they may go out of their way to make your last two weeks miserable by making fun of you in front of the other employees or not speaking to you the entire last two weeks.
Either way, have your finances and “Plan B” ready, so you can resign on the spot rather than be fired or persecuted.