StartUp Podcast: #20 Disorg Chart
January 8, 2016 12:22 PM - Subscribe

Lisa Chow comes back from maternity leave and notices some big changes at Gimlet. And these changes... they aren't all for the better. Lisa talks to Gimlet employees about concerns over power, accountability, and control - things that crop up when you go from startup, to regular company. And she takes those concerns to the bosses.
posted by radioamy (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This was interesting -- and a little worrying in that some of the issues in the S1 "Burnout" episode appear to be still going on? Like, working until 10PM sounds like it's normal; it was only the working through the night to 4AM that raised eyebrows? I couldn't help wondering how many of the 3 resignations were due to burnout issues.

(Also, yes, I too found the "y'know, you've got to do a lot of firing in your first year" rather chilling.)

It seemed odd to me that the first 10 minutes of this painted a very pervasive story of nobody knowing who they actually worked for, but that the end of it didn't bring any "maybe we should actually tell people that" resolution. Was the real conclusion here that they've decided to continue being chaotic-creative for a while?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:38 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

And incidentally: I noticed in this episode and the previous one that in the credits section at the end Alex rolls directly into reading two "we'd like to thank our sponsor" messages without the "hey look this is an advertisment" music. NAUGHTY GIMLET: didn't you promise us that you wouldn't do that?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:41 PM on January 8, 2016

I kind of suspect that the reason why Gimlet doesn't really need to fire tons of people like most startups is that most startups hire people they don't know, while it Alex seems to be just been hiring everybody he knows from his PM-TAL days.
posted by General Malaise at 7:29 AM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I've definitely seen how reluctant startup CEOs are to fire someone, and how detrimental it can be for the rest of the team. When I started my current job, I could immediately tell that one of the managers needed to go, like, yesterday. He was totally checked out, said really negative things about the company and product in front of his team, etc. But he had been the CEO's second hire, and although our CEO can be tough, he's a really nice guy and I could just tell that he was not comfortable firing someone. I think the manager was only there for my first 3 months, but it felt like it dragged on forevveerrrrr.
posted by radioamy at 10:35 AM on January 9, 2016

General Malaise - I think you're right. Many of the early Gimlet employees are known quantities, so there's going to be less turnover.
posted by radioamy at 10:36 AM on January 9, 2016

I also think there's a weird conflation between "who is your direct manager" and "who is allowed to ask you to do something". It's not necessarily the story of a horribly mismanaged company just because there are multiple people in the second group.

I hope next season they will actually do better at getting the story than they did with that dating site. And that maybe in the future they will talk about people who plan to and succeed at starting a so-called lifestyle company that doesn't get (or want or need) millions of dollars of funding, because those are actually interesting (and common) stories, not just y-combinator failures.
posted by jeather at 3:04 PM on January 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I also think there's a weird conflation between "who is your direct manager" and "who is allowed to ask you to do something".

For sure. Our CEO isn't my direct manager, but if he asked me to do something, I'd do it. In fact, even if a peer asked me to do something, I'd probably do it as long as it's actually something that falls within my areas of responsibility. To expect all that stuff to channel through the direct manager is silly. On the other hand, people do need to know who their manager is. Who evaluates their performance. Who they go to if they have a problem. Who they can ask for a raise, etc.

Anyway, I don't find this level of disorganization or confusion to be at all surprising or alarming for a company of this age and size. It seems like completely normal growing pains.
posted by primethyme at 7:52 AM on January 13, 2016

The anecdote about the controversial late night Reply All edits left me wondering which episode it was. And it finally struck me, a week later, that I bet that happened some time last spring right around the time when -- for a number of episodes in a row -- the two hosts' playfully teasing banter got a bunch less playful and a bunch more straight-up mean.
posted by nobody at 8:14 PM on January 14, 2016

I was wondering which episode it was, too, but they said early September. Probably #37, since it appears to have a Thursday release date.

And I agree, it was a bit frustrating to lay out the org chart issues in the first half, then just write it off.
posted by yuwtze at 9:05 PM on January 18, 2016

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