Thursday, February 5, 2015
When you become a CEO don't stop being a human.
I had to think long and hard about writing this post. I am choosing not to name names because the objective of the post is simply to educate future startup CEO's. A while back I joined a startup as their CTO, first as a 1099 contractor, and then as a full-time employee. Actually full-time employee #2 or #3 I think. About a third of the way into my first year as a full-time employee I got very sick. Not a new illness, Ulcerative Colitis, something I had been diagnosed with many years before but which had been in total remission for almost 5 years. Unfortunately when it decided to return, it returned with a vengeance. To cut a long story short I spent 83 days in Hospital that year, and 42 the following year including one stint that lasted 30 days, and underwent 5 surgeries. Initially my employer generously stuck with me, and I did what work I could while hospitalized or at home recuperating. Eventually though, and not unsurprisingly my work output didn't warrant the salary I was being paid, and that's fair. Here's where I think this companies CEO failed to act as a decent human being however. 1) He never visited me in Hospital, though I did get flowers on two occasions. The only visitor I got from work was from my direct report, for which I am very thankful. I also had a visit from the CEO of a former employer where I had worked for 8 years, again for which I am very thankful. 2) He terminated my employment by telephone while I lay in a Hospital bed, even though doing so in person would have taken a 30 minute drive at most. 3) The company initially offered me no severance. Thankfully they did eventually agree to honor the terms of my contract. If you're a startup CEO, please don't treat your employees this way, and if its apparent that a key employee can't contribute for a while due to health issues consider and discuss alternatives such as an unpaid furlough. Thankfully I can report I am 100% recovered from this illness and busy with my consulting practice where I am earning more than I did at the startup in question.