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Ask HN: Burning Out
278 points by burning_out_101 on Nov 29, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 152 comments
Burning out as an early stage start-up employee. I’ve been employed there a few years, worked miracles, but getting recently getting some poor feedback. Confusing situation. Wondering if I should just quit? Is career salvageable? I solved the business’ biggest issue. Start-up was founded to do X, founders couldn’t figure out how to do X, I was asked to do X. Under enormous pressure I single handily figured out how to do X, conducted all the R&D, built the prototype, supervised the engineer and release. Its still a prototype, but solves one of the industries biggest problem. Non-founder team lead is unhappy some minor issues have slipping in the chaotic process of getting this to market. I’m doing several different jobs and do everything. My solution is going to change the market, the idea is worth millions of dollars, likely more.

Founders are very please, but getting poor feedback from team lead. Team lead has hindered more than helped, gives conflicting advice, blows hot and cold, has created a toxic environment etc. Admittedly some minor things have slipped through the cracks, but much of this comes from my team lead playing politics, creating silos and conflicts etc.

My team lead is grinding me down with their constant nitpicking and I really just want to go and do something else, anything else, work in a bar or something. Considered going to the founders with the issue, but I can’t see how this can be resolved beyond creating a new role or transferring out of my area of expertise. I did a sanity check and have reached out to others. Lots of others have take issue with my team lead as well, so its not just me.

I’m pretty burnout, and definitely in need to some time out before moving on. I don’t think I’d come across very well (or as sharp as I usually) in interviews at the moment without a break.

Anyone been through anything similar? Anyone have any advice?

If I were you I'd leave, now.

If you want to be upfront with the founders, go and clearly explain why you're leaving. There is a good chance that they will try to get you to stay by promising all sorts of changes, extra compensation, stock options, trying to guilt you to stay by saying the company goes down without you, etc.

Don't listen to them.

1. Changing something now is too late (and usually too little)

2. Extra comp sounds very nice but think about what you're trading for it: Your time and mental health. For me this doesn't sound a good deal.

3. Stock options: Same as above, but worse because that's something extremely vague which depends on many things going well and also (usually) ties you there for a few years.

4. Using guilt to make you stay: Let's make a couple of things clear: How the company stays afloat is not your problem. You are not the one who decided to open a company to do X while you had no idea, you are not the one who hired the toxic TL, you have no responsibility on the company's welfare. Most people are very, very interchangeable in a company. There are also a few special people who are not easy to replace. In either case, guess whose problem it is :)

You asked in the beginning as to whether your career is salvageable, and then you went on to describe all the steps you took to manage to get a prototype of X. I think that at the very minimum you learned a lot of stuff throughout this process. You also have the experience of how it is to work in a toxic environment. These things make you grow, both technically and as a person.

There are many companies that want to hire people in our tech bubble. For now take some time to yourself and don't worry too much.

If the problem really is the team lead, then getting rid of the team lead (or even just talking to them) might go a long way to improve the situation.

I would say, talk to the founders about your problems. How you're getting burned out, and how you're not working well with the team lead. Addressing the team lead is their responsibility, as is creating a healthy work environment for you. If they can't salvage the situation, leave. But they really need to address this, or they lose you. They need you more than you need them. Keep that in mind.

Agreed. If you're really willing to quit, there's no downside to talking to the founders, if done correctly.

If they're the sort to appreciate straight talk, plainly state you feel the team lead is doing more harm vs delivering value to the company. Otherwise back into it from "There are some issues with the way things are working that I've noticed..."

Make sure to include you're not the only one who feels this way. But certainly don't name or get overly specific with the others you've talked to. I'd simply suggest the founders reach out to {these groups} to get their opinions.

End with the work environment created by the team lead is directly causing you to look for other opportunities. (Hint: go ahead and start interviewing and have semi-serious job leads before this talk)

Remind them of what you feel you've done: never overestimate their knowledge of who actually did / does what.

State that you like(d) working at the company, found the problems interesting, and loved what you felt you and the founders had done ("together!" Be generous, and appreciative of whatever they did to keep the company a going concern while technical problems were solved).

If they do come back with an offer, as GP cautions, make sure you don't agree to any "company will make things better in an unspecified manner, in exchange for ensuring you work there another X years" forms of compensation.

If you do feel the offer is too vague ("We'll talk to team lead"), thank them for that, but push back and remind them that you've already been dealing with this for X months and are going to need a firmer commitment to change things.

Then see where it goes. Anything worth getting it worth asking for, especially if you have concrete other options.

> (Hint: go ahead and start interviewing and have semi-serious job leads before this talk)

I think this bit of advice is at odds with OP's statement: "I don’t think I’d come across very well (or as sharp as I usually) in interviews at the moment without a break."

I was quite burned out at my previous job, as well, and decided (against most people's advice) to quit without an offer. I had similar "I'd rather give it a shot at being a bartender than write more code" thoughts. I was unemployed for a few months, but ultimately ended up with a few good offers. Leaving without a backup was definitely the right choice in my case.

Yeah, i don't think its good idea to move during burnout straight to another job, with high expectations for seemingly senior position, tons of stuff to learn, integrate with new teams/culture/etc.

Just stating a looming burnout and serious will to rather NOT work at all than continue working at that company under current situation should let them realize how grave the situation is. Don't leave them room for interpreting this as 'he just needs a pat on his back and some sweet talk and he is back on track'. Polite and honest, but firm stance.

People are so freaking afraid to be on their own without job for few months. Unless OP's finances are very tight, it sounds like this kind of break is exactly what he needs. Too much at stake, and after proper breakdown, there might not be a way back.

When the job is actively hurting you, that may well be the best thing to do. A middle road might be to take some vacation. (Though assuming this is even an option might be very European of me.) Or call in sick. (But again, European.)

Awesome strategy, that's basically what I do myself when things turn bad - after having had a bad startup experience myself. Looking back at the last years, my carrier options have improved a lot, same with overall happiness.

I believe that the first thing you have to realize is - that in this startup - you are a) not the founder, b) not the team lead -- and you are not responsible for fixing the issues of this startup on those levels -- they are.

The first thing you need to drop is the (perhaps mainly subconscious) _pride_ for (almost single-handedly?) carrying this startup to (almost full?) execution, which is what self-puts you on the cross of suffering. No, you are not owned by the code you created. You are free, you did your best, it will be on your resume, and you owe nothing to anybody.

Take your vacation, advertise your impending demise and/or ask for a raise, think about your own startups. Be friends with the team lead from within the confines and limits of your role. If he wants you to do something, try to do it to the best of your ability, but be conscious to not overwork and not worry about things others are paid to worry about. You don't know if the problems you currently face are fully solvable, maybe they aren't, and that's not your cross to carry, so simply don't carry it.

He said that he believes the founders aren't aware of the team lead creating problems for him.

At the moment it's simply unknown which of the two they value most, the OP, or the team lead.

The most reasonable course of action isn't to focus on humility right now, it's to figure out which approach the founders value most, the OP's, or the team lead's.

There is no reason for false humility, in fact selling himself on his technical record is the best card he has to play.

Usually people higher up in the hierarchy are by definition valued more than grunt-level workers. So OP should assume she is at the bottom of the ladder and importance. Founders could be good friends with the team lead and completely biased towards her opinion.

I would recommend against assuming anything. It's a start up not IBM, things are more fluid.

I've used this strategy before in real life, more than once and it resolved the issue 50% of the time.

If it doesn't resolve the issue for the OP, all he does is quit. He was going to anyway.

You can't be afraid to tackle these issues head on. There's no need to be afraid to talk to people.

Do you think the founders just ignored the VCs and didn't negotiate with them for the best deal they could get? That they don't negotiate with their customers?

I'm a startup co-founder (~100 ppl working in the team now). Had this kind of stuff happen before.

Two options:

1. Your observations are correct and you are not getting the recognition you deserve and there is an a-hole managing you.

2. Your observations are incorrect and you think you're entitled to more that you really are, making you the a-hole.

Regardless what is the reality you need to talk to the founders. We are sometimes oblivious to what is happening in the team and cannot see everything. I keep all my employees that raise the voice in extremely high regard - they want to improve something.

I will however do some exploration after such report and figure out what I feel is the truth and how I want to react on this. I've had people report stuff that was good on surface, but further exploration pointed me that I do not want to side with them. I've explained my view to the reportee and implemented actions (if applicable).

When you talk don't do it in an a-hole way (eg. Team Lead is a dick), but let them know you're having problems (you feel your work is not appreciated, you're trying your best, you're burning out and you don't know what to do, even thinking of quitting). Explain what is happening, but try not to name names. Any good founder/CEO will figure out quickly what's the problem.

The founders action will tell you what they think - do they agree with 1. or 2. If nothing happens that would solve your problems, change careers. It's sad that you worked your ass off, but that probably means that they went with option 2. it means that this environment is not right for you. Good news is that if you're really a high performer, you should have no problems finding a new gig and kicking ass there.

Just a nitpick that this is the approach that benefits mostly the founders, not yourself.

You are likely going to invest a lot of time and put yourself under an emotional strain for a very unlikely possibility that a) they will agree with you b) will consider this enough of an issue to invest time in resolving. If you and the founders had good enough relationships to warrant such an investment on your side, you would not be in this situation in the first place.

It benefits both. Me, as a founder, will get an insight into what is happening and I can implement policies / work to change the culture / fire people in order to make it right. There is a clear incentive for me, since a functioning company is more likely to succeed.

But there might be also an incentive for the OP. If you care about what you've built / want to continue working in the same company / want to get the recognition you deserve you can go to the founder/CEO and let them know what you think. It's not a hard thing to do (eg: just book a 30 minute slot with them) and let them know how you feel.

I've seen all of the above motivations and I think that these are more important than financial ones. Seen friends, engineers in other companies, torn apart due to the fact that they just couldn't stay in the company where they really wanted to be due to some bad actor. Those are the cases where management / founders don't see the actor the same way as an employee does.

No, it benefits you. Remember, if you as a founder had done a good enough job of building your organization, these sorts of situations would be happening rarely if at all. The fact that it is happening is a sign that something has gone wrong.

To expect the employee who is suffering the brunt of that dysfunction to put in the hard work to even tell you what's going on is a tall ask. But to expect them to do so for a little to no reward? It goes along with their past treatment sadly, and it proves that leadership is not proactive.

Individual contributor here. How “good” a founder is doesn’t fix relationships across the organization. Communication and people management are very hard to get right.

I’ve been angry at a founder or two, but holding them accountable for every issue in the trenches is ridiculous.

There are techniques taught at top business schools that deal with these issues and how to design an organization that actively encourages or suppresses certain traits; look up principal-agent problem, rotating leadership, voting out team leads teams don't like (Apple) etc. The problem is that at startups there aren't such managers, tech in general gets some of the worst managers out there and founders typically "know better" to learn from somebody else.

You're misquoting what I said -- I was talking about how good of a job the founder did, not some vague quality of the founder in and of themselves. Communication and people management are hard to get right in part because of strong, delayed second order effects. A founder is setting the tone and setting up culture at every step in their company, so they are actually accountable for every issue in the trenches, in so far as they are the last line of defense against a systemic problem.

While you can do what is in your power, you are different from them in that the buck does not stop with you, it stops with them. You do not have founder level influence, control and responsibility for the company, but they do. If you don't hold a founder accountable for systemic problems in their company, they have no other way to truly bear a proportional level of accountability (relative to ownership) to your own.

Look, I'm not here to sugarcoat it. It's clear that it is in my interest to get the dysfunctions reported.

But you really are projecting or something in the second part of the reply. The OP took time and opened a thread on HN with the purpose of fixing what is clearly a strained relationsihip. I'm giving feedback what you should do if you really want to fix it.

I'm not expecting anyone to do anything and for what it's worth - if you don't care about the job/position then just walk away.

Reallity is messy and it is not possible to have these perfect relationships across the company - everybody fucks up (just like you create bugs in the software). We're talking how you can move forward and try to fix it for everybody in the organisation - if you give a damn about the organisation.

Remember that being a great founder doesn't always make you a great leader. You might not even want to be a great leader. But you're still responsible for making sure your organization is being led well if you don't want your company to fail and your holdings to become worthless. Great leaders have an ability to pre-empt many of these org problems from even happening in the first place as it scales. Once you see them in action, you'll never look at people's problems inside the workplace the same way. It is a cruel irony that as a founder who would benefit the most from learning leadership from an excellent mentor, you are often forgoing some of your most valuable years and learnings you could earn at a mature organization learning how to build sustainable leadership and organizational growth and instead making your own mistakes on your own very costly dime, with no one above you to share the responsibility and help you clean up your messes in case you get in over your head.

Have you ever seen two key employees spar at a high flying company that later on falls apart due to collateral damage between two warring political factions? If you haven't, let me tell you that I've seen that situation go in many ways, but two ways happen very frequently. In one way, executives take proactive but firm measures to squash the conflict -- if it can't be reconciled amicably and fully, one or both party goes (this usually happens regardless). In another way, executives reactively try to paper around the problem and minimize the damage of the conflict without removing one or both parties. The first way doesn't always end in success, but I've seen it work out 50/50. The second way has ended in failure every time I've observed it -- usually with one side winning albeit with a huge amount of attrition and collateral damage to the company in every way, along with a tacit endorsement of the idea that "might makes right".

It is true that the reality of business is messy. However, there there are effective ways and ineffective ways for organizations to solve people's problems. You do yourself and your company a disservice if you're not constantly pushing yourself to find more of the former.

> try not to name names.

Definitely do name names. Don't you think the tech lead will when they go ask him about it?

Why pussyfoot around the issue?

A start-up I worked at went through this after I left. An asshole team-lead chased away 2/3 of the original development team.

Sometimes it is personal.

Starting with "X is a Dick" will be less effective than "I'm having problems delivering, can you please help me - looks like my manager is running me to the ground". Thats all I'm saying.

You're probably more likely to salvage the relationship if you position it as process issues and give the Lead some room to walk back.

Even tho it is usually personal.

If you want to play politics, covertly talk to the founders, as only they are decision makers, find a common language with them, but keep in mind that your team lead is already doing so and is trying hard to present your achievements as his, and find a way to convince the founders that it's better for the company to put you in charge. Once this is done, put yourself between the founders and the team lead to intercept all communications, leave him only secondary projects, convince the decision makers to shutdown those projects and kick the former lead out of the door. Now you're that team lead who plays politics and pretends that achievements of your team are yours.

The bigger problem is that the founders are not your friends. If you follow the team lead path, you'll be seen as a useful idiot and you'll get all the awards and recognition, but none of the preferred shares or liquidation preferences. You'll be just wasting your most valuable years to make their dream come true.

The safest choice is to go to the big tech, spend there 5-10 years, learn 10x more than what you'd learn in a startup (while collecting really nice paychecks), make connections, then start your own company. Then you'll find a really smart college grad who'd do most of the work and then you'll realize that you don't really want to give him 1/3 of your company. Now you're a greedy founder :)

Edit. Questions I'd ask any startup these days: preferred shares and liquidation preferences, i.e. if someone buys the startup for 15M, can I choose to get 3M instead of cashing out my shares? Most founders would roll their eyes because such conditions are only for investors, as they bring real money, unlike your questionable "contributions". Don't work for those people. However if the founders start talking about cap tables and discuss nuances of such contracts, I'd consider them, as they seem to be honest and willing to recognize that your time also has value.

I'd like to point out that basically following this strategy is how you end up being the A-Hole team lead. This could have been the path OP's team lead took at some point in his career because someone else was making his life miserable at that point.

I'm not going to downvote you, since this is blunt, real talk of how politics work in the real world, and I feel like we need to be aware of it so we don't fall prey to it. But I can see why you are posting under a throwaway.

As others have said, this is not the only option and one can just leave & take a break / go somewhere else.

Your team lead is already planning your departure. The business exit is in sight, it's now time to claim all the credit; by pushing you out she wouldn't need to share any rewards with you - those minor issues are a technique how to get you to "make a decision to quit". Make a case with the founders to become her boss and brace for a full-scale war; when it comes to money, people will go unimaginably low; CYA. And to cope with burnout, try to practice emotional restraint, accept some people are just horrible and treat it as a stoic as something that won't affect you internally. Also, if that person succeeds in pushing you out, they are likely going to have a stellar career ahead of them, so it's a good chance to ground another possible asshole wreaking havoc in the industry.

I think you've hit the heart of the issue here. Looks like there's currently a power struggle going on, OP probably doesn't realize it and is currently positioned for the losing end of it.

There's a possibility for taking this fight. Would be a great learning experience in politics regardless of outcome, if they want to subject themselves to the pressure and discomfort. But might not be worth it. Would require navigating both political conflict and a proper negotiation of terms afterwards, if successful, to ensure they get recognition for their work and also monetary rewards. Important to try to disconnect feeling of self-worth from the outcome and try to treat it as a high-stakes game. The default is quitting or getting fired, unlikely to do worse than that regardless.

OP's technical accomplishments remains on their CV, and this has probably been a great learning experience from that perspective regardless. There's something to be said for standing up for one's self-respect in taking a fight like this rather than be pushed out without trying to defend oneself, but it's a rough process and might or might not be worth the pain. Depending on circumstances and motivation.

Yeah the OP is thinking too much in terms of "fair" and doesn't understand negative performance reviews and stuff like that because OP is expecting them to be reasonable.

OP should step to the founders no doubt. Just tell them what he or she built and that teamlead X is forcing her or him out. If they want to keep you they need to decide in a reasonable timespan to be decided by themselves. Starting interviewing elsewhere anyway.

Out of curiosity, why did you assume the team lead is a "she"? OP always used "they", would have not been easier to just follow the initial convention?

Out of curiosity, why did you choose this comment to call out, rather than the numerous other comments that used "he" to refer to the TL?

Because it was the first I saw.

I use "she" when I don't know the gender or "preferred pronoun" of a person in question. Is that bad? It was suggested to me as "polite" by some Cambridge graduates.

My personal pronoun is 'giant cock'. If I was in this situation and you assumed it was 'she', I would be offended.

Assuming it's a 'she' is also a form of automatically mis-gendering someone.

It's a way to be permanently offended I guess. I can play the game that my preferred pronoun is secret but if you don't read my mind and guess it correctly, you become my paper enemy and I will be very very meaninglessly upset in whichever microsecond I happen to think about you.

So are you suggesting because they’re Cambridge grads they are the authority on “polite?” I am not a Cambridge grad, but I find it quite rude to assume a gendered pronoun when one has not been provided.

I have no opinion; my mother tongue is not English and is much more flexible in this regard. I simply followed some well-meant advice from people I respect.

I disagree, i find it to be a point pf clarification but not rude. Perhaps I have a different cultural expectation than you do

Reading your profile I’m not sure your intentions in this comment. Rest assured I am not virtue signaling.

Generally I think it's best to stick with the pronouns that have already been used to refer to the individual (in this case "they").

I cannot stress this enough. Communication is key!

Similarly to what others have said. Set up a meeting with the founders and also have your team lead involved. The fact that you are considering quitting means you have gotten to a stage where the answer to what you should do next is VERY important. So you need to communicate this so the company also has a fair chance of solving your issues to keep you around because they might be unaware of where you are psychologically.

Something to keep in mind your with your team lead. He/She might not be aware of their negative impact. Managers see multiple sides of an organization and it is not to the benefit of the organization for all sides to have access to all the information about other sides of the organization. To deal with this, managers play politics. Not because they are stupid and evil, but in their minds to keep the peace for the greater good but sometimes it impacts people like you and demoralizes them. Knowing this, you should not go into your meeting pointing fingers, read everyone's actions up to that point as well-intended as possible and use the meeting as a discovery session where you acknowledge what they are trying to do, but these are the negatives of their actions and outline how this can be made better, so you can work better. The way they handle this meeting should be all the answer you need to know if you should stay or not.

I have been in a similar situation. First step in my opinion is to go on a holiday, at least 1 week long (ideally 2 weeks or slightly longer). And get away from a computer. Head somewhere where you can relax. Working on a side project is not a holiday, its still working. Get outdoors, exercise, use tips you can find online for beating depression like characteristics.

This is to give you some perspective and time to decompress from the day to day pressures at work & regular home life.

Your burnout is going to be clouding your view and judgement of the situation at work. The time off will help you look at the situation with some fresh eyes hopefully.

If the idea is worth millions, what sort of stock options do you have? How vested you are is a consideration. Also can you afford to exercise those options? Would you be financially better offer continuing to work and vesting options to exercise later (assuming you're in the USA under their style of share plans). If you don't have stock options (or something equivalent) well then jumping ship to another job is probably the best course of action (maybe).

What are your motivations for working in this job? Is there the potential of a large pay day if the company has successful liquidity event under favorable terms? Get to build X and have your name on it? Understanding those will help you work out what you want to do and why you want to do it.

You need to talk to your boss as well. Why is the feedback bad? What are actionable things you can do to improve the feedback? Are you not working well with others now that the team is growing?

Talking to the founders about some struggles you're having may help, but how good is your relationship with them? How understanding of the work you have done are they? If they're not across the detail of what you have delivered this may backfire depending on their personality types etc.

Agree with the holiday idea. Some time away will give everyone a little time to step back and reflect. Maybe let some of your anxiety seep into other parts of the organization.

I keep these two comments bookmarked and will even share them with members of my team from time to time when I think maybe we're starting to push too hard, just so we don't lost perspective:

This is why I don't work very hard. Not entirely kidding. What'll make or break the company isn't me grinding away churning out incremental features and fixing tiny bugs. What'll make the difference is whether someone spots the game-changing opportunity, whether it's a product innovation, a business model or a particular partnership. To spot that kind of thing you have to give yourself some space and not have your head down all the time.


Probably because consistently busting your ass in the civilian realm is a deep mistake. In a combat mindframe, it's utterly necessary in order to prevent the deaths of people you care about. But in a civilian frame, that level of effort is sometimes rewarded with promotion, but even more often is rewarded with more work and a stubborn refusal to even grant increases in pay, since every farmer loves a hard-working mule, but not if the mule demands more from them. That would just cut into profits from the farm.

If you work like three men, then promoting you means replacing you with three people, or trying to find the rare bird who works like you do. The practical result is that they keep you in your place, and promote a lazy schmoozer over you, one who will drink the Koolaid by the gallon, and has the wits to push the papers around, no more.


Are you sure you're burned out? It sounds to me like you just don't like working with your team lead, and he, apparently, doesn't like you too much, either.

Sometimes people feel threatened. Maybe you're getting a lot of praise from the founders that you're not aware of but the team lead is. Maybe your team lead resents that you fixed X and feels his own position is in danager so he's driving you out?

You say you won't go to the founders because you can't see how they could resolve it, but you don't seems to consider that if you really did single-handedly solve X, then the founders might move the team lead on rather than risk losing you. Founders aren't stupid, they know who the value players are. They might be well aware of what's going on, but not to the extent that they risk losing you. If they are made aware of such a thing, you might find things change for the better.

In short, the problem is the team lead, and if the founders are made aware of it, things might change. If they don't, find another job.

My advice is different than a lot of what is here. My suggestion (engineer turned exec turned investor after some exits) is to speak with the team lead directly about the issues you're having with their leadership. Try to be clear and be sure to present what your ideal best-solution would have been for 1 or 2 cases where you've had issues.

Either in parallel or after, depending on how the talk goes, also speak with the founders about your issues. If you're solving the big hairy problems for the business, you could suggest a role that's tailor-made to your strong suits (not working with a team lead, not needing to supervise engineers, whatever it is you want). In any case, any founder worth their weight in salt would want to hear that their star engineer is not getting along with a team lead. If it was me as the founder, I'd take your feedback and then solicit more from other people on the team and then make a call as to where the "fit" seems off.

As to burnout, if you've "solved" the big problems and are giving the company a pathway to revenue/profitability/etc. then I would strongly suggest you don't quit. You're well on the way to being indispensable and can use that as leverage in any future salary/role discussions. At the very least, tell the founders where you're at and say you want a vacation.

Sounds like advice straight out of Radical Candor!

Using a throwaway since I don't want it tied back to me irl.

Hey there's already been a bunch of comments but I've been through similar situations where I feel like I'm carrying the world on my back and no one appreciates what I'm doing and secretly (or overtly) makes me think I'm doing a bad job.

I've given in to burnout twice and while I don't regret leaving those jobs I was surprised both times but the outpouring of support that I got from everyone at the company, especially the people I thought didn't like me/thought I was doing a bad job.

It might just be that your organization (or team lead) is bad at taking time to recognize when someone's done a good job. It's common practice to reward good work with "autonomy" but in fast paced environments that can turn into only popping into when someone is doing a bad job (or a job the manager feels could be done better).

Obviously I don't have all the details but I would try to sit down with the cofounders and let them know how you feel. I did that at my most recent job and was given 3 weeks off and a raise. I feel weird giving this advice because I don't do a good job of following it myself, but you should try to be as upfront with what you need as possible. If you are serious about leaving you literally have nothing to lose as long as you do it in a professional way. A lot of the time people have no idea what kind of situation you're in and will be happy to improve your situation however they can once they know you're struggling.

Yeah this is true, on a related note after I've quit I've had managers ask why and when I said it was problems with X and need a raise they just said all you had to do was ask and we could have fixed both problems. I was just too embarrassed to ask and looking for a new jobs felt easier.

Managers always say this, but usually it doesn't work out. And anyway, a job is not a marriage. It's good to experience different environments and moving around is the best way to get promotions/raises.

I've been the founders in this situation. Go to the founders. It sounds like they tried to hire a Bad Guy TM to get things "under control" and that person is now too controlling now that context has been built and people have leveled up. Your feelings and frustrations are valid. If they are good founders, they'll deal with this person. If not, leave.

It's likely nobody there fully understands what you did. I'm not just talking about your solution, but the size of your role in solving it. Anyone whose job title includes something you did yourself (design, R&D, PM, management) has a mental block against admitting your value out loud.

If you're not being given power to to lead and money to compensate you for saving the company, try to get it. Don't waste energy working within a bad system.

If you can't get what you need to stay, then go; if you're paid under market, you can trade up easily. If you see the people who have taken over your work mismanaging it, your equity won't be worth anything; it's a sunk cost, ditch.

Only caveat -- wherever you go you'll take a step down in authority. Right now you have a direct line to the top and are the domain expert in the company's whole business. That won't be true somewhere else.

> Only caveat -- wherever you go you'll take a step down in authority. Right now you have a direct line to the top and are the domain expert in the company's whole business. That won't be true somewhere else.

Exception: If you truly single-handedly found the solution to an industry problem, they likely don't understand the space nearly as well as you do. Your knowledge is more valuable than the business that employs you and that's a huge advantage.

If you can't get what you need to stay, consider if you want to go into this industry in business for yourself. Find someone else in the industry who isn't invested in your startup to invest in you.

Definitely talk to the founders. Founders probably have no idea you are considering leaving and would be shocked if you leave without voicing your concerns. Founders ALWAYS want to talk with key employees who are considering leaving. You are unlikely to get compensated with what you deserve, but they can definitely create a better working environment for you. Even if things don't work out and you do leave, you'll walk out of things with a good reference and network from the founders because you left on good terms.

> You are unlikely to get compensated with what you deserve

A perfect summary of startup life. Thanks for this wonderful comment

This is solid advice, as a founder i always hated people leaving without me having the chance to fix the situation. It’s hard to keep a tab on everyone, so raising it and giving them the opportunity to help should be well received (and if it isn’t, by all means leave!)

It's your job, though. You can always set up 1:1s and ask from time to time "is there something you are unhappy about?" or "do you think your share of our company adequately represents your contributions?" The reality is that you're afraid to hear honest answers. "Hard to keep a tab on everyone" is a lazy excuse. You could always set up the system in which such concerns bubble up to you. Long ago I was that employee that pissed off founders by leaving without notice (some even called me a traitor). Now the very same founders actively want to reconnect and I don't mind. So we meet and see the now obvious difference in our status. We don't touch this topic, but I see how that confidence look disappears in their eyes.

I think what you’re describing is a small organization. The reality I've experienced is that once your team grows beyond 20-30 people maintaining that setup is very difficult. I think the main responsibility of a founder is to set a vision for others to rally behind, ensure the company has the funds it needs to carry out its mission, be a master of delegation, and to fill every other gap that might appear. A good founder will try know everyone as well as they can, but I’ve experienced times when raising money became all consuming and in those instances it becomes very hard to maintain all the other demands to the level that would normally satisfy my expectations of myself.

Seconded. It’s been my personal experience as well. If what you’re saying is objective they’d typically make things right for you.

I've always prided myself as the same type of 'miracle worker' you're describing. I believe my own experience has some overlap with yours.

A couple things:

1. Everyone here is right, talk to the founders. You're already considering bailing so you've got nothing to lose. Tell them how you feel. Their response to your concerns will tell you all you need to know about sticking around or not.

2. Burnout is real. It's as concrete as muscles failing on a final rep. Except it's a lot more insidious.

Instead of refusing to lift any more weight, your brain will start to suggest anti-patterns, rewrites and other harmful paths in an attempt to keep going.

Take some time off. Drop the hobby projects. Travel, go camping, etc., whatever, but get out of your current routine.

After a while you'll start to get the urge to write code just for the sake of it. Take it slow but see how you're doing. Pick up a hobby project again and see it how it goes. If you need more time, take it.

Last time this happened it probably took me 6 months to fully recover, but I had pushed myself way too far. I don't think it's normally that extreme. Depending on where you're at, a couple weeks on the beach might be enough for a reset.

The insidious thing about burnout is that your ability to recharge and rest is seriously reduced. You need more time to regain less energy compared to before a burnout.

Many things that you describe could be fixed - nitpicking, non-technical people getting frustrated with bugs, poor feedback, burnout, feeling like you cannot work with a team lead.... those things happen, and can be fixed, with effort.

But is this team worth that effort? If you have been working at this for "a few years", and the company is still early stage, that is a bad sign. If the founders and team lead cannot solve the problems, that is a bad sign. If you created a solution that can make millions, but it isn't doing so, then the team doesn't know what to do with it. Another bad sign.

But those bad signs could also be poor interpretations of events, distorted by your own burnout.

My advice is to really think about whether you respect this team enough to work through problems with them. Are your complaints really about them, or just reflections of your own frustrations?

And then, depending on that answer, either sit down and tell them your frustrations and ask them to figure out a path to a healthier working relationship.... or walk out.

I agree with the points by @codingdave. and I have a further observations :

If you are an early startup stage employee, surely you would have an established relationship with the founders. If so, then you should simply bring them up to date with what is "really happening". If you have been sidelined a long-time ago, then you have too look at how and why. Is there anything that you can do to transcend the more recently hired "management".

If in your assessment your solution can make millions, then you have to ask why hasn't it yet? Are you overvaluing your contribution or are the various problems the stumbling blocks?

As for stock options, etc. At the end of the day you have to consider dilution, etc. They often end up being worth a lot less than you might think.

BTW: Yes, I think you are suffering from acute burnout. Might be a very good idea to get professional health support before the stress impacts your physical health.

You were hired to solve X and you solved it. They no longer need you. You have done your job that you were hired to do. It is time to move on. I suspect Team Lead is just trying to push you out of the company because the mission you were hired for, is complete. Best of luck with your future. You aren't burnt out, you are being mistreated.

What a terrible industry we work in. He should at the very least let them fire him so he can claim unemployment (assuming in the states) which the company will have to pay for. This may also be a lesson to never work for a startup. He should create his own if he insists on startup responsibilities.

I think a lot of the comments assume too much about the team lead. We've only heard one side of this situation. I suggest talking to the founders but I would involve the team lead as well. Try to strike a positive chord, you want to improve the work environment by identifying problems, solving tensions and most importantly communicating properly and not circumventing parties. It might turn out the lead also has something to say even though his actions might paint a negative picture. I also suggest a holiday before doing it without telling anybody about the burnout. Revitalize yourself, reflect on the situation and also look into what you can do better. Be positive, proactive and suggest solutions. If it turns out that the founders side with the lead at least you tried your best and they can only blame themselves for driving a good engineer away. Best of luck!

I'm apparently going to be going completely against the grain here but if I were you I'd ramp up my interviewing. The company you're at doesn't see the value you've brought to the company so use that value you sell yourself for the next role (i.e. by selling here, I mean sell yourself, not sell company data or anything like that). These days you generally only progress by changing jobs anyway. People here are telling you to talk to the founders. There may be some chance of that working but they hired this team lead so they have an investment in them. Management trusts management, not grunts so talking with them is probably more likely to make things worse for you than better. I've seen it so many times in my career: a bad worker is sorted out quickly but dozens of people (in one case a few hundred!) have to quit a company before they ever consider the manager might be the problem. People say the squeaky wheel gets the oil but if the squeaky wheel is a normal worker they're just as likely to get the axe. And a very important thing to understand is: this is not your company so why would you invest energy trying to fix it? Other people see this team lead is a problem but management hasn't. So you can engage in a big battle that will burn you out worse, and maybe it will work but for what? To make some other people richer? Look out for yourself. Use the value you've brought to sell yourself to your next employer while you still have something to sell.

Regardless, starting to interview before starting a power struggle with Team Lead is probably also a good idea. It's possible to lose that battle and suddenly be unemployed on short notice.


You've made the mistake of believing that you are "part of" the startup. You are just "employed by" the startup - you are not in charge and you can't rely on them for anything. The other side to this equation is you can just quit very easily and get a job somewhere else - you have no responsibility to them other than being professional and seeing out your notice.

Get a job in a bar for a few months, then go back to programming. You're obviously talented - you'll easily get another job.

> you have no responsibility to them other than being professional and seeing out your notice.

Do you really have that as a responsibility? Would the company give you notice or fire you on the day?

Cultural/juridistion miscommunication here :)

In some places, and varying by contract your mandated to give a notice and the same applies to employer.

In my jurisdiction I need to give 2 months If I'm employed there for more than 2 years (>=2).

Founder of a different startup here. Sounds a lot like your boss is being pressured to fix the issues and doesn't know how to do so or how to lead the team to do so. This is pretty normal in a startup. Most people have 60-70% of the skills they need and are learning the other 40% on the fly. Especially if your startup is bringing a totally new product to market.

Here's the question: do you like what you are doing, other than the bad boss? If so, go to the founders and have a talk about your situation. If you don't like it, then you will be much happier with a new job.

I can't tell you how thankful I am when an employee comes to me with this kind of problem. Your founders cannot fix a problem they don't know about.

Tell the founders you’re burned out and need to take 2 weeks off.

The insidious thing about burnout is you can’t think clearly when you’re burned out. I’ve been heavily burned out twice and I can relate to just wanting to work in a bar or something but after a couple weeks off you’ll be able to think clearly again. Worst case it’s 2 weeks of paid leave before you quit, best case you come back grateful for the opportunity and recharged.

Your team lead sounds like a pain in the ass, the founders would probably get rid of them instead of you if you gave them an ultimatum but my advice would be to take time out before you do anything rash.

Good luck!

Never ever tell anyone you have a burn out. You'd be viewed as tainted and news will propagate quickly through founders' network, likely making you unhireable in the process. Instead say you are bored with the asshole claiming your credit and that you want either somebody else as your boss or be the boss, and support it with work you did. Make this choice non-negotiable.

You sound paranoid. There’s nothing wrong with a 20-something admitting they need a bit of a rest after working really hard for a few years.

I’ve had an employee tell me they’re exhausted and need time out and I definitely didn’t “propagate need to my network” about them. That would be a serious breach of trust. I’ve also hired an engineer who told me they just came off a burnout and they were great.

This fear of vulnerability is part of the problem - it’s ok to be burned out and need a bit of a rest.

Maybe you are an exception, but most companies run on dominance hierarchy and once you are labelled as "weak", you are done. In general, my advice is much more solid and understanding of reality than yours, but I'd likely want to work for/with a person like you much more.

Are you just referring to FAANG silicon valley circle jerks? You must be? Ain't nobody in large companies taking advice from some manager who leaked mental health information about an employee. I think you're working in a very circle jerk world and/or completely paranoid. Even if what you said is true, it's illegal and unethical.

Existing rules in effect are different to those that are publicly adhered to. As the saying goes, "in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is."

Feel free to reach out to me. I’m a bit jaded from seven years of early stage startups, and from what you posted here, it sounds like you contributed a lot and expect recognition. Don’t. If you’re not a founder or you didn’t negotiate a huge stake of equity, you need to look out for yourself.

If your lead is liked by the founder, it won’t matter if you’re right, and you’ll be painted as a bitter employee. The flip side is that you could actually already be that bitter employee, in which case being right also doesn’t help :/

Edit: if you do have a good relationship with your founder(s) follow the advice given by others :)

I've been in other situations where I've burned out, and am still recovering years later, kind of lost and disenchanted with tech in general. However, you sound mostly like your work is under-appreciated, so maybe you're not getting whatever reward you might have been hoping for, and that you're sacrificing yourself for no purpose. In my opinion, if you sacrifice yourself for some other goal, it better be tangible and worthwhile to you or someone else personally. A company is a company, and mostly that's not worth sacrificing yourself for. My recommendation is one of two things.

1) Take a sabbatical. Explain the situation to the founders, and go fuck off to wherever you want for 3-6 months. It would be unpaid, but you'd have something to return to and re-evaluate. If they don't seem accommodating, then fuck them, quit and work in a bar.

2) Quit and go work in a bar or go back to school. It only takes one burnout to realize most stuff isn't really that interesting anyway. Find some people to hang with and re-evaluate your social life if it sucks.

Do you know what you want / need?

If so, I would simply ask for it and if you’re told no I would then quit and take some time for yourself. (Communicate this upfront).

Reflecting on my own burnout I can see that not knowing who I am, not being aligned with my intuition and not effectively setting and protecting boundaries played a core role in my journey.

Asking what you want / need is about erecting and protecting your boundaries within your relationship with work. If you can learn to do that (and walk away when people will not respect them) then I think you can avoid a whole range of scenarios that lead to burnout.

I wish you the best of luck and hope that you can take the time you need to recover. Happy to chat if you want someone to connect with over startup burnout.

I was burned out until about a month ago.

Here's what I did:

1. I went on a week long vacation. No work, no screens. Just read a book.

2. I started waking up early and working out every day. I was skipping my workouts frequently because I was too tired after work. A regular workout, especially when the sun is out, has been a HUGE mood booster.

3. I deleted all "wasteful" screen time. Like going on Reddit, watching YouTube videos, or even HN. Instead of opening a new tab after working for 1-2 hours, I just walk around my office, do a few stretches.

4. Made a conscious effort to hang out with friends and NOT talk about work. This has also been massive.

Many people say quit, I'd recommend not rushing in to that. If you're burnt out the last thing you want is to get on the interview treadmill then a new job where you have to prove yourself again. My advice to "burnt out" people is to step back and relax, try to do minimum hours and stress for a while, maybe take some vacations. When you get older you see how many people wasted their lives spending all their time on work its crazy.

It could be you just are in a bad team and maybe you can move internally.

> Wondering if I should just quit? Is career salvageable?

Career is almost always salvageable. What you carry over from your previous job into a new one is ... what you list on your CV and what you say and do in the interview. Unless you're in a very small pool and the interviewers are personal acquaintances of the old employer, everything else, good or bad, will largely not count.

You should definitely take a break. Are you perhaps on holiday for Thanksgiving, the first holiday you've taken in ages? Take a bit more holiday. Go somewhere quiet and scenic and do nothing for a bit.

While on holiday, do not answer work related questions with anything other than "I'm on holiday" and a reference to the docs and the colleague who is taking over your responsibilities while you're on holiday. This becomes important later, because your supervisor can't take credit for work you do while you're on holiday and you can use your absence to subtly indicate how critical you are.

Think about what your desired outcome is and what work you're prepared to do to get it.

Basically your options are to cut your losses and leave, or stay and fight. And it will be a fight. You won't be able to get the team lead fired, the best you might be able to achieve is your separation to different teams, and the smaller the office is the harder this is.

Startup or a big company - the deal you get coming in is probably going to be much bigger than anything you will get organically in the normal case. Growing inside the company is a very different deal compared to this and you have to work with the system - no two ways about it.

Whatever work you did afterwards, even if it changed the whole world sadly belongs to the owners: That's one of the big reasons to own things rather than work on them. I am going to go a little too far and suggest it probably didn't - if your founders don't know about your personal contributions, there is a big chance you're overestimating your impact.

I would suggest NOT slacking off (like some comments I see here). Always do a good job that you'll be proud of. If you think you're not valued or overshadowed, move to a different place. But wherever you go, don't give up on your own standards. I personally can remember the exact days when I slacked off in different jobs and everyone of them makes me feel some shame.

Take a break, recharge, may be move teams or even companies and put what you have contributed in the past behind you: see how you're going to be contributing in the future - most of the growth is about this anyway: your potential.

Good luck!

I was you.

Team lead is playing politics. He would be happy to see you gone. His strategy is to grind you down till you run out of energy and motivation.

Do not tolerate this. Do not let someone else take the victory lap for your hard work.

The bad news: This is going to happen in your career often. If you are good at what you do, you become a target. Get used to dealing with it.

The good news: his playbook is well known. Heres what you do: Go to amazon and buy ten books on office politics. Then take a week of and read them, and mark out the behaviors you see. Finally schedule a meeting with the founders, and explain to them what you are seeing.

Then everytime he behaves like an a-hole, call him out. Put in email and send it to the co-founders. Sunlight is a good disinfectant. These people are usually cowards and they FEAR the truth being known by the key stakeholders - that they are not good at what they do so they compensate by messing with the people are good, and they have a lot of experience doing it.

Stop being nice to team lead. You are at war with him. He wants you out. Your rational response is to get him fired as soon as possible. Its either him or you. Or demand that they make you a team lead too. Make a huge fuss about this.

But PLEASE, if you go down, go down fighting. Don't let this MF win.

This is not very good advice.

Being loud and blustery won't make anyone happy with you, and playing politics well is all about having powerful allies. The lead has probably been slandering you to the founders for the last several months. Go talk to them, but think about whether they are more likely to listen to someone who sounds happy and interested in making a couple changes, or to someone angrily ranting.

Honestly, your manager controls what the founders will hear about you, so unless everyone on the team is having problems with him, you just don't have much control over your situation here. So reduce your work output, take time off, gently bring up the issues with the founders, wait a few weeks, and then quit.

If you like email me at fairwork@gmx.net happy to share stories. (or anyone else reading this in this situation where you are doing all the work but getting screwed over by incompetent politician manager).

Let's just be clear that this entire post is atrociously bad advice.

People high up in companies think this way. People on the bottom never think things are intentionally nefarious

Clearly you've never been in this situation. Some people go through life not knowing these behaviors, and one day your company will fail because you didnt see this happening below you.

It may be an atrocious bad advice, but you didn't provide any reason/clue/example why it should be.

I've heard of people in this situation. I've also been the manager on the same level to someone who did this.

Going to the founders should solve your problem, but be prepared to deal with the guilt if the team lead is fired.

Usually the founders have no idea what's going on until you tell them. We had a project manager who used to lie to their team, which caused the team to protest. But we didn't know they were protesting because of the project manager.

> lie to their team

Lie to their team about what?

Well, for example, the PM promised to place the house in the suburbs that the team lived, and then placed near his house, which was about 2 hours drive away. Some compensation issues too, like they leave their past jobs to work with us, we approve the work laptop, the laptop didn't have usable specs.

There were lots of constant little lies like that.

A few questions:

* How is your sleep?

* Are you able to rest properly?

* Do you feel exhausted every evening after work?

* Are you arguing more with your SO/family/friends than you used to?

* Do you have enough motivation to plan things that aren't work-related, like trips, dinner parties, going out with friends?

The big problem with burnout is that your ability to recover and rest is severely hampered. If you are anything like me that lack of rest will make you have a very negative outlook on, well, everything.

If you are able to I'd take a long vacation, long enough that you are able to get some distance and perspective on the situation. Then I'd see if leaving the company is the right descision or what would be necessary to salvage the situation.

I've personally gone through burnout the past year, to the point where I was on sick leave for a few weeks. Those weeks were enough to give me some perspective. Quitting that job and taking a few additional months off was the only was to get through it, though truth be told I'm still suffering from some symptoms of burnout, like a lack of motivation.

I've been doing software engineering for 10 years now. It's ruined my 14 year marriage. It ruined relationships with girlfriends. It's hurt my relationship with my children. It's hurt my relationships with even my dog. This may be one of the worst industries in existence. However, one thing that burnout taught me, I'll never drink some hipster's koolaid. If they have a great idea, I'll pursue it myself on my own. I program as a means to an end and I'm learning to leave it at work at the end of each day. People should never allow a company to churn and burn them out. I think a lot of developers are waking up to this millennial hipster nonsense created by Zuckerberg and the millions of losers who want to be just like that jerk. Programming should be a means to an end and nothing more.

I've not read the other comments, so this has probably been said already many times over.

Talk to the founders.

What reasons are there to not talk to them if you are planning on leaving anyway?

It may be a painful conversation but it'll only be a few minutes.

“A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” etc

If you did what you say you did, the founders will put a lid on team lead, problem solved, no drama.

Realize also that you might also just be projecting your own disappointment onto the team lead. I've built MVPs as well, only to realize that, for all that herculean effort, there's still a lot of work to do. Leaving isn't going to solve that

I've been burnout sometimes, can relate to some of this. But don't underestimate the importance of your health.

My advice:

Be clear with the founders of your core feeling of burnout and _inform_ them you need to take 4 weeks+ vacations to recover. Make it non-negotiable.

Avoid as much as you can going into the details.

You are likely right about many parts of your assessment as that level of incompetence is not uncommon and likely wrong about some as your naturally in psychological pain. Between the emotional turmoil of burnout and what appears to be a fairly dysfunctional work environment I think it's unwise to make big decisions or trigger big retrospectives without the clarity that comes with a mind well rested.

If you had a really good relationship with the team, scaling the work down to 4h/day max could be good to, but I suspect it will not be effective in this case so I would avoid that too.

I dealt with burnout as a startup founder and wrote out my thoughts:


Each burnout situation is different, and happy to chat (my contact info is in my profile). One recommendation: don’t make any decisions without taking some time to get yourself back into a good headspace. I was terrible with making decisions when I was burnt out.

This resonates with my general experience with start-ups. Founders have nice ideas, but don't know how to make them happen (or even if it's possible). They slave-whip their pixies to make the work happen. They don't have an appreciation for the scale of the achievement, and complain about the webpage font being slightly wrong. The solution to any problem is more hours or pivoting.

Of course there is better and worse ones, but FWIW, I think this is just what most start-up jobs are (or at least it's not uncommon). Established company jobs are a bit more boring, a bit less exciting, but more organised, and better at getting sustained value out of employees. That includes treating them more like a marathon runner, less like a disposable sprinter, to be replaced after another 200m bout. Again, of course, not all, but certainly more than in start-up world.

This kind of tussle is not really for me, and perhaps not for you. If so, go look for another job.

What doesn't help is the plethora of articles about how "to make it in a start-up, you must be hard-working, ambitious, driven, talented, good-communicator, and pure of heart. If you don't have it, it's OK, no shame working at Walmart check-out". There is a world out there that values talented, experienced people, just doesn't force them to work in crazy environments.

This sounds a lot like my situation a few years ago, except that I was both you and the tech lead. The founders were playing me like the dumbass I was - I was too busy to spend any time thinking about office politics and what I ought to be doing for myself, not the company. Especially since I had no equity...

Lot of good advice in the comments. My view? Absolutely, positively take a vacation first so you can start thinking straight (I never did, in 5 years...) Even just a few days of forcing yourself not to think about things will do good.

Only after that, can you really or clearly decide if you want to stay. If you don't have equity, or don't want to deal with this team lead and whatever manipulative political crap you're going to have to deal with, then quit. It is only a job and believe me, walking away as soon as you realize the fight isn't worth it is worth far more than sticking it out for some potential upside that might not include equity. Without equity, everything is meaningless. If you were a corporation, what would the CEO and Board decide? Think like that and one can start getting a handle on how to be not driven by emotional / psychological factors, but purely profit and loss.

My personal problem was that I got emotional attached to "my system" - I built the whole damn thing myself and wouldn't/couldn't let it go - the ideas kept flooding in and .... I wanted to see them come to fruition. Technically, the whole system was pretty sweet and I had some really advanced ideas on the to-do list... but I did NOT OWN IT. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.

>Wondering if I should just quit?

>Founders are very please[d], but getting poor feedback from team lead.

>Lots of others have take issue with my team lead as well, so its not just me.

It's almost certainly the case that if you quit, the founders would be surprised and wish they had known this. Seems like it would be pretty reasonable to share this with them, and say, "I don't expect you to fix this, but I wanted to give you the opportunity. Perhaps there is some way to replace the team lead."

Saying "I don't expect you to fix this" seems unnecessarily deferential and like negotiating against yourself. I actually would expect the founders to fix problematic team leads.

I'd even go as far as telling the founders "I expect you to fix this". If they don't - fuck it and quit.

It's that easy.

Been in very similar situation with a CTO/tech lead. I walked away. Didn't have stock though so was easy to leave. Some people are just hard to work with. I had delivered well over 40% of all code changes in a team of 6 devs, but I felt he was just a bully and chaotic.

I also told the owners why I left, got a muted response. From their position it's just one guy's opinion. That tech lead left a couple months later I saw on LinkedIn year later, he even moved countries (from Europe to Canada). Couldn't care much tbh. It really was a relief to be away from the guy at that time.

Took a couple of months after leaving, took my time seeking a new opportunity. Moved, refurbished, walked a lot.

Now back at it. I noticed I care much less, I was too attached to the product, too involved. Perhaps if I hadn't I would have dealt with it more constructively rather than avoiding/ignoring/getting frustrated. Now I am perhaps even more productive but I don't care much about the product; not caring saves stress and avoids getting into conflicts.

Perhaps just taking a long time off (couple of months) would have solved the issue, but I don't expect people's character traits to change so in the end I feel I made the right choice.

I don't think you're fully burnt out yet. You'll know you've hit the bottom when you actually can't program anymore, even for your own kicks in limited bursts. (You're already severely heat damaged though if limited bursts either for work or 'fun' are all you've got left.) Your will for it just won't be there and you'll really, actually do anything else, not just think about how nice it might be. If you do reach that point, you're probably going to need a year of recovery before you can even think about programming again, and two to make a recovery that you could at least again be employable. (You might or might not eventually regain your old levels of productivity.) If you're just heat damaged, you should still take some recovery time, since sustained heat damage is how you get full burnout.

My only advice is don't let yourself get to that point. Sounds like quitting is the easiest way to avoid that right now. It's what I would do -- a friend left a toxic mid-stage place (in different ways, but ultimately stemming from a team lead) not too long ago, too. If you have stock options, hope you have nice terms that let you keep them without exercising for a long time, just in case the company is lucky. But if not, don't let them handcuff you -- money can be had elsewhere.

Don't worry about the career. Even a year gap is fine. Maybe try a BigCo for a while, where the pressures tend to be lighter and switching teams is often an option rather than switching companies when you run into a toxic situation. (Of course BigCo has its own caveats -- you might enjoy reading this recent thread https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21645117 )

1) You want to be recognised for your achievements - that's human nature - everyone wants that. The problem is, you're not getting the recognition you want. That's a disturbingly common thing in the workplace. And it's unlikely to be the last time you'll face it in your career.

Having faced similar situations with myself in the past, I've learnt not to wait for recognition to value my own achievments. If you achieved something, and the outcome was good, and you really were responsible for making it happen then no-one can take that away from you. It's yours. It goes on your CV. You don't need permission or validation beyond the outcome that you achieved.

In summary, you don't need external recognition to validate your achievements - you only need results. Do question whether you really were responsible for what you think you've achieved. If you're sure, then you're allowed to take credit. The fact that you did it is what makes you valuable, not that you were recognised for it.

2) Don't play politics. It'll burn you out even more. I'd say that it's the lack of recognition that's burning through your emotional energy and leading your feeling of burnout. Trying to play politics to 'win' against your percieved enemies is only going to feed your dissatisfaction with the situation. See 3.

3) Forgive your employer and lead. Carrying around resentment does nothing for you - it actually costs you. Resist giving in to the temptation to speak ill of the company or lead in the future, especially in job interviews. It's not an attractive trait. Remember that everyone is trying to do their best, in their own understanding of "best", driven by their own values, from their narrow view of the world. Just. Like. You. Be compassionate. See 1.

It is always difficult to give advice, even when sought, on something as serious as this. My 2 cents follows.

> Wondering if I should just quit? Possible. But is this a false dichotomy? Toxic environment, politics, conflicts lends to leave very soon; founds are very please lends to staying.

If you are close to leaving, I would go over your team leads head, not on any specific issue, but on this meta issue an tell them you're close to leaving. You might end up leaving anyway, but approach them in good faith. (Others here have suggested they might offer you rainbows and unicorns and you should just leave anyway.) Would a horizontal move within the company be a good deal for you?

Minor issues getting through is a management problem. Them pushing down is them not doing their job. As a manager, when something happens once I consider carefully and my response is very local. When a trend emerges, I need to look it the mirror.

> Is career salvageable? Not only is it salvageable but from your self appraisal it is on the rise. You are not responsible for the business decisions and petty immediate management. You solve problems like a ninja. Sell it. Sell your excellence at solving problems, and your adaptability to different contexts, and you are the man.


I had a mild burn-out. I'll keep this brief. Work was too hard for the sake of just being hard (i.e. very bad management) so I rode the roller coaster for a while and then left just before it was too late (which was still too late TBH). I haven't worked in 1.25 years but I can afford not to. (I'm sorry if not everyone has this luxury.) I don't regret it. I do spend my time mostly wisely (spec projects, odd jobs just for fun, etc.) It's sanity-or-nothing instead of big-bucks-or-no-bucks right now (this model may change).

> Wondering if I should just quit? Is career salvageable?

Yes save your career quit your job.

It sounds like the upper management want the business to make money not a product, a common mistake.

Your team lead is an obvious problem but the founders put them there because they don't know any better.

You can fight the team lead, you can even do it successfully but upper management will always want the business to make money not a product.

> Anyone been through anything similar? Anyone have any advice?


It is natural to be sucked into the moment.

I'm at the age where all organizations are flaming PITAs; the more interesting question is: "Are the people around me making the overall PITA tolerable?"

If you can't enjoy the colleagues, then no amount of raw technical joy from accomplishing the task or fat piles of compen$ation will make the PITA worthwhile.

As an early employee you have a lot of credit with the founding team, if you aggregate the concerns of others and go talk with them that the team lead is overtly negative and weighing down team morale then they will probably listen to you.

Keeping, motivating and retaining key employees is a core task of a manager, if the founders of the company realize this then they should also see that they have to take corrective action against the team lead (which can range from a conversation to outright firing).

In the unlikely case that the founding team doesn't see your value then you're better off leaving but always be very open about the reason why you are leaving so they can change their mind.

Also keep in mind, that if the founders are assholes you might find yourself without a job for being very open. So you might want to line up another job before initiating this process.

edit: Probably having an open conversation with your team lead first is a good idea; even though it might not help anything at least you can tell the founders that you tried to talk with him

I left a startup before my one year cliff. The reason, my manager who puffed his abilities and status up more than his contributions. Secondary, management as a whole had unrealistic expectations - that was secondary.

I left.

Another colleague shortly left thereafter, same reason.

Founders were informed of the decision, did nothing.

Company did its thing.

The upside, said “boss” was declined funding based on feedback of his management style and title puffery.

I would consider moving on, but don't rush it. Once you have decided to move on, you might get a more relaxed relation to the current situation. Use that opportunity to evaluate your options. Then move on. Never try to change the behaviors of your leaders. I speak from experience, and found out too late that this is somewhat common knowledge.

Been there, done that. Have written about it:


Advice: quit, today. Your physical and mental health are more important than any job. The longer you stay the longer you will need to recover.

Go to a conference and really immerse yourself in it. There are so many excellent people at some of these events that they can put the broader industry in perspective for you and their motivation is inspiring to become better than you've been before despite everything else happening around you.

Employee burnout is a fact of life for most businesses, but the problem gets especially worse in startups and small enterprises.

1. Make it clear what to expect before they come on board 2. Make sure roles & hierarchies are defined as far as possible 3. Flexible hours and telecommuting might help retain key employees 4. Communication & feedback make sure there’s no nasty surprise brewing 5. Give everyone some decision-making power

It might not be possible to remove all stressors from the workplace, but a few wise decisions and some patience can help slow down or perhaps eliminate employee fatigue and burnout.

Best regards, Mia from https://schreib-essay.com/blog/schreibst-du-arbeit-auf-engli...

The best position to negotiate from is to have other options. Even if it doesn't work out, you can take one of the other offers, which might be a better deal! So the advice about ramping up interviewing is good. Always be interviewing :)

Leave, better sooner than later. Your health is more important.

I have been in a similar situation where I stayed too long. Eventually I took some time off, did other things. After a while you get your energy back. Take your time.

Take care of yourself. Get some exercise, even just walking outside.

The fact you solved their biggest issue will always look good on your resume and during interviews. Also I believe you're hired to fix these problems; it's part of your job. So even though it impacts the business a lot it doesn't mean you're entitled to something. If you can't accept that, doing the same great work will be hard to do in your next jobs.

It seems you were invaluable to this startup, and the founders seems to be aware of it. You are in a good position to talk directly to them about the issue. Be professional, and if the founders are thinking rationally they’ll hopefully act to create the good environment for you because they like you and your work, and maybe remove the team lead. If they are not, then they are not considering your contribution to it’s just value, and/or they are not courageous enough to act. In these case you can leave with peace of mind, to find a place where you and you work will be more appreciated.

(Sorry for my limited English)

As far as I can tell, burnout is caused by a combination of lack of appreciation and lack of clear expectations. You have a ton of work, you can even take criticism but only if you get appreciation for the positive contributions and the feedback is not a surprise. Immature managers burn out contributors by constantly fretting about what hasn't gotten done or where the product has fallen short even when direction was followed. Try to redirect your conflict from being one-on-one to talking about the direction of the product and how you can all work towards improving it.

> I’ve been employed there a few years

> I really just want to go and do something else

It sounds to me like you’ve already decided. It might be time for a change anyway? If you have some equity (and don’t gave terms that make it difficult to retain it after you leave) then why not try something else?

Taking time out is harder, depending on location. Sometimes being out of work makes it difficult to find work. I certainly recommend taking a holiday before applying for work.

Personally don’t recommend taking your issues to management. I’ve rarely seen that not have negative consequences.

I agree that you need to leave straight away. Likely the team lead is threatened by you and trying to find a reason to get rid of you.

I would turn in my 2 weeks. If asked why I was leaving I would just give the standard fluff about new opportunities etc etc.

Talking about the manager is a gambit. If it succeeds, maybe they make your life there even worse by confronting your manager.

If it fails, then you look petty and disagreeable and maybe even get walked out the door.

Never burn a bridge, just in case. Leave on good terms, but leave ASAP.

> getting recently getting some poor feedback. Confusing situation. Wondering if I should just quit? Is career salvageable? I solved the business’ biggest issue.

Sounds bad, but I've experienced the same.

> I don’t think I’d come across very well (or as sharp as I usually) in interviews at the moment without a break.

Yes, take a break.

Do what you think is good. Been in a similar situation and I regret that I didn't leave early and after that didn't take a longer break earlier.

I was in a similar situation. The "political animal" in my case managed to turn management against me, and my reward for making the business work was getting cut loose. Get solid evidence and rat the team lead out. It's you or them, and that isn't your fault; there's no dishonor in it. Worst case is that you lose your job, and very likely, you're going to anyway if you continue to do nothing.

Go to founders, have an honest, evidence-based, emotion-free conversation, and ask for co-founder role models & stock that you believe is fair. If you don't like the offer you get, then walk. Be mentally prepared to walk before having this conversation - because, at the end of the day, it's the only leverage nobody can take away from you.

Maybe take 2 weeks off for "holidays", practice Advent of Code, start thinking about working for their competitors

> I can’t see how this can be resolved beyond creating a new role or transferring out of my area of expertise

Would doubling your equity literally not solve it? Triple? Figure out what it would take to put up with the Lead, or get outta there.

Fortunately, I never faced to burn out. Here is a good article on how to avoid burn out: http://blog.westminster.ac.uk/international/5-top-tips-avoid...

From your text I can not determine if your team lead is just incompetent or it´s trying to undermine you to take credit for your work. In any case, if you quit, he will cash on it.

In my opinion you should cool down as much as you can and then go and talk with the founders, but without taking anything personally.

<writing a lot of stuff> <removing what I wrote>

Finding a new job might be easier. Don't leave until you have secured a new job. Allow for some time before you start in your new position. Life is hard, don't take any advice from the internet - make up your own opinion.

Maybe it is time for you to have your own team?

- you have relationship to founder

- you delivered results

- there is more work than you can do

- other team lead has different priorities and handling things more loosely coupled would decrease friction and allow for a sharper customer focus (or similar sales pitch)

'Burning Out' is just another, albeit nicer, way to say 'Pissed Off'.

Go to the founders and tell them it's either you or the team lead.

Remind them of all you've done for them.

If they side with the team lead or ask you to work your differences out, quit.

Your career will be fine.

Also take a vacation as soon as possible, no phones no email, no devices at all.

It sounds like the team lead is trying to establish dominance and belittle your contributions and probably wants to take the credit for your work.

Keep a documentation trail and a running summary of what you've accomplished and the value of it.

Sounds less like burnout and more like “toxic person at work”. Take it to the boss.

It definitely sounds like the problem is with your team's culture. I stayed on with my last team and company for 6 years, 3 years beyond the point where it was enjoyable, and wish I had left sooner.

Just quit and do something you love.

Software is overrated as a career. Save yourself years of depression and find your passion and pursue it.

Your friends and family will understand when they see you happy and enjoying life.

Go to the founder. Explain how you feel, respectfully. The only way the company survives is if it is based on sound foundations.

Leave now, sadly this is not going to improve.

It appears the team lead is the problem. Explain the situation to the team lead’s supervisor / the founders.

I've been there. Please reach out to me on twitter (@rymohr) and don't throw in the towel just yet.

If I were you I'd tell the person in charge that either the toxic team lead goes or I go.

Sounds like you should be the team lead, just ask the founder and/or leave

It is time for you to leave the company.

I'm recovering from a severe burnout that sounds similar.

I started at a small company about three years ago. I had about 17-18 years of experience and had spent the prior five years working as a freelance consultant/engineer helping big companies build private and public clouds using open source stacks. The entire team was comprised of developers with much less experience, mostly fresh grads/bootcampers/web developers who'd worked on small projects, and the CTO had no technical expertise. I became interested in staying after working with them for a few months because they had big, multinational conglomerates as customers for some reason and I thought I saw some potential. So I buckled down, found the right project to introduce a solid REST API built on simple, boring technology that was easy to maintain. I became the engineering manager out of necessity: the CTO had no experience writing, maintaining, operating software and no clue with what it took to hire, mentor, and train developers. It became my passion project: could I build up a team to meet the challenge?

I think I mostly did do that. The platform I had built for that initial project now powers everything. It took a lot of convincing to get the development team on board with building a REST API to begin with but once our customers started asking us to integrate with their software it started to make sense to them. I set up the hiring process, created a rubric for different job roles at the company, started doing quarterly 1 on 1's with every member of the engineering teams, started collecting metrics and signals to gather insights into the productivity and impact of the engineering team, I made diversity a priority on how we build our teams, I shifted the operations away from sleepless nights of putting out fires to a more sustainable SRE/devops style team, I led the technical design of several high-profile projects, I even helped secure our funding by having done the due diligence and having the right numbers prepared ahead of the meeting (something our CTO didn't have the foresight to do himself)... and in that time the company grew: we took on some funding, our MRR was growing at a good clip -- it was working!

But I was doing this all in spite of a toxic culture. The CEO disagreed with anything I had to say about management of software engineers from over-time, compensation, all the way to how I scheduled and organized the teams. The CTO was someone who was equally insecure and incompetent but was always rewarded by our success in the small, local community. He would use my ideas as if they were his own, second guess my every decision, put me down in front of the team, and make terrible, terrible decisions despite our best efforts to inform him.

One such decision led to our team working on a doomed feature for three months. When it failed, for exactly the reason I tried my best to inform him of before we started, the customer was furious. The project was due and it would be another four to five months before we had a solution in place. I warned him that a proper implementation of this feature was going to take about four to five months and that we'd be better off cutting it from the release for now so that we could deliver 90% of what was asked on time. If we had tried to implement this feature the naive way it was going to blow up as soon as the customers' data set grew to a reasonable size. I even gave him estimates, based on current statistics, as to how long it would take to blow up if we shipped it to production. He wanted us to ship it anyway. We did, it failed within the predicted time line. Nobody was surprised.

At the early meeting after I patiently described to him, in general terms, why we needed to cut that feature so we could ship on time, do you know what he said to me? If I was smart I would be able to figure it out.

This would all culminate in him completely overriding me. The teams were under a lot of stress from management to ship and I was doing my best to deflect it as always so they could do their work. But the team was feeling the pressure none the less. The CTO decided that the best way to fix the situation was to take matters into his own hands. He decided a re-organization was in order. After consulting me after lunch one day about his idea which I thought would be good, later, when we grow out the team a little more and wrapped up some of our existing, in-progress projects... in the weeks that followed, he just took over and did the re-organization any way. In a meeting with our advisors about this re-organization he went so far as to go behind my back to pick out quotes from frustrated developers to use to put me down.

Suddenly, out of no where, everything I had worked so hard for was turned over. I hated going into work. I didn't even want to look at the CTO anymore or be in a room with him. He'd spent the last few years giving me feedback that people were saying things about me (they weren't saying those things). Putting me down in front of the team. Second guessing everything I ever did for the company. Arguing with me about topics when he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. And I felt trapped. I had a family to look after, a mortgage to pay, and I'm getting older; maybe too old to be hired as an IC (even though maths and programming are what I like best)... and here I was working with people who couldn't see the value in anything I'd done for them, the struggle I went through to build it for them -- and they're taking advantage of me every day and making me feel like a worthless, talent-less piece of shit in return.

A fog descended upon me. I felt lethargic. Tired. Angry. A dried twig that would snap under the lightest force. I hated programming. I hated everyone I worked with. I could only sense people saying bad things about me behind every closed door. Wondered if I really was that bad at my job. I felt like everything I had worked for in the last three years was for nothing. And the voice inside me had nothing good to say about me either: stupid, hack, washed up, useless.

Of course you can't listen to that for long. Fortunately I have good friends, a good partner, wonderful kids, and I'm self aware enough to know that what I was going through wasn't normal. It's burnout. And it needs to be dealt with.

I was simply in denial for years because I was finding success despite all of the adversity. That is the perfect recipe for burnout. It's a ticking time bomb. You can't keep it up indefinitely.

Presently I'm still recovering. I took my first vacation this year. I'm on another one right now. I'm going to continue taking small vacations throughout next year and be kinder to myself. I did keep the CEO up to speed on what was going on with me. He was smart enough, or someone had given him good advice, to isolate me from the CTO and give me projects to work on by myself. The burnout is still there. I still feel betrayed by a team I had invested so much time and energy in raising up (there were some who weren't 100% supportive of my direction). While there are a number of people who desperately want to know if I am going to reprise my role... I don't think I have the energy for it again. I don't want to succeed against the odds anymore. I want to do damn good work and ship software that matters to people.

If you're in a similar boat to me, all I know is, is that you have to be the change. Whether you want to take time away by working on another project and taking as much vacation time as you can until you recharge and are ready for round two or whether you need to jump ship and find something new: the key for me is to find some control. Burnout happens because we feel like we have no control over a stressful situation we're forced into. My first steps so far have been regaining some control. And maybe that might mean later on that I don't have enough control where I am now and I need to leave this company... but maybe I'll recover and be the change to fix this toxic culture. It's all up in the air right now.

Also... read a lot of fiction. Spend hours absorbed in literature, in poetry, and get outside yourself. It helps with coping.

Seems like everyone here will throw the blame around so let me be "that guy". I've never worked at a startup. The smallest company I've ever worked for was +300 people. My current company is +5000, mainly doing software engineering. So I'm not going to emphasize on "this is how startups are" rhetoric in this post. Here is an example - A few months after I joined this company for a tiny project, I was pulled in for a new, very large and very ambitious one which had to be built from scratch. 4 people built the first fully working version in less than a month. It then took us another year to polish and to make it stable: new features needed to be added constantly, we were understaffed and frankly inexperienced for something this big. Mind you, we were motivated and carried on to the best of our abilities, most of us trying to improve and contribute more(I spent years studying during nighttime and weekends and spent North of 2k/year on literature and textbooks). A few years later I got promoted to lead developer, largely against my will - not because I thought I couldn't do it but because I had doubts about my predecessor who, for a number of reasons, never raised his voice just to avoid conflicts. But due to the lack of anyone else having the skills and knowledge, I agreed. While I knew the project relatively well, there were entire areas I had only scrolled through but never bothered to look at what the others were doing. And this is where the ugly part begins: while my predecessor was presumably code-reviewing everything, he was only returning PR's when something wasn't working. He never rejected a PR otherwise, again, to avoid conflict and having to tell someone to do a better job even if something could be done 300 times more optimal. You can understand my frustration when I saw all that - I was crushed. I spent the next year mostly on optimizing what we had and the improvements were noticed by all users - satisfaction surveys went up from "meh" to "AWESOME". Great, right? Wrong. Several developers had grown deep into the "seems to work" mentality and are still refusing to change that. They disrespect the naming conventions of branches, commit messages state nothing more than "fixed", code which you could expect from a 12 year old but not from someone with a university degree and 5 years of experience. Ironically the team is scattered across several countries and they all happen to live in an ultra-liberal country where firing an employee past his initial probation period cannot happen unless they:

1. Offend someone on racial basis. 2. Kill someone (I'm not entirely convinced here).

Adding a key-value pair to a map takes at least 4 "fixed" commits and at least 2 git branches. I have my hands tied behind my back and everyone, including the top management has given up on all hope since they can't do anything about it either. Their advice when I shared that with them: "be an asshole to them and hope they quit". And for the lack of a better alternative, this is what I'm doing. But they are still here.

The reason why I'm telling all this is to have something at the back of your mind to make you think twice. To them my constant irritation with the key-value example above is bullshit and they are doing an awesome job with minor hiccups. There are entire releases where I've had to give up on them fixing their mess and have myself and others re-do everything they've done from scratch because if I let such things into production, there's a potential to break the product for several hundred million people. In particular this sentence does strike me a bit:

> I really just want to go and do something else, anything else, work in a bar or something

Now if you have had such a great contribution in the product, that should never cross your mind. You should simply pack your desk and go work somewhere else, finding a job should not be a problem. Whatever the case may be, your best option is to find another job. Both for you and even potentially the company.

You seem like a highly self-driven motivated individual. And you are here asking for help/advise. You are already doing better than most others in your situation. You will be fine don't worry about your career.

You are 100% right. You need a break. You have earned some goodwill with your founders. Encash that – slow down and take a short break (couple of weeks) to clear your mind of the stress. Maybe leisurely travel will help. Spend this time outdoors in sunlight and with non-tech friends (or strangers).

Then come back to begin the repair at work. In your burnout state, you may have become impatient and rubbed people the wrong way. Time to repair that damage. Get into a 'enable and support others' mindset rather than 'get sh*t done, carry the weight of the world' mindset. Focus on people rather than things. Master patience and keep calm. Slow down. Consider things carefully, slowly, with other people in the center and enable others to do things, slowly.

Set your expectations with your team lead - that you want to change into slower gears and focus more on helping others rather than taking on everything yourself.

Don't worry about performance ratings etc. In the long run it doesn't really matter. (I know it is hard to believe this. Have to take it on faith). Also, don't worry about the startup or your project. They will do just fine without you carrying all the weight. You may not see it that way now, but don't worry about that. It's 'above your pay grade', really.

Within a couple of months, things will be back to normal and maybe better than normal. Then you can slowly ease back to unleashing your full brain power to solve unsolvable problems like X. But keep the focus on helping other people. Don't take the pressure all on yourself.

This may sound simple. But it can be hard sometimes to do simple things. If you master this, your team lead or anyone cannot play politics and screw with your head. Small slips and nitpiks by anyone will be just that, and won't bother you anymore. Also, take the time to showcase your work and get the positive recognition. Don't just keep chugging along without paying attention to organizational stuff. This stuff matters.

Once you are in a good place and feeling confident, re-evaluate your situation and take action.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

p.s: On your personal front, fixing a 20-minute free-body floor exercise routine at home (don't have to go anywhere), with a fixed/early wake-up and sleep time and fixing your stomach (good food) will do wonders to your mental state. Take care of yourself. It will payoff big time.

p.p.s: What's the worst case scenario here - getting fired? That is not the end of the world. Hopefully, you have enough savings to survive a couple of months - to recover and get to interviews in a more calmer and confident state and land another job. No matter what, believe in yourself.

Finally, hopefully you won't put yourself in similar burnout situation, in the future, for anyone. Nobody does well in a high-pressure situation for too long. Many times we create these pressure situations for ourselves. It doesn't help us do our best work. Find your optimal fuel-air mixture and burn rate.

I've assumed a lot about your situation – I may be totally spot on or completely wrong. Likely somewhere in the middle. YMMV.


> Burning out as an early stage start-up employee

I was an early employee in a start-up, I worked hard and got caught in all the startup distortion field/changing the world/impact kind of bs. The CEO kept saying for years that next year they will go IPO. Eventually I left no one gave a s..t , the company never went IPO.

The only positive thing was that I learned a lot of things because I had the chance to work on a lot of projects.

So make yourself a favor, stick around only for as long as it benefits you and your resume. But don't stay a minute longer founders won't give a s..t when you leave and you will never become rich anyway.

I later joined a big public company, amazing work-life balance, higher base salary , stocks, bonus, amazing 401k.

Bottom line, startups is overall bs. Don't buy the hype and if you do always keep in mind your own interests.

Erm. Talk to the founders?! Get this team lead fired for gross incompetence?

No good deed goes unpunished. That's what it's like to be an employee. Ever heard of all the hardworking people behind <revolutionary product>? Of course not. You traded a "safe" paycheck for your time and energy. Not more, not less.

If you're really that good at executing, you can become a founder yourself and trade one set of problems for another. Maybe take a sabbatical and build something you care about.

Whatever you do, don't carry a victim mentality to your next interview.

Move on. You're never going to be paid more or rewarded more or recognized more where you are. Add everything to your resume, and find a place to compensate you for it. Since you're pretty well invested, talk to some managers about it. Mention your rational. If they drop you for mentioning, screw them. People that can't handle transparency don't deserve good employees.

Before you talk to anyone, take a week of work off. Don’t open your mouth about this until you’ve had time to relax and think, as soon as you say something to either the founders or your boss, your whole work situation will change.

It's a toxic place. Try getting the team lead fired, gotta play fire with fire, but then you will have to assume more responsibility. If you don't want that leave immediately.

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