Should founders care about their employees’s personal lives?

{Note: this is part of an experimental series of short posts. My goal is to spark more discussion and post things that aren’t fully thought out 1,500 word mega-entries I usually post.}

This tweet got me thinking today:

There are assholes and then there are people who have moments when they act like one. In a startup there is no room for the former, but we all have moments where we may be the latter.

I’ve found myself in the latter bucket a number of times since I got to SF because of the stresses I’m experience in adjusting to a new environment and starting over socially. Try as I might, I haven’t always been able to leave issues at home and just be my usual working self.  Fortunately, Hiten and others have been understanding of me. Team dynamics are hard to get right and when someone is being an asshole, it’s poison to the environment. That’s why I posit it is important for founders to care about their employees personal lives.

Of course, none of this is limited to just assholes; employees underperform for a multitude of reasons in a variety of ways.  If you have a connection with your employees beyond their job description, you’re likely to find out what may be the cause of an issue. And you wouldn’t have to be their therapist to be helpful and understanding.  At the least, you can help patch up some relations around the company by telling others on the team to cut that person some slack (without necessarily going into specifics) and making some recommendations of what the employee can do to help themselves.

What do you think?

Should founders care about their employees’s personal lives?

8 thoughts on “Should founders care about their employees’s personal lives?

  1. I feel strongly about this. Of course they should care about your personal life. It’s pretty short sighted as a manager not to.

    Sure, there is a certain extent to which you need to leave personal business at the door and get your work done. Be a freaking adult. But I think having a founder who asks about your personal life and takes an interest actually helps you work on anything that is happening and get those issues to a manageable point – a point to which everything may not be resolved, but it’s something you can leave at the door during the work day.

    After all the shit I went through over the past year with cancer and my family, it has been a really distracting and upsetting ongoing situation. I’m not just an employee, I’m a person. When my bosses have asked me how my family is doing, it has motivated me to take care of myself and get my mind to a less distracted, better place so that I can work a whole lot harder.

    • Janet,

      I’m so sorry to hear the cancer came back for your mother. That’s definitely something you wouldn’t just be able to ignore at work.

      Glad to hear Jay has been understanding. I think you nailed it when you said, “I think having a founder who asks about your personal life and takes an interest actually helps you work on anything that is happening and get those issues to a manageable point – a point to which everything may not be resolved, but it’s something you can leave at the door during the work day.”

      Thanks for the comment! Hope things are better now :-)


  2. Caring about every single person who works for you or you work with is what makes you a better leader and manager. Business IS personal. Spend 15-30 minutes to listen out to someone who is not doing so well that day and you might just make their day better, their performance will be back to normal, they won’t fall back, and it will not cause downward spiral of one bad thing after another.
    But again, that is my style. I give a shit about every person in my company and refuse to change my style.

    • Apollo,

      Thanks for the comment between what I’m sure is a busy time with Greta :)

      If you think about the average work day, it’s easy to see why you need to care: people spend more awake time with you than their families or really anything else.

      To keep it in my shortened form I left it out, but I think this actually swings both ways; when things are going really well for someone, it helps to share in their joy as well, whether that’s a family member visiting, an engagement or just a particularly “good day” for someone. Reinforcing that can be just as powerful as fixing any “bad days.”


  3. Debating between just posting this here or making it my own blog post. Eh, I will move it over there later.

    I have been referred to as an asshole many times when leading a group. Usually it is by the people who aren’t contributing anything and end up showing themselves the door. When I manage, it is almost always done very simply. We agree on something you are going to contribute and the date that you will have your work done. Once we have that agreement, I will hold you accountable to it. Most people aren’t used to being held accountable, so their reactions can vary from “Holy crap I am sorry and I will step it up” to “WTF are you talking about leave me alone.”

    Now I am not mean or vindictive about it, but I make people aware that the team only works when everyone does their job. The other people on the team deserve better than lip service from their teammates and they are counting on you to deliver. If you can’t, thats ok, but you can’t say you will do something and then not do it.

    What does all of this have to do with the personal lives of employees? I think that it is important that employees know you care about them as an individual, that their wants and desires are in your mind when you are making decisions that involve them. You don’t have to choose what is best for each individual employee at all times, but it is comforting to know that it is considered. One of the best ways to show that you care about the individual is to take at least some interest in their lives beyond your doors.

  4. Yes. To an extent. IMO, Founders should give employees the opportunity to have a great life in and out of work.

    This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t expect high quality work or busting your ass, but if a founder provides an open environment where they prove through their actions (nothing worse than a company or founder talking about a great culture, but not following through) that they care about employees in and out of work – employees will be better people, workers, etc.

    So, giving employees some leeway around tough or hectic times or giving mandatory day off when you know your team has really been putting exceptional hours or done a great job, goes a long way.

    With that said, I agree, that founders shouldn’t be therapists, and ultimatley a persons well being (mental and physical) is that individuals’s responsibility. So, a founder can and should provide an environment where a person can thrive while at work and while at home, and even better if they are caring and empathetic, but there is a line where it’s up to the individual to be at their best.


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