Imagine this: it’s the end of the work day and you’re exhausted. You’ve been running around the island, meeting people, working on developing business partnerships. But today was a good day—you closed a deal you’d been working on for the last 3 months.

You’re just about to leave when your manager calls you into their office. You hope it’s not what you think it is—not again. 

But of course, it is. The deal is off.

“But why? We’ve been negotiating with them for the past 3 months and you specifically told me to…” your voice trails off, because you realise too tired to argue and you know it won’t make a difference anyway.

“Leslie, I’ve said this before: don’t question the management’s decisions. Just do what you’re told.”

You sigh and walk out. Perhaps it’s time to find a new job.

Don’t question the management, just do as they say, even if nothing makes sense. Many Singaporeans are likely to be familiar with this line of logic, but few are aware of how such a management style could lead to a toxic workplace environment.

In our second instalment of Profits Aside, we interview Ethan Seow, founder of Undelusional Technologies, who hopes to reshape corporate culture that allows toxic workplace environments, such as the one above, to foment. The startup aims to eliminate toxicity by helping individuals take ownership of their emotions.

You don’t always need to have wanted to be an entrepreneur.

We all have that friend who’s always wanted to start their own company or to be their own boss, but that’s not the way everyone’s entrepreneurship journey has to begin.

Rather than running his own business, Ethan’s original intent had been to write a book containing some of his teachings on emotional wellness in corporate culture. This was borne of his realisation that he had been repeating these teachings very frequently.

It was in the process of writing his book that he was encouraged by those around him to turn his ideas into a business.

You don’t know what your co-founders are going to be like, until you start working with them.

Undelusional Technologies first began with four co-founders, but Ethan is currently the only founder remaining. Although he continues to be friends with the three previous co-founders who left at various stages of the company’s history, he notes that there was some friction with so many co-founders working together.

Many individuals decide to found a company together because they have the same visions and goals. Others do so with added conviction because they’ve known their potential co-founders for a good number of years.

But Ethan cautions that it’s difficult to tell if the co-founders are the right fit for each other and for the startup until operations actually begin.

As it’s impossible to know what it’s like to work with a person before the fact, potential startup co-founders might simply want to be prepare themselves mentally and emotionally case in which the situation doesn’t quite work out.

In the early stages, hiring for cultural fit is more important than hiring for skill.

One of the pieces of advice Ethan gives directly to future startup founders is about the importance of cultural fit.

In other words, in the early stages of building a startup, it is more important to hire someone who fits well with the company culture, or someone whom you believe will help your company’s culture grow in the right direction, than it is to hire someone who has the skills that you need for a particular role.

Only when the company’s culture and its tone has been set should you start hiring individuals for specific skill sets as doing things the other way around means you risk allowing your employees to dilute the tone you wish to set for a healthy corporate culture.

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