The perils of a smaller snake pit

Don’t ever go into a start-up thinking that you are escaping the horrors of office politics. You are merely swapping big company office politics for tiny company office politics.

Big company office politics seems at first glance to be more evident, and more evil. Powerful dark forces are at play, and their terrible danger can only be glimpsed like the tips of icebergs or the fins of sharks. Be wary and watchful, or you will come a cropper.

But corporate politics seems more impersonal, like the vast and alien entities of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Small business politics have a completely different character. Many would balk at even referring to “politics” in this setting, and there is some truth in that view. In reality you are far more exposed to the radiation of others’ personalities, their prejudices and biases, bad habits and character flaws, in a tiny business. Of course this is the foundation of politics big and small, but in a start-up there is no mitigation from HR, policies or power blocs.

In a big snake pit you have a better chance of avoiding the serpents. In a smaller one you are more tightly packed, and those adders are more likely to bite when you step on them.

Just saying.


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