Start-up stress hinders entrants

By Brad Shewmake, InfoWorld |  Career

The biggest reason people leave or pass up jobs at dot-com companies is that the
environment is too stressful, says Jeffrey Kaye, a psychologist at Bridgeview
Counseling Associates (BCA) in San Francisco. Many of Kaye's clients work at dot-com
companies in the San Francisco Bay area and are struggling with the immense personal
and professional commitment required to performm their jobs.

"The No. 1 problem facing dot-comers is the amount of commitment and time spent at
these start-ups at the expense of the employee's personal life," Kaye says. "People
make the sacrifice of putting the job ahead of relationships and personal health."

Young workers fresh out of college are at the greatest risk of dot-com burnout,
because they often relocate after school, leaving their support network behind and
having to adjust to a work culture lacking the social structure of a college or
university. For those who move to Silicon Valley or the San Francisco Bay area, finding
an affordable place to live is an added headache, especially because start-up salaries
are typically lower than those of more established companies.

"They're isolated from normal sources of support, struggling, seeing a good portion
of their income go to rent," Kaye says. "Their private lives get put on the back
burner."

The result for many can be severe depression and anxiety caused by stress and its
fueling factors, Kaye says. Often, the promised IPO payoff doesn't materialize, further
disillusioning workers who expected to become millionaires overnight.

"There is a great gap between expectations of those who go to work for dot-coms and
the realities they soon discover," Kaye says. "But they want to be seen as a person who
can work long hours and not seem affected. What I see is panic attacks and depression,
and that can seriously affect work performance."

The hierarchy of stress

Start-up stress is not reserved for middle management or entry-level positions.
Often these companies move at a blistering pace, on tight deadlines, with skeleton
staffs and dwindling budgets. That spells trouble meeting deadlines and launch dates,
keeping ahead of the competition, and attracting and maintaining qualified staff.

Not being able to hire and retain enough quality employees can be a tremendous
burden on any company, and the high-tech industry has a severe shortage of skilled IT
administrators and programmers to make the nuts and bolts of technology companies and
their products work.

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