On the feeling of owning something

I’m a very passionate person. When I worked on a project where I really like the people on the team and the vision of what they want to archieve, then I put all my heart into it. Because most of the times I have worked for myself (or with my family) this has never created any problem. Now, this is not always the case if you are working on someone else company.

If you are an employee in a startup or a future founder, then you will encountered this particular situation.

I I asked you if you had to choose between 2 employees (you are the CEO/founder) exactly the same (ceteris paribus) with the only difference of how passionate they feel about your company and your vision.

Well, on a first approach we may answer that the passionate one. Who doesn’t want employees that put all their heart and soul into the company? I know I do. There is one counterintuitive problem about this, which it’s what I encountered.

A trait of being so passionate is that you feel and get as if you own the company. I still remember one of my best friends describing how he felt about the company he worked for 14 years. “I open the doors everyday at 8am, turn on the lights and set everything ready to start the day. I’m always the first there and also the last. I make sure all the lights are off and the door is locked.” This was a 200 employee company, that was part of a bigger international company with more than 14.000 employees in 140 countries. In his words, “I love this company, I own the company. This is my place.”

Let’s go back and talk about how this passion affect a small company and later on we will jump into my friend’s story. It seems like being too passionate about the company is good but it can also make the founders nervous, jealous or worried. Even if you are both conscious that you are an employee and you don’t own the company, your passion sometimes makes them feel the opposite you would think it does.

Here is an example. This founder felt the need to show her employee that she and her co-founder were the owners of the company. She mentioned it so many times that even on emails to clients she will do it. It was so obvious and unnecessary that a client would secretly contact the employee and ask why would she do that. How weird do you think this conversation was?

So, what happened here? What are the feelings and thoughts involved that make it so interesting to write about?

What do you think? Please add your comments so we can start a conversation :)