Thanks for this great piece, Sarah. You articulated so many things that I’ve experienced and noticed over my years in and around startups, and it’s great to see it being called to the fore for discussion. The only thing I’d add — which you did touch on — is that a lot of companies (startups and those a little older/bigger) use alcohol as a way to mask the fact that employees aren’t being treated well. Sure, you don’t get paid well and you’re expected to work 24/7 and you don’t have equity, but we throw you great parties and give you free booze all the time! This in turn is connected to a myth that startups are like families — another of my major pet peeves, because it allows employees (especially younger ones who haven’t experienced more traditional work environments) to be taken advantage of.
And, of course, the root of all of this, as you said, is that these companies haven’t clearly articulated company culture — and probably don’t even have HR teams to help with this.
Anyway, thanks again for sharing your story and starting the conversation.