Startup Red Flags: What You Can Learn from 2021


Working at a startup has become a growing trend among Millennials and Gen-Z for the past few years. Startups often offer youth-driven dynamics and flashy perks, but there has also been a sentiment about these new businesses emphasizing too much on the hustle culture that often leads to overworking and even depression. Is it true? 

The line between enthusiasm and exploitation can be blurry at times. The thrill of coming up with ground-breaking ideas has the power to produce toxicity in high-stakes, high-pressure cultures of startups. Employees are frequently overworked and burned out when employers try to force as much productivity out of them as possible for the sake of keeping up with fellow competitors. This is why more awareness about toxicity in startups needs to be raised even more by spotting red flags within a startup. 

Either you are a jobseeker aspired to work at a startup or an entrepreneur itself, watch out for these startup red flags so you can do something about them: 


1 . Vague Job Description

When you’re searching for startup jobs on the Internet, this ‘early-warning-sign’ is one to anticipate. Startups are usually active when it comes to recruiting new talents and they often post job vacancies across platforms. Startups need a collective team spirit effort in which all hands are on deck and everyone takes on a type of broad duty to get things done. This kind of nature often results in individuals working on tasks that are outside their defined job description.

To avoid being trapped in such a situation, jobseekers should stay on the lookout for vague job descriptions. When examining a job vacancy, pay clear attention to the job description and see if it matches the job title. For example, if the vacancy is for a content writer, but the job description requires “fair to expert proficiency in graphic designing”, it may just be a red flag. If you still want to proceed and hit ‘Apply’, make sure you ask about this point during the interview and before signing the contract. This way, you can ensure that you stay in your lane of job duties once getting hired.


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2 .  The “Yes Boss” Culture

Saying yes to everything is linked to enthusiasm, a can-do attitude, and productivity. In most cases, it indicates a positive and upbeat statement. Yet, saying yes can be much different when it becomes a culture. Working at startups where the employees simply say yes to their leader’s command can be a tell-tale sign that the workforce are too passive or afraid to speak up. Everybody wants to thrive in their career, but being people-pleaser by saying “yes” to everything your employer has to say, even for the most ridiculous ones, is definitely not the healthy kind of culture to normalize. 

If you find yourself in a startup where such a culture blooms, maybe it is time to make real change. Since preventive actions may be too late to take, some repressive actions are still viable to change this culture. The first step should be to create a culture of open and productive communication. Encourage colleagues to speak out and reveal their true feelings. Truly pay attention to what they have to say and process it respectfully, even if it may be against your stance. 


3 . Little to No Boundaries

Dominated by younger generations, startup culture makes it seem to be okay with everyone sharing everything for the sake of openness and building bonds. But, what about boundaries? While being open is not necessarily a bad thing, boundaries need to be set. The blurring barriers between professional and personal life is one of the downsides of working at a startup. This has gotten so prevalent in the startup environment that it is considered the norm. See this in terms of working hours; just because a startup offers “flexible” working hours, it does not justify your boss spamming you with calls during the weekend. 

If you are in the position to change this within your startup, it is best to be a good example of how boundaries are essential. Keep in mind that working long hours does not always imply productivity or excellent performance. Set an example by clocking in and  clocking out on time every day. Emphasize the significance of workers adhering to their private life and well-being, and that they are expected to do so for their own benefit as well as the company’s.


An Effort of Campaigning the ‘Life at Startup’

If you are a job seeker, how do you spot red flags within a startup beyond what is written on the job description? Many startups are actively increasing their social media branding about how exciting it is to work with them. This campaign is usually done through a dedicated account that starts with ‘life at’ in front of the startup’s name. Some examples are Life at Gojek, Life at Blibli, Life at Lamudi, and many more. Make use of this trend to get a glimpse of a startup culture. Bear in mind that since this type of social media account is one of the means for branding, the negative sides may not be disclosed. However, it is worth appreciating that these startups try to be transparent to the public. 


Finding the Best Startups Amidst Red Flags

Now, the question: how do I find startups that are credible and well-curated? The answer lies exactly in this page. Startup Jobs Asia understands the difficulties that startups encounter in acquiring talent, both in Singapore and across Asia. StartUp Jobs Asia curates the best startups there are for job-seekers and provides top talents for startups to employ. Take charge of your recruiting process by registering with Startup Jobs Asia and advertise your job openings. As a talent, you can click here to start viewing job openings from Asia’s newest startups and submit your CV to land the best job in startups with little chance of red flags!


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