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When Your Company’s Growing, Giving Away Your Responsibilities Is A Good Thing. Here’s Why

By Glen Allison
July 11, 2019

Scaling a startup can be exciting. There’s so much to accomplish and it feels like opportunities for growth are limitless.

But there’s an aspect of growth that no one really talks about. There’s a simmering anxiety that seems to bubble up with current employees as more and more new teammates come on board and responsibilities shift. This is something we’ve experienced as Honey has grown, and something we think is important to talk about as we continue to scale. It boils down to this: for longer-tenured employees, new employees joining can feel like a loss of power and responsibility, and it can even feel like being replaced.

But here’s the reality: while this feeling is totally natural, there’s no reason to feel anxious. You aren’t being replaced and your role shifting does not signal that you’ve been devalued in the eyes of the company, or that you’re underperforming. It means that the company is adding capabilities to do more, which means that you will now be able to do more, and grow, in return. 

As it goes with startups, the smaller the company, the more hats each employee wears. By adding more people to the team, you’re actually gaining more opportunity to focus on your main hat or gaining more bandwidth to take on new projects. The arrival of experienced, talented teammates who take some work off your plate is decidedly a good thing for you as a long-time employee. Here’s why. 

When someone new and experienced comes on board, it’s an opportunity for you to find new areas of growth.  

Here’s a hypothetical: you’ve been at this company for some time, and you’ve been taking on the responsibilities of multiple roles. 

Your company hiring someone else to fill one of those roles might be disheartening at first, but the reality is that now you have more time to devote to the role that you were hired for, more time for special projects that interest you, and even more opportunities to take on bigger and better responsibilities.

Plus, your company hired this person because they’ve reached a point where they needed someone with specialized experience in that role—someone who knows the role and what it takes like the back of their hand. While you’ve no doubt displayed the ability and talent required of that role, a growing company requires more experts in specific roles.

This may feel uncomfortable at first, but the good news is, if you’re now working alongside a new hire, you’re also in an excellent position to acquire experience and expertise from that person. You can learn precisely what it takes to specialize in that role. Partnering with that new hire, in this sense, can help you garner wisdom, perspective, best practices, and critical context to help you in the future. 

However, the confidence to work yourself out of a job is an acquired taste. It’s something I’ve had to learn here at Honey. In the early days, I ran most of our people functions as COO. Yet when we hired our first HR employee, I realized how much more there was to do in the role and how many things I was neglecting because I didn’t have the time, focus, or specialized experience in the field. 

The hire, meanwhile, was a person who did, and their expertise taught me a lot about managing, building, and supporting teams. 

The arrival of a new hire is not evidence that you’ve failed. 

I could have perceived that the arrival of more employees to lead HR, for example, was a signal that I had been failing in some way as the executive sponsor of people at Honey––that the company was forced to bring on this new employee to handle this aspect of our business because I couldn’t.

Of course, that’s not why this person was hired. That’s not how we do things here at Honey. The work we do every day has simply expanded, which means we need to invest in more specialists that allow everyone to either focus on a core area of their expertise or take on a new one.   

Especially at Honey, your title means very little when it comes to your potential impact. 

At Honey, we don’t play politics. We’ll always be straightforward with employees about our goals and hopes for them. If we hire a Chief People Officer, for example, that doesn’t limit the opportunities for the people who report to them to be impactful. All it means is that we needed someone to lead the team in an official capacity, and provide mentoring and direction.  

Because of that, the best thing you can do when new folks come on board is focus on how both you and the company will benefit from their expertise and try to use whatever new resources you now have at your disposal to become even better at what you do. Because here’s another truth about rapidly growing organizations like ours: company growth begets opportunity. 

There’s no shortage of work or responsibility here. As the company continues to scale, more and more chances to have an impact will avail themselves. To worry over your title or the potential implications of a new hire will only distract you from learning, growing, and taking on more, if that’s what you want. 

Instead, it benefits everyone to appreciate growth and the new hires who come with it for what they really are: people who will not only help the company grow, but who will help you grow.