I was a senior SME engineer in a well funded startup for 8 months. Delivered multiple critical features to get company through Series A as we were non-revenue generating.
CEO/CTO are both engineers/not people managers and very much ICs in terms of skillset. After COVID and move to remote, visible CTO stress levels have continued to raise as he struggls to maintain an aligned team. Additionally he works non-stop in an IC engineer capacity (including coding on the weekends).
About a month ago, he began having shows of anger at the team in public and private. In our next 1:1 he began raising his voice and acting inappropriately at me and I needed to have a heated argument with him to see this was not okay. I brought the obvious public behavior up to him (not directed at me) and he thanked me and acknowledged. Afterwards the team/public atmosphere with the team improved in however, the next 1:1 was a repeat of him raising his voice and using heavy blame based verbiage for what is menial engineering discussions.
I brought this up to the CEO, who saw some of the things I described, said we'll get through it together, times are stressful, but nothing personal. However also turns out CTO has been sharing concerns behind the scenes as of late, but nothing other than 'get more work done'. CEOs solution is just that – for everyone to get work done and that will make everyone feel better (namely CTO). Now, CTO has been having me look at highly ambiguous rushed features/critical fixes but also slightly randomizing me everyday with new critical priorities. I clearly communicate my status, blockers and focus each day in standup. CTO begins shies away in 1:1, simply listens to me, minimal responses, nods head. A week ago I directly ask the CTO if we are okay and everything is good.
Suddenly come in to being fired in my next CTO 1:1 with no emotion. Have conversation with CEO after the fact who says this was in works for about a week based on perceptions from CTO about me being defensive about feedback among other minor things. CEO was clearly uncomfortable and seemed to be scrambling for vague reasons. He self-admits they made a mistake if a written performance plan would have conveyed this.
Was given a few weeks of pay (if I sign a release) but looking at complete loss of seed equity. This hit me like train and I clearly put to much faith in leaders without track records of team building, but are experiences like this normal?