Terrible Employees Make Exceptional Entrepreneurs

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I once dreamed of climbing the corporate ladder. The idea of going to college for 7-10 years to earn a 6 figure salary greatly appealed to me. I thought all those years of learning, working tirelessly, and fighting my way to the top would make me into a smart, savvy, cutthroat asset for a firm.

The vision held strong until I became an employee. For years, I ran through jobs (and careers) like it was a marathon. There was no difference between quitting and being fired – if I got fired, it’s because I wanted to quit.

To clear up any confusion, I was an effective worker. It wasn’t uncommon for me to go from new-hire to management in less than six months. But, I put the businesses that I worked for in tough positions. While my effectiveness increased the bottom line, I was a consistent rule-breaker.

I don’t like admitting to failure, I try not to dwell on what I’m not good at. But the truth is I’m a terrible employee. Horrible.

entrepreneurs and employees

I wandered through different industries, different career paths, different employers — feeling like everyone else had a gene that I didn’t have. I’d meet people who worked for the same employer for 20+ years and I would stay awake at night trying to figure out… HOW!

Why couldn’t I just go with the grain like my co-workers? Why couldn’t I just complain with my friends and go back to work the next day without trying to fix their screwed up business model? Why was I so intent on finding out who the boss of my boss’ boss was and how I could contact them directly?

Everyone I knew was perfectly fine with being an employee and I was the odd man out.

I started building businesses just to have an escape from the places I worked. OK, maybe I didn’t want to escape. I craved being in control of my own future. While my head was in the sand (succeeding and failing with different business ideas), the popularity of entrepreneurship exploded! By the time I looked up, almost everyone was either:

a) an entrepreneur

b) wanted to be an entrepreneur

The Rebellious Trait

entrepreneurs are rebellious

I’ve never liked taking orders. I’ll take suggestions, I appreciate criticism and feedback, but don’t try to control me (or disrupt my workflow) because I WILL rebel against you. I can’t help it. This character flaw always got me into trouble at work. Even though it never cost me a job, it kept targets on my back.

No one wanted to see me win and for every step I took, there was someone at my ankles trying to make sure I couldn’t take another one.

Entrepreneurs make terrible employees because we don’t like being micro-managed. Tell us what to do and we’ll get it done. If you try dictating how you want tasks completed… well that’s when you’ll run into problems.

Naturally, we think of the most efficient and accurate way to complete a task. We live for that feeling of euphoria the moment we cross out an assignment or finally mark it as “Done.”

If you want to know how we did it, ask us when we’ve finished and you’ll get the play-by-play. But don’t break our pace just to ask, “What are you doing?”

It’s My Way or the Highway

entrepreneurs are stubborn. Their way or no way

The employee infrastructure is founded on the idea of placing workers in a box and never letting them out. Questions like, “why” are frowned upon in the workplace. If I ever get a just because kind of answer, I’m doing it my way.

I’ll perfect it when you’re not looking then, I’ll do it when you ARE looking. But, why? Why couldn’t I fall in line and do what I was told?

Entrepreneurs like doing what works for them – which is often in direct conflict with the methods they’ve been taught.

Have you ever hired a consultant or a crisis management specialist for your business? They don’t ask you what you want them to do, they ask you what the problem is. Then, they fix it.

I Needed Satisfaction…

satisfaction as an employee or an entrepreneur

No matter how high I climbed up the ladder, it was never high enough to satisfy me. I tried to outclimb every boss in the chain and I couldn’t. So, I’d move on to the next company and try again.

Then I realized that no matter how high I reached, someone else would always own the business. Being an employee felt a lot like being on a leash. The higher the pay grade – the more leash length I was allowed.

I felt trapped and frustrated. I didn’t want more freedom… I wanted total freedom. The freedom to make my own decisions, to set my own prices, to invent my own business model. The freedom to test out my theories, tweak them and try again.

As an employee, I never got that. So, I rebelled, I toed the line, eventually I was in HR’s office twice a month.

Entrepreneurship beckoned at me, called for me, tapped me on the shoulder and I didn’t notice.

There Was Nothing Wrong With Me

Terrible employees ..exceptional entrepreneur

For years, I beat myself up for being a quitter. My self-criticism was so loud, I couldn’t hear what I really wanted – I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to start a business. There was another way.

Back then, entrepreneurs were created from upper-class kids with wealthy parents. I never heard success stories of your average, middle-class employee quitting their job and starting a new company. I assumed new companies cost millions to start (millions I didn’t have).

But, the devastation of never finding satisfaction pushed me to start my first business with less than $1,000. Then my second business with a little more. My third business, I started with NO money at all just to see if I could do it (it thrived).

Entrepreneurship has become a “thing.” Teenagers are making millions a year pursuing their passion. The majority of millennials are experiencing the exact same feelings I felt when I floated from career to career.

If there’s one thing I learned from my failure as an employee – it made me a damn good entrepreneur.

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About the author


NiaSweetz is the founder of SipBlack- the new digital destination for innovative souls to monetize their vision. She's a diversified entrepreneur with a soft spot for ambitious individuals who desire to create a lane of their own. With extensive experience in several industries, she's committed to creating a sustainable reality out of your passion.

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  • I love this. I feel like this was very much my path as well. I genuinely believe that people who are naturally pron to entrepreneurship have a distinct tendency to be incredibly competent but HORRIBLE employees! You’re so right, that same thing that makes us horrible at working underneath others, however, is the very reason we are so good at what we do! Love your site!

    Emma Rae Thomas

  • Maya @ SingleMamaRox.com

    I can’t tell you how much I LOVED this post. I could relate every step of the way. I too ran through job after job, ruffled too many feathers, mastered efficiency while managing to piss everyone off. I’ve realized some people are just born to carve their own way. I’ve always said what makes me a great entrepreneur makes me a terrible employee. Here’s to all the amazing badass women carving their own paths! Keep up the good work!

    • I’m happy this resonated with you, Maya. Sometimes it helps to know we aren’t alone. From my experience, most entrepreneurs are born through the exact same pattern.

  • I agree with this 100%. My biggest issue and why I never fit in when I worked a 9 to 5 is because I always wanted to fix their business model and I kept trying to overdo it and make things better. Unfortunately, this is a huge turn off to employers. They like the culture of their office no matter how poor the morale or unproductive the current work model is. They don’t like disruption because although they know they aren’t getting the most out of their current model, it’s so easy to control sheep and when someone comes in messing that all up and making their co-workers believe in themselves, that person (most likely an entrepreneur) becomes a problem that they just want to weed out.

    • I agree with the “sheep” analogy, Natasha! While some people find that comforting, it’s way too hard for entrepreneurs to fit into that mold.