Let's illuminate toxic behavior for what it is, to help people protect themselves against it.(No, trying to change the instigators won't work, but we can keep draining their supply.)
My theory: All the *isms people accuse'tech'(startups especially) of having are not causes, but symptoms. The deeper problem: Narcissism.
How would you describe the startup industry?
Like this, perhaps?
Nota bene: grandiose negative self-images can often be a sign of depression, not narcissism. Never, ever judge on this alone. However, depression does not make a depressed person use other people like objects.
Full of grandiose claims — e.g."disrupt the x industry,""change the world","rockstars","eating the world", claims of special insight or ability, holding themselves up as the ideal example, startups can/will do anything better, conflating temporary diversions with systematic change, etc…
fantasies: consumed with images or tableaus or mental montages of being the star of achievement or success; for some reason the startup industry has seized less on the fantasy of brilliance, wealth and admiration as Changing The World(which is itself an grandiose thing to admit to wanting to do, much less to claim you are already doing)
…the opposite of reality: typically the more grandiose, the less competent, because grandiosity is a sign of being incapable or unwilling to judge work(especially one's own work) on an absolute scale
equally grandiose, but negative: whipsaw self-image,"if my startup doesn't take over the world, I'm worthless","this idea is the best, i'm the best; it's shit, i'm shit","the world is against me","nobody can see my genius","nobody understands me"
subtly grandiose: 16-hour work days,"I'm so important I have to make every decision personally","if I can weigh in on you with my judgment, that means I am above you","only I see things how they really are","only I am brave enough to say what everyone else only dares to think","work more, cry less"
grandiose belief in their ability — did they make a successful app? well, they are now totally legitimate experts on the economy, governance, education, interpersonal relationships, and nutrition
story spinning:turning a regular story, e.g."something annoying happened to me" or"I had to shut down my business because it didn't make money" into an epic tale with heroes and villains, and of course, blame
Superficial, self-congratulatory — will take any"win" at all, as long as it looks good — e.g. pitch contests vs acquiring customers, feedback from peers on your app instead of feedback from would-be customers
perverse incentives: will aggregate the appearance of"wins" at any cost, e.g. celebrate the exact opposite of a"win," claiming that it is, in fact, a win, and that they wanted it all along and you should want it too("celebrate failure")
Exceedingly self-referential — relabeling everything as"hacking," must be rebranded for startups, citing only other startup industry members vs the broader history/world of business
Very concerned with labels — people very deliberately label themselves with the in-group by use of"hacker,""founder", etc; people with other labels are thus devalued
Focused on reinforcing image — people can"look like"(or"sound like") founders,"hackers" in regular employment are like"caged lions,""real entrepreneurs do/don't do x"
Incredibly destructive in defense of image & labels — all narcissists have is their grandiose self-image, so if you are perceived as threatening that with your words, deeds, results, or existence… prepare for war.
"a real ________": from"real men don't eat quiche" to"real feminists do/don't x" to"traits of true entrepreneurs" — real startups take funding, real founders work 16 hour days — a sign of preferring image over substance, caricatures over individuals, and also the grandiose feeling of being qualified to sit in judgment;
fetishization: turning things into symbols with power far beyond their actual relevance and/or perverting their original purpose in order to use it like a badge of identity; there's nothing wrong with using or enjoying things… but when they are used like duplo blocks to build an identity there is a problem.(related: over-personalizing, hero worship)
example: holy wars about platforms, programming languages, frameworks, business structures,"the internet" etc., all spawn what looks like insane behavior… but it's"sane"(at least, coherent) when you realize it's because those people are threatened not only by others who"attack" their their fetish objects, butalso by anyone who doesn't"like" the fetish object(or like it enough), or give it the same significance as the narcissist… because to the narcissist, it is an attack on them
example: using a personal choice like a limited wardrobe color palette, minimal belongings, tracking data about one's self, hours worked, etc., for more than just discussing the benefits or costs of those choices… to use these irrelevant details to build up an image of moral superiority and fitness to rule in a totally different realm(e.g. if you are exceedingly tidy, that gives you authority on being tidy, but not startup authority; if you have raised money, you may be good at raising money, but that doesn't qualify you to design an economic system)
Hero worshipping — heroes are seen not as people, but avatars, manifestations of the narcissist's own desired image; by worshipping heroes, the worshippers feel as if they get to take on that success themselves; ergo, if you attack a hero, you attack them; expect retribution
example: when Paul Graham writes"I am a bad speaker, ergo being good at public speaking = you must be bad at having ideas"(paraphrase)or"I can be tricked by anyone who looks like Mark Zuckerberg"(direct quote), you will find many ardent defenders of these totally illogical statements who will spin extended narratives not supported by the original text(or even its author) to explain what he"meant" or how it might"make sense"
Shockingly unaware of the larger world — due to self-involvement, disinterest in other people(objects) and history, and grandiose ideas about themselves and their choices(e.g. their chosen field, an identity proxy)… which manifests in a lot of statements/beliefs such as
"people still use x?"
"nobody pays for y"
"everybody will want z…"
"why don't you just …?"
"this has never been done before"(and yet it has, many times)
"I'm going to kill _____"
"meetings are toxic"
"management layers are worthless"
"you can't possibly mean/believe/feel that…"
Consumed by an ouroboros of its own needs — next up: an app generator for generating app generators for the local shareconomy! an app for laundry pickup! an app to collect your apps!, etc., a spiral of navelgazing is the logical extreme of"scratch an itch"(see also me-izing below)
Viewing other people as mere objects, tools, stepping stones — whether cofounders they stab in the back, employees they use & abuse, people who"aren't like them" whom they denigrate, or"users" whose best interests they violate
relationships: if people are just objects, you aren't concerned about your relationship with them, or need to spend time with them unless they are reinforcing your self-image or giving you what you want; another facet/reason for workaholism
stereotyping: if you do not see people as individuals, with differing histories, desires, feelings, skill sets, but only props in your movie… you can only see stereotypes(e.g. typecast characters, potentially identified by superficial features such as appearance or accent)
me-izing(vs otherizing): while some narcissists seem to have enough empathy to know exactly how to hurt people the most or make them believe a lie, the knowledge appears to be situational, because the same narcissists may seem to have little to no conscious knowledge of other people's actions, behaviors, beliefs, etc., they assume everyone is like them(e.g. the racist who doesn't realize his nasty jokes will not go over well in company; the manipulator who stabs you in the back"before"you stab him in the back;"you would have done the same")
para-ego defense: defending other people(props) as a proxy for defending themselves; see hero worshipping
Over-personalizing — acting as if they believe that everything must be / is about them, including everything you do, the way the world works, etc.
example: reacting to a sob story with"Shut up! I have it worse!"(it's not just a lack of empathy, but reacting as if someone else's life were an insult)
example: serious, burning"offense" at something that has nothing to do with them whatsoever, no impact on their life or friends' lives, no root in shared sentiment
Role playing: slipping into whatever role suits their mood or occasion, to get them what they want(which is the corollary to using others as tools), a fluid identity…