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My career focus is on software development, but right now I'm working in a non-profit organization. Since it's small, I'm the only paid employee, and I'm responsible for make everything work and solve any problems that may emerge.

I got this job through my father, since he is a key member. I'm on a contract since February 2014, but I'm done some work for them since 2013. Because of this, I'm aware of what is right and what needs to be fixed.

The company hierarchy works like a government (president, vice-president, etc.). I should report everything to the president. But, there is a catch:

  1. Everyone has other jobs (including my father), so they don't always give attention to the company.
  2. The company doesn't have rules nor protocols on what have to be done or don't. My predecessors established their own rules to make it work, and when one changes, the rules changed too (I wanted to die when I understood the concept of "organization" of the previous employee).
  3. My "bosses" have slim to none computer knowledge and when I say I don't know how to do something (example: Photoshop) they don't understand, since I'm the "computer guy" (that isn't what it is on my contract, but they think like that anyway).
  4. Because of the lack of protocol, lots of paperwork get lost on the mix and when they want something and I say I don't know where it is, they get disappointed.
  5. Also related to the lack of protocol, when a member did something (a document, a payment, anything), the paper trail get lost very easy. When another member want to know about it, and I don't know since I never saw the document too, they also get disappointed.

I see these problems and recognize they can become a major issue for the company. I made a plan on what needs to change (the main goal is the prototype of a software to show, to replace thousands of Excel files), but they don't seem to care, since they are all busy with their other jobs, and they only want me to solve small problems that sometimes I am unable to solve because of the bigger problems.

What can be done in this situation?

The question Can my employer (under Brazilian labour law) require me to work outside my established working hours? is, somewhat, related.

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closed as unclear what you're asking by CMW, Jim G., RWY, jmac, Monica Cellio Mar 14 at 2:41

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Unfortunately, the Photoshop example is a common misunderstanding of what programmers know and do. –  superM Mar 12 at 10:52

4 Answers 4

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Everyone has other jobs (including my father), so they don't always give a attention to the company.

This is only a problem if they are not able to give the organization the attention it needs. Many people, like myself, work regular jobs and have positions at non-profit organizations. This is not indicative of any real problem.

The company doesn't have rules nor protocols on what have to be done or don't. My predecessors established their own rules to make it work, and when one changes, the rules changed too (I wanted to die when I understood the concept of "organization" of the previous employee).

This is a problem you can not prevent since it has already happened. All you can do is organize it and document what you have done to make it better.

My "bosses" have slim to none computer knowledge and when I say I don't know how to do something (example: Photoshop) they don't understand, since I'm the "computer guy" (that isn't what it is on my contract, but they think like that anyway).

The better response for this is, "That is not something I have done before but I can look into it and get back to you. How does Friday sound?"

Since the lack of protocol, lots of paperwork get lost on the mix and when they want something and I say I don't know where it is, they get disappointed. Also related to the lack of protocol, when a member did something (a document, a payment, anything), the paper trail get lost very easy. When another member want to know about it and I don't know since I never saw the document too, they also get disappointed.

Again the problem is your response not that you do not know. The response I would give in your situation is "I am not sure let me look into that and find out. Do you have any more information that might help me find out for you?"

The real world is not like school. The expectations are higher, and the information you need to answer the question is not always available. Your job is to figure it out. If you are not able to figure it out in a reasonable amount of time ask for help instead of giving up.

You will find in time that there are a great many companies that have seemingly critical systems that appear to be held together by duct tape and a prayer. These systems have been running and working for years and until there is a problem it often is just easier to let it go than to invest in fixing the problem.

A final thing for you to consider is that everything you are doing at the company is reflecting on your father. It is not fair, but it is the reality of the situation. You should probably try to sit down with him and talk about the problems you see and get his advice on how to go about solving them. Schedule some time with him if necessary. I suspect he can help allay some of your concerns and help you deal with some of the stress that this is obviously putting you under. But, you will need to approach that meeting with an open mind and listen to what he tells you.

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  • Don't be afraid to say "I don't know" or "That's not practical" to the scope or schedule of their technical requests,

but be sure to be polite about it. Let them know you are willing to learn, but should not be expected to know everything. You are not some Hollywood hacker who can fix all their problems from a cell phone halfway around the world, seconds before the bomb goes off. Sometimes they will still have unrealistic expectations, but the sooner you can tell them something can't be done, the sooner they can plan around it. They may still be unhappy with you, but that will shield you from most of the frustration.

  • Talk with your Dad first to make sure you understand the existing organization

, however bad it is. See if it would be effective to meet together with the people "in charge" about the lack of direction and suggest/request some changes. This will be an ongoing problem that needs to be resolved eventually if this organization will succeed. You cannot (and should not) try to take charge, but if you can get the decision-makers talking hopefully they will begin addressing issues you've raised.

  • Establish, document, and refine protocols for your job, and follow them

, whether they end up being officially sanctioned or not, and politely refer people to them when something new or unusual comes up. Incorporate everything you know about past practices (correcting them when possible). Make these available to everyone you work with to review and refer to; carry them with you if possible. Tell people "Here is my understanding of what involves, about how long it takes, and how I should approach it [without getting into technical specifics unless necessary]. Have I misunderstood the situation or will this approach work?" If they need something different, get them to explain the what and why of their requirements and add them to your list. If their requests/expectations are in conflict with something you've already documented, ask them to coordinate with you and whoever was in charge of what led to the existing protocol to compare and refine. If you can explain and justify your expectations, they will have to do the same and coordinate with their peers about joint expectations.

Do not be insubordinate or demanding in doing this - if you are, people will be upset with you for 'avoiding responsibility'. They are still in charge, and are not required to be fair or reasonable (sadly grown-up and in charge are not the same as mature or responsible). If you explain that you are trying to learn the best way to do the job, and to document it to share with your peers and/or successors, they will generally be willing to cooperate, even if they don't think in terms of 'protocol'. Most people you work with - whether above, below, or next to you in the command chain - are decent people who have no idea how your job is done (otherwise they wouldn't need you to do it), or what its limits really are, but they are probably willing to learn the general shape of it to make their own job easier. Especially managers - if you can get them to see that helping you define your job helps them know if you're doing it properly.

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I empathise with you as it is exceptionally difficult to get others to develop any sense of urgency or responsibility when a) it is not their main job and b) they are not paid for it (regardless of how well meaning the company is and how attached to its principles they are)

I would list down what you would like to see change and then offer them an ultimatum in the most non-confrontational way possible. I fully appreciate that may be difficult with family members being involved but you should try as best as you can to make it clear that you are concerned for the company's future as well as your own (ie: you are not doing this out of greed but that yo8u want to see the company do well)

You need to say that as an "employee", you should be able to clarify your job role/duties and instigate protocols. If they are employing/paying you, you should be empowered to sort things.

At the end of the day, it sounds like your heart is in the right place but (and you don't mention how old you are, I'm guessing 20s) you cannot sacrifice your career development to work in that sort of organisation

If after explaining all this to them and they still don't see it/refuse to see it, then you have to walk away.

Best of luck!

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I'm 17, by the way. –  athosbr99 Mar 11 at 16:39
    
@athosbr99 - thanks. I would say my answer still stands then, but maybe with a slightly lesser sense of urgency! –  Mike Mar 11 at 16:45
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offer them an ultimatum - there is never a good time or way to do that... –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Mar 11 at 18:08
    
@Chad - never? So "these are the things that concern me and if they won't or cannot change, then I will have to move on for the following reasons..." can NEVER be asked? –  Mike Mar 12 at 9:07
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You can ask them to and if you are going to change them... but telling them you are going to leave unless they do no you should never do that. It is immature and unprofessional. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Mar 12 at 13:53

I think you know the answer yourself already. Go. Do something that you want to do , in an environment that you want to be in. The points you highlight are all characteristic of small places. Perhaps you're more suited at this time to a large workplace where you'll also be able to see how other people do things. It's nice that you're helping your father out but there will come a point when you need to fend for yourself. Go, explore, then the answers to your questions will reveal themselves.

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is this only your opinion or you can back it up somehow? –  gnat Mar 12 at 12:54
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An answer saying "the answers to your questions will reveal themselves" is not really an answer, is it? –  enderland Mar 14 at 19:44
    
Hello and welcome to The Workplace SE. Our Q&A site put in place some back it up guidelines to help get the best answers. Can you edit your post to include references or relate this to a personal experience. Also, be sure to answer the full question. Good luck! :) –  jmort253 Mar 20 at 3:07

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