When Your Organization needs Organization
When you start working with an organization, hearing any of the following phrases should be a red flag:
1. Any variation of, "We've always just done things," or "we just do it," in reference to starting and completing a project.
2. "We don't use titles here."
3. "We just want you to run with it."
This should immediately tell you that the organization is in need of some organization. With no clear job titles, it's unclear as to who's in charge of what. Having an internal structure for projects will help get the job done, and get it done right. Being clear about the organization's internal hierarchy will help your team members understand 'who's in charge of who over who,' and 'who's in charge of this idea, over this other idea.'
Therefore, if you 'run' with a project idea, you may be encroaching on another team member's job without realizing it. If you 'just do it' without answering to the other members of the organization, you can send the wrong message, or do something that others don't necessarily approve of.
Oftentimes, one idea is passed along to another person, to another person, and by the time it gets to the person who is supposed to execute the idea, the message is warped. It's like an inter-office game of 'telephone,' and it just doesn't work.
This "game" won't propel the organization forward, but will hinder its growth because its members aren't communicating. When your team members don't even know their job, your organization can't function and it will stagnate. This isn't just an issue you're having with one colleague, nor is it an issue that's project-specific; this is an issue with your company as a whole, and how it functions.
If you enter into a functioning organization with the above issues, you have to ask yourself if it's really functioning, or if it's just...existing. If you joined an organization to make changes, make sure your were hired to do so - if you weren't, there's a fat chance that changes will be made any time soon.
I recently worked with an organization that served as a model for this article. When I was invited to join as the 'Manager of Marketing and Design,' I asked who did what within the organization - but I was never given a direct answer. The organization's website only mentioned one founding member, with no mention of any other members, at all, until I joined the team and redesigned the site. Though I finally added member names, I was told that no one in the organization wanted to have a job title because they wanted people to 'run with their ideas' without feeling confined.
At first, I was repeatedly told that all of the co-founders "were on the same level." Then, three months in, I was told 'we didn't tell you that one co-founder is actually the organization's President, and the other two are Vice Presidents.' Then, five months into working with the organization, I was told that I answer to the co-founders and am not on the same level with them, despite all evidence to the contrary. You can read more, here.
Confused yet? Yep - I was, too.
If an organization and its leaders aren't investing the time and energy into the company and its members, you shouldn't feel obligated to do so, either. There are many other places that would love to have you, and your skills - and at least you'll have something else on your resume when you move on!