New role at a start-up is confusing.

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Q: I was recently hired by a start-up company and I am very pleased with the compensation and the benefits.  However, the company is fairly disorganized.  I am nervous about how this role will work out.  How can I make sure that it will work out?  I don’t even have a job description and I have been told by two other employees that I report to them.  Does that mean that I report to both of them?  Signed, Confused in Boston

A: Congrats on your new role!  In Massachusetts, we are seeing double-digit inflation so I am thrilled to that you have secured a job offering competitive benefits and compensation.

Start-up companies can be disorganized during the best of times.  During a pandemic, their internal systems and processes may be even more chaotic.  This doesn’t mean this is a bad company.  Early stage companies are often messy as they grow.  I view these challenges are opportunities.  If you can solve problems, create systems, develop processes, then this could be a role where you could have incredible impact.

Here is what I would do –

  1. Draft a job description for your role. If you think the label “job description” is too corporate, you can title it with the phrase “Maria’s Priorities” or something similar.  Include what you have been told about the job and what you have learned thus far.  It won’t be perfect but it will be a start.  Include questions at the bottom.  One question might be “Reports to?”  Then circulate it between your team members.  This process will likely add clarity to your reporting relationship questions and what the company expects you to focus on.
  2. Jot down examples of the disorganization that you observe. Brainstorm solutions.  Present these to your supervisor.  You may not get a “Yes, tackle that!” to all of them, but you will likely receive a response that is encouraging on some of your ideas.
  3. If you listen to others, you will begin to learn what is important to the organization.  “We need to boost sales.”  “We need to be able to better track expenses.”  “We need to find office space that is accessible.”  These will give you clues to what are priorities and what may be less important.
  4. Ask for a 30-day check-in. Share positive feedback as well as any concerns.  Share your concerns in a helpful manner so they are not viewed as complaints.  Give your employer a chance to improve or make things right.  Ideally, they are viewing your performance in the same way.  You may not be perfect (and who is?) but they should be given a shot to respond to your concerns.

Finally, today our country celebrates Labor Day.  Did you know that Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September?  The holiday celebrates the achievement and contributions of workers in our country.  Historically, many Americans celebrate the holiday with parties, cookouts, parades and other community events.   It was first celebrated in 1882 In New York City.  President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894.  Enjoy this day and remember the contributions of workers over the years!

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.

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