how do I talk with my incompetent boss about his ridiculously inaccurate organizational chart?

A reader writes:

My boss, the executive director of a small nonprofit, is grossly incompetent. I won’t go into detail, but please trust that I have it on good authority (friends, colleagues, peers, veteran HR professionals outside of the organization – two of them!) that I am right and he’s completely out of his depth.

In January, I asked for an organizational chart for our small org of four people – my boss, his assistant, me, and a colleague in a parallel position to mine. I wanted to understand the organization’s reporting structure, promotion lines, and how my work intersects with my colleagues.

The latter colleague I mentioned was fired and not replaced, so we’re down to three people, my boss included. Five months after I asked for an organizational chart, we were presented with one. It has 15 positions on it, and my boss is the only person whose job is on the chart. My position and his assistant’s aren’t on it! When we asked why, we were told that we would meet with him one-on-one the following week to discuss. Well, he’s postponed those meetings for three weeks. I know for certain that this isn’t some weird roundabout way to fire us because of everything I’m solely responsible for. It’s more likely that I’m about to be promoted and he’s terribly botching the roll-out.

The chart has more issues than I have time to identify, but in a nutshell, it’s unequitable and nonsensical. It demonstrates with no uncertainty that my boss isn’t qualified to do his job. We have been debating my position, title, and compensation ever since I was hired and immediately realized that I was expected to do the work of three people until he got around to hiring “help” for me. And while my current position isn’t on this org chart, there are indeed three positions on there that describe what I do. My boss has been saying “help is on the way” for the last 10 months since I was hired, but it’s taken him five of them to create an aspirational org chart that was not accompanied by any kind of plan for implementation, so I frankly don’t believe him.

While I am waiting for the meeting about my role, I am becoming more certain that nothing good is going to come from it, and anytime I try to talk to my boss about my position or the fact that I can’t sustain the work of three people, he berates me. I don’t want to continue having this conversation with him in secret. We have no HR, and he made it clear that transparency with my colleague is not an option when I talked about my position in front of her and he told me not to put ideas in her head. I don’t know any board members, and they get all their information from him anyway. Is there some way I can ask to have this meeting witnessed or mediated by an impartial third party? Where would I find someone like that?

Is there any use in trying to provide feedback about how terrible this organizational chart is? My boss is sexist and doesn’t believe that I am knowledgeable about this, but maybe he would believe an “expert?!”

Sometimes when you are in a highly dysfunctional situation, it’s easy for one specific thing to become the focal point for all your outrage, even if that one specific thing isn’t the most egregious thing you’re facing.

I think that’s happening here.

The org chart … doesn’t really matter.

Don’t get me wrong, your boss’s chart sounds ridiculous. But it doesn’t really matter, given the situation you’ve described.

It might feel like it’s very important because of what it represents — your boss’s apparent inability to understand organizational basics like what positions exist, whose role is what, and even how many people the organization employs. Those things matter very much.

But those deficiencies in your boss will exist no matter what the org chart says.

Is it ludicrous that your boss produced an org chart listing 15 positions in an organization of three people, and where two of those three people aren’t listed at all and where there is apparently no plan to fund and hire for those other 12 positions, and that it took him five months to create it? Yes! It is.

But it’s not anywhere near your biggest problem. Your biggest problem is that you are working for a tiny organization led by a grossly incompetent manager (tiny matters here because it means that his incompetence is going to deeply affect every aspect of how things operate). Your second biggest problem is that you are facing an unrealistically high workload for which you’ve seen you will get no help. There are undoubtedly other huge problems that stem from your boss’s gross incompetence as well.

So it doesn’t make sense to focus your energy on the org chart. Even if he produced a beautifully accurate and detailed org chart tomorrow, it wouldn’t change anything. All your big problems would remain.

The incompetence and overwork is what matters. You don’t need a meeting about your role or the chart, or a witness or mediator for that meeting. That would be like putting a lot of energy into finding a perfectly sized bandage for a small cut on your foot when your entire leg is on fire.

You will only solve this by leaving.

{ 195 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Deviant*

    I immediately thought that the best thing for you to do is leave, when I read this.
    It sounds bananas here and the longer you stay the more you’ll get stressed out.

      1. AmandaPanda*

        Indeed! It sounds miserable and I don’t even work there. There are plenty of opportunities out there and they should be looking to leave, not trying to fix the problem. The leader is the problem and they obviously are not going anywhere.

    1. Heffalump*

      At least it sounds as if the LW isn’t new to the workforce and realizes that this state of affairs isn’t normal.

      You can’t fix stupid.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I also noticed that the LW didn’t list a single good thing about working there. The pay apparently isn’t good if they’re constantly debating it. The culture sounds pretty dismal.

      I can’t think of any reason why they w want to stay. It’s a non-profit so maybe the mission is very important to them. But that’s just not enough at this point.

  2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP, this is a classic example of “your boss sucks and won’t change”. Please leave while the hiring environment favors job-seekers.

    1. Velawciraptor*

      A “Your boss sucks and won’t change” tag would be excellent for organizing letters like this.

      1. Abogado Avocado*

        x 100!

        OP, get a new job. If you then still have the urge to try to “fix” this situation, outline the issues in a letter that you send to the Board after you leave. Yes, you will burn the bridge with your boss, but your boss is so disorganized that he may be unwilling or unable to give you a good reference anyway.

      2. merida*

        I was also thinking the “wait, what!?” might apply as well. Just a lot of nope.

    2. Lizard on a Chair*


      The boss is incompetent, sexist, and berates OP?! I can’t imagine that a non-profit organization this poorly managed and understaffed is a responsible steward of its funds or is having the impact it could/should, either. There are many good reasons to leave, and seemingly no reasons to stay. OP, don’t keep putting your energy into 1) trying to do the work of 3 people, 2) trying to improve your position, 3) making your boss see reason. Redirect all your efforts to GETTING OUT OF THERE.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. You have a job. You are getting paid, so start devoting as much time as possible to finding a better position while the jobs climate favors job seekers and you don’t have to jump until you find the right thing.

      And start prioritizing and doing what you can in the work day and don’t expect anything from the incompetent manager. There is no hope for things getting better in a 3 person shop run by a doofus.

  3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Exactly. An organization of 4 people doesn’t NEED an org chart.

    Your boss is doing business LARPing, instead of actually doing business.

    1. MsM*

      Exactly. The mere fact there are three of you and it’s still somehow impossible to figure out who’s supposed to be doing what is not a problem an org chart can solve.

    2. Antilles*

      The fact OP wants an org chart and reporting structure for a four-person organization is incredible. It’s four three people!
      Your entire reporting structure is likely “ED is in charge, other two report to ED”, your org chart should be simple enough to sketch out in the air with your hands, and your delegation of duties could be handled with just regular communication and chats about who’s doing what.

      1. Lab Boss*

        My immediate thought was that the workplace sounds chaotic with jobs that are ill-defined, and OP latched onto the idea that the creation of an org chart would somehow make it all make sense, forcing the ED to either clarify all the confusion or to realize how untenable the workloads were and hire more people.

        1. EPLawyer*

          THANK YOU. I could not figure out WHY one would need an org chart with only 4 or 3 people. It’s like, ummm, we know who everybody reports to and what they are SUPPOSED to be doing.

          1. Your Local Password Resetter*

            Or rather they should know that, but the org is so dysfunctional that even something this simple is still a confusing mess.

          2. Lizard on a Chair*

            Yes, this confused me, too. Job descriptions could be useful, but an org chart? The reporting lines should be pretty clear! Also, the org chart that Boss eventually produced had 15 positions on it…that just makes no sense at all. I think Alison is spot on that OP has latched onto the org chart as the magic fix, but they really should zoom out and look at the big picture: this organization is an unfixable disaster.

          3. tamarack and fireweed*

            From what the LW doesn’t say explicitly, the org chart’s purpose appears to be to represent what the org is intended to look like *fully staffed*, and to nail down the director regarding a commitment to staff them.

            1. Always a Corncob*

              Having worked at several non-profits, some more functional than others…this is never gonna happen. (And it’s not clear that it would be desirable. Does the org even want this level of growth? More staff should mean more services provided, when you’re talking about going from 3 to 15 people.) Regardless, it’s almost definitely not achievable from a fundraising or programmatic perspective with an incompetent ED and checked-out board.

              1. tamarack and fireweed*

                Oh, absolutely. I only meant to address why a 4-person org might have an org chart (with, like 7 positions on it).

          1. Lab Boss*

            It sounds from the letter like the org chart contained at least some info about duties, not just reporting structure- but yeah, in a normal org job descriptions would help. In this org I doubt it, the ED has shown that the OP would either get something so sloppy it was useless or something aspirational instead of accurate (or just nothing at all).

      2. TechWorker*

        Yea I think also the idea of having ‘promotion lines’ in a 3/4 person company is… well… probably not really a thing, even in a well run tiny company. Your boss should be able to tell you what you would need to do to get a raise or a different title; but sometimes the answer will be that there *is* no room for promotion in such a small company unless someone leaves, or the organisation expands.

      3. Smithy*

        As a caveat – the smallest nonprofit I ever worked for had 40 people….so while I don’t have experience at this kind of small…..

        I’m so curious about their fundraising. Going from 3/4 paid staff to 15 sounds like a massive increase in costs in my mind. And while having ambitions of being bigger than you have the money to be is a fairly classic nonprofit trope – one that’s talked about less is having the money to hire that staff but being unable to stop tripping over your own two feet and hire them.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          3-4 paid staff to 15 is a completely different type of company. Stuff doesn’t just scale up linearly.

          At the moment, OP works for a company with a two-tier pyramid – BadBoss at the top, and the other two underneath. To scale to 15, they likely need to add a tier or even two. That means working in a totally different way.

          1. Smithy*

            From a corporate org sense – 100%

            From a nonprofit standpoint….having the money to pay for 15 salaries and only having 3 people on staff is breed of mismanagement unique to nonprofits. It can imply a few different versions of bad, but they all still pave a route to “please just leave”.

      4. Wrath of Cannes*

        Honestly, it sounds a lot like the OP asked for an org chart as an exercise in how inept the boss is. Gues what? It worked. Time to look for another job.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      I worked for a nonprofit with 5 full time staff members, and only discovered at my first performance review that I reported to both the CEO and a more senior colleague, not just to the CEO. Until that meeting I’d been kind of annoyed at the random admin work my colleague would sometimes give me, but I did it because I was junior staff. An org chart would have been helpful!

    4. Carol the happy elf*

      Actually, a small org with overlap needs something like an org chart, but it can look like a family chore chart. Janey does these three things, Mikey does those three things. They switch off weekly cleaning the bathrooms, and doing laundry and dishes. Dad mows the lawns until kids can do it safely. Mom does the windows and rain gutters.
      The extra things that need doing can have bids and extra allowance. (Need doing, but overtime or bonuses if the nonprofit is as screwed up as many little ones are- and try to put people on salary to wring them dry and underpay them….)
      I have worked for 3 nonprofits, 2 were small and local, and one was excellent, run by a businessman with decades od success.
      The other one was run by an idiot with two hearts–and no brain. He went through people like crazy.

      1. Cj*

        What you’re describing our job descriptions, not the type of org chart the OP seems to have been requesting. It seems pretty obvious that they all report to the executive director. I mean, the fact that the OP isn’t going to report be reporting to the ED’s assistant is pretty obvious. And his assistant isn’t going to be reporting the OP because she is the ED’s assistant, not the OP’s

        I’m not sure what kind of promotional opportunities would exist in a three person organization. The only way that would happen as if more people were hired and they became direct reports of the OP. And maybe that’s what the ED was trying to do with his aspirational org chart. But she has seen that help is not on the way, and this is unlikely to happen.

  4. Anon for this*

    The organization has no promotion lines. There is the boss, and there are the people stuck working for the boss. I highly recommend getting out as quickly as possible, because what is the point of being “promoted” when nothing changes in practice?

    1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

      I was surprised when my 60 person organization came out with promotion lines.
      Usually at small organizations, it’s not worth the effort of figuring out what might be needed for some hypothetical employee to get promoted. Instead you just discuss with each individual, actual employee where they want to go with their job/career and what they need to do to get there.

      1. Moonlight*

        I think it can have a clearly established set of needs though (or whatever the correct business sounding jargon is). It has always been one of my struggles working at a small org is that there is no clear path. I could just develop myself and take training in A B and C areas but what if behind the scenes the org rally needs A D and G areas? It leaves me trying to figure out how to ingratiate myself, whereas if I know that, say, in order to fill this position they want to create or replace my boss should they leave that I shoplifting focus development on certain things that’s helpful. Maybe I’m way off base though; I’ve never worked anywhere that’ll take my career growth into mind when creating new positions or whatever the case might be.

    2. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Yeah, this is kind of where my mind went. In an organization of this size, my experience is, there isn’t really a lot of promotion opportunities, very little importance in titles, and job descriptions are just vague guidelines that can change at any time. If you want to hound the boss about something, hound him about that “help” that needs to be forthcoming.

      A lot of the comments are saying just get out but truthfully, if you think there is potential at this company, I think the trick here is to study the boss and figure out how to get what you need out of him. You need help for the workload.
      *If he is incompetent because he is feeling overwhelmed himself, perhaps you can offer to put the notice out and review resumes that come in and forward the best three candidates to him. It would take work off his plate, and you can ensure the skills you really need help with are being screened for.
      *If he is incompetent because he is miserly and just dragging his feet so he doesn’t have to spend the money, let a few things fall through the cracks to highlight that he is actually costing the company more money by not hiring.
      *If he is incompetent because he gets stuck in the weeds, structure your argument to highlight the big picture not the details, or break action items down and go at him one at a time rather than bombarding him at once with several things or assuming he can break the big picture down into manageable items.
      *If he is incompetent because he is a sexist blow hard good at schmoozing the board, yes, it’s probably better to get out, he is not going to change.

      1. hamsterpants*

        I’ve had a truly incompetent boss before. Someone who takes five months to make such an inexplicable chart qualifies. While you sometimes can develop systems to work around aspects of the incompetence, at the end of the day you’re still reporting to someone incompetent who will find creative ways to obliviously destroy any good you could create. Terrible for your career and terrible for your soul.

        1. My Useless 2 Cents*

          Eh, my grandboss is fairly incompetent. He is not a bad guy, just a big picture/schmoozer who can’t wrap his head around the minutiae of day to day work (although he thinks he does). But that is actually the kind of person the company needs at his level. The key to getting things done is to not break things down for him and “let” him deal with the direction of the company. While those under him are the type who get things done (my boss level). The biggest problems always occur when he tries to get into the details or he takes charge of hiring (doesn’t understand the details, doesn’t know what to look for to hire).
          Now, my boss is incredibly smart and competent in 85% of the job but has difficulty understanding this about grandboss. She knows he’s a big picture guy but thinks she can persuade him by pointing out the details, which he then glosses over. As a result is the least effective manager at her level.

  5. MusicWithRocksIn*

    I *know* that this wasn’t written by my very good friend who text bitches about her incompetent organization and terrible boss every day, but it hit me in the exact same nerve cluster those texts have left extra sensitive. OP, nothing is ever ever going to get better and you will never be happy at this job – just find a new one! It is a great time to look, so put all your extra energy there. You probably have a really good friend who’s gonna be so deeply grateful when she doesn’t have to hear about your terrible job any more.

    1. Tirving*

      Exactly!! OP Spending all this energy grousing about needing an organization chart for 3 people , one of whom is the boss, is sure to be consumed by her dissatisfaction with her job .

    2. Marie*

      I feel like my whole social circle and family got together and wrote this comment. Very well said.

  6. Sally*

    LW, it sounds like you’re the only person keeping this org afloat, so I’m hoping you won’t have a lot of difficulty getting a new job that has defined roles, a reasonable workload, great colleagues, and good pay. I think you should start searching for that job today!

    1. Ama*

      Also just to add, if you *are* keeping the org afloat, don’t let that hold you back from leaving. Let it fail if the ED can’t get it together. The money that’s being used to keep it afloat would be better spent on a competent organization that works in the same area (even if this is a private foundation it seems like it would be better to let it fail and start over again from scratch).

      Those of us who work in nonprofits can easily fall into the trap of thinking we “have” to stay to save a dysfunctional or severely understaffed organization/department/program, but if the ED isn’t going to pull it together (and whoever is providing the money hasn’t noticed or doesn’t care), there’s very little you can actually do here.

      1. Anonym*

        Yes, I have trouble imagining that the org itself is serving its mission effectively with this kind of person in charge, no matter OP and their colleague’s best efforts. Take your talents to an organization that’s actually effective, OP! You’ll make more of a impact on the world there.

  7. Cambridge Comma*

    I think this might be the prelude to something that happened to me with one boss — you will be told you are managing coworker and coworker will be told she is managing you.
    Either way, I hope you’re already applying for other things.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      How… was this supposed to work? Like, did the boss think that you’d both get your egos stroked and there would be no fall-out from this?
      I think this comment just broke my brain.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        It solved a small immediate problem by creating a much bigger future problem, which was basically his way of life.

        1. Jason Mendoza*

          “I’m telling you, Molotov cocktails work. Any time I had a problem, and I threw a Molotov cocktail, boom! Right away, I had a different problem.”

    2. Anonym*

      That is… a new one. What in the world was the boss trying to do with that? Make you each feel like you got a promotion? Wild. Or rather, wildly stupid. Glad you’re out of there!

    3. Alan*

      This happened to me many years ago. I think our boss enjoyed pitting people against each other honestly. It finally reached a head when one of us (don’t remember which) said “Rick told me that I need to direct you!” and the other person said “Well, Rick told *me* that I’m in charge!” We went to Rick and as I recall he just kind of smirked. He was a glassbowl who eventually got removed from his position, but not until after the other person and I had already quit.

  8. Elle*

    I’ve worked for that type of small non profit with a terrible ED. In some ways it was great because I boosted my resume with all the Program Management I got to take on. Way more then past jobs. But overall it sucked because of all the dysfunction. I took all that experience to land increasingly better jobs with great benefits and pay. My advice to you is to leave ASAP.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      The advantages of non-profits like this are:

      (1) As you say, you can get a lot of high-level experience in a hurry.
      (2) Non-profits have reputations. When you start looking for a job, in many cases you won’t even have to explain why you’re looking to leave—people will know.

      1. cardigarden*

        Literally the second point. Worked at a toxic, dysfunctional nonprofit in a market known for nonprofits and everyone I interviewed with knew exactly why I was leaving.

        1. Elle*

          But that didn’t prevent me from getting another job. They got it and appreciated my experience.

          1. cardigarden*

            Same. The interview benefit for me came as a “yep, say no more about why you’re leaving X.”

      2. OyHiOh*

        (1) has been so very much the case for me. Did two years with a small, chaotic organization, doing a lot of higher level work than my resume would otherwise allow. Have just been hired at a new org who are rightly impressed with the high level work I did, and hired me at a rate slightly more than double my current salary. I start in 10 days and cannot wait.

  9. Nonprofit Board Member*

    If the organization has a competent board they should be able to to discuss the staffing needs of the organization with the employees. But if there are only 3 employees and the president of the board has not been introduced to all of them… that is not great in my opinion.

    1. cardigarden*

      Do they even have a board though? Someone upthread said it felt like org president was LARPing business (which it does), and I wouldn’t be surprised if this dude didn’t think a board was relevant or necessary.

      1. Two Dog Night*

        I’m pretty sure that if they’re registered as a 501(c)(3), they’re legally required to have a board. In a lot of states, it could be a really tiny board, and they might not do anything, but they have to exist.

          1. Observer*

            Are you a registered 501(c)3? Do you have any other IRS status? Registration with the State you are in?

            Those things affect whether you need a board.

      2. MEH Squared*

        They do. The OP mentioned that they don’t know the board members, who get their information from the boss, anyway. I’m not sure if the OP will benefit from talking to them; I think the OP should just get out.

    2. Nonprofit survivor*

      Yes in HEARTS, CLUBS AND SPADES. Nonprofits are required to have boards of directors, who literally own the organization on behalf of the community. (And if it’s NOT organized as a 501c3 on its own, the nonprofit will likely be under the fiscal sponsorship of ANOTHER nonprofit, which WILL have a board.)

      Step One is leave.

      But Step 1A is ensure the board is looped in.

  10. MK*

    “In January, I asked for an organizational chart for our small org of four people – my boss, his assistant, me, and a colleague in a parallel position to mine. I wanted to understand the organization’s reporting structure, promotion lines, and how my work intersects with my colleagues.”

    Frankly, OP, an org chart for an entity with four workers doesn’t make any sense. It’s pretty self evident that your boss was at the top of your tiny hierarchy, his assistant’s job is to, well, assist him, and you and the other employee were to do most of the work. I suspect that you were trying to define your own job duties (a much more logical question), so that you could rein in your unmanageable workload, but… it didn’t work. I say this kindly, stop trying to apply strategies that might work in larger, established companies and with saner managers and start job searching. In the meantime, don’t kill yourself trying to do the work of three people.

    1. BRR*

      I was confused about asking for an org chart for 4 people but I would agree with your suspicion. Ultimately the LW is going to have to look for a new job but I would suggest they don’t get bogged down in the org chart. An org chart on its own doesn’t usually do all the things you were hoping it’d explain anyways.

      Don’t spend your time and energy trying to fix this job, your boss, or the org chart; you’ll just end up more frustrated and nothing will have changed.

    2. londonedit*

      Yep…I thought as I was reading it that the OP already knows the structure. You’ve got the boss, OP and colleague, and an assistant who works for the boss. And now there isn’t even a colleague – it’s the OP doing all the work, the boss, and the boss’s assistant. What job does the OP want or expect to be promoted into? If no one else is going to be hired, all the OP will likely end up with is a slightly better job title and just as much work as they have now. The boss is incompetent and the whole thing sounds like a mess – the best thing to do would be to look for a job somewhere functional.

    3. Prefer my pets*

      I agree…I was so confused by why you would even write an org chart for this. There’s 4 (now 3 boxes), draw lines from the small boxes to the single big box. Done.

      Job descriptions? Sure that would make sense and is always worth revisisting periodically, particularly in small organizations where duties have a tendency to evolve and shift around based on the skills/interests of people in the roles at a given time.

      If you are obsessing over an org chart when you can count employees on one hand, it is way past time to move on.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, I totally understand why OP would want clarity on job descriptions, roles and responsibilities, and opportunities for career growth. But I don’t think an org chart per se addresses any of that – I think of an org chart as literally just outlining who reports to who. If there was some confusion about whether OP and her departed colleague both reported to the boss or one reported to the other, maybe that would be resolved by an org chart?

      2. goducks*

        If I had to guess, the LW is finding that the assistant is trying to assert authority over her, and she wants it spelled out that the assistant has no authority over her.

    4. Kate*

      It’s such an odd thing to ask for that I’m almost sympathetic to the boss (though I can believe he’s not good in other ways). If someone kept badgering me for months for an org chart for a 3 person company I think I might just make something up, or assume I’d misunderstood what one was and list out all the areas of business.

      1. Observer*

        If the boss had an idea of what he is going the OP would not have been “badgering him for months”, though. Because either he would have pulled something together in about 10 minutes or ask the OP what exactly they wanted.

        Instead the made up something that’s totally untethered from reality – it doesn’t actually list all of the areas of business the org is in.

  11. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, you can be righter than right all day long, about all the things, and that is not going to penetrate your dysfunctional boss and dysfunctional organization. If you want to not deal with this ridiculousness, it’s going to be by going to a different workplace.

  12. Amber Rose*

    By your words your boss is grossly incompetent, sexist, and unqualified. What exactly do you think fixing the org chart is going to change about that?

    To borrow some applicable dating advice, honey you can’t fix him. DTMFA.

  13. Kevin*

    “We have been debating my position, title, and compensation ever since I was hired and immediately realized that I was expected to do the work of three people until he got around to hiring “help” for me.”

    This is a giant red flag. Walk away.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      Yeah, this is “quit the second week and leave it off your resume” territory. Let me say this louder. Ahem.
      YOU SHOULD NEVER BE DEBATING COMPENSATION FOR A JOB YOU ALREADY HAVE. Compensation is negotiated, you accept the job, you get the compensation for doing the job.

      1. Snarktini*

        I had a different interpretation — I assume she knows what her compensation is and is being paid per hiring agreement, she just disagrees what she should be paid and is trying to get a raise due to the many responsibilities.

    2. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

      If OP is wearing 3 “hats,” that’s totally normal and expected at a tiny organization.
      If OP is working 120 hours per week, they should stop working so much and only work 40 hours on whatever is the highest priorities.

    3. Liz T*

      This is beyond a red flag. A red flag is something small that warns of danger ahead. THIS IS THE DANGER THAT RED FLAGS WARN US ABOUT. LEAVE THIS JOB.

  14. Falling Diphthong*

    I really hope someone comes up with a scenario in which an org chart 5 times the size of the organization, not including most of the roles of the people who currently work there, makes perfect sense. Maybe it’s a CIA cover business?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I recommend the book Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene. MI6 instead of the CIA, and very funny!

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        In the US, 15+ employees puts it at the threshold for certain anti-discrimination laws, so now I’m imagining some kind of comedic bureaucracy thriller where some EEOC investigator starts trying to scope out this place for ADA/etc. violations and finds something much weirder.

    2. BRR*

      I can’t stop thinking about the org chart. Maybe because the answer to this letter is unfortunately simple, the LW needs to leave. Like why would there be an org chart for 3/4 people? Were the 15 positions what the boss hopes the organization will grow to or was it old? Why weren’t the two current employees’ positions on it? Why doesn’t the boss have a quick answer for why they weren’t on it?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I somewhat suspect that the LW is aware that the whole situation is chaos and her first thought was that an org chart would help sort it out. That kind of lunacy creep that you get when you work in a dysfunctional job for too long.

        Only it won’t, even if it were done in a manner that made sense.

      2. Snarktini*

        My best guess is the 15 “positions” were really areas of responsibility — like there is Finance, and under that is Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and Purchasing. But all that is being handled by one person now.

        1. Decidedly Me*

          Yea, that was my thought, as well. It was based on responsibilities, not specific roles, so a single person would sit in more than one of those seats.

    3. blu*

      I was curious if boss was showing what he would like the org to expand to. I would honestly be confused if someone asked me for an org chart for a three person org.

      1. Rain's Small Hands*

        I had a boss who did this. We were drowning, we didn’t have the staff – and she gave me a director – but no staff (I was supposed to have been hired in as a manager – but had no staff as they laid off the staff the first week I got there.) Then came up with an org chart for some future state which was three times as big as the organization pre-layoff. She was interested in justifying a move to a VP position via headcount, not accomplishments. I put in a year and left.

    4. Antilles*

      I would assume CIA cover businesses are better organized than this – the goal is to look legitimate enough to fly under the radar, not to be so weird that it makes people more curious / suspicious.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        “I would assume CIA cover businesses are better organized than this”

        I wouldn’t. As Robert Parker’s character Hawk said, “Them guys could fuck up a beach party.”

    5. Guacamole Bob*

      I think this kind of thing sometimes happens with grant applications – here’s the org chart we’d like to have if we’re able to launch XYZ initiative with this funding etc.

      Which does not make it any less dysfunctional in this context.

    6. Spooky All Year*

      Oh my god, OP works for Sergeant Shadwell. Were there any names listed, say, Private Milkbottle? He may be planning to show it to his sponsors…

    7. To answer...*

      Not exactly this scenario, but, I work for a private foundation that funds other NPOs. We have a HUGE amount of federal/state/private funding coming in over the next 3+ years ($40+m/y), primarily to fund 10 other NPOs.

      To receive this $$, the other orgs. have to “staff up” certain positions we are requiring them to have. So some of those NPOs are really growing from 2-2.5 staff people to more like 5-10 depending upon structure + size.

      I could see if a person was just hired in to one of these orgs., they may not have the full story or understand why it’s taking so long for the other staff to arrive (yes, lots of deliverables are due before the full funding takes place, and yes, we realize that sucks and is stretching a lot of our grantees pretty thin as we ramp-up to full implementation).

      I’ll just say it’s not entirely unheard of.

      My experience aside, OP’s situation sounds like one that they need to leave ASAP.

  15. Bernice Clifton*

    I completely agree with Alison. LW, in a functional org, an official Org Chart would clarify reporting structures, responsibilities, and promotion opportunities. But even if you boss made one that reflected the reality of who is doing what, he won’t follow it or use it as an impetus to hire more people.

    You are trying to find people to empty the ashtrays on the Titanic by focusing on the org chart.

  16. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    There’s a lot going on here, but I want to focus for a second on this:!%E2%80%9D

    Your boss is sexist. I assume that you are / are perceived as a woman. You already know he doesn’t listen to you. Even if you magically manage to get him to be competent at his job (which would take a miracle), he’s still going to be a sexist who doesn’t respect your expertise.

    What’s holding you back from kicking yourself free from this House of Bees?

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Sorry if the attempt to link to part of your letter didn’t work. I was referring to this bit:
      Is there any use in trying to provide feedback about how terrible this organizational chart is? My boss is sexist and doesn’t believe that I am knowledgeable about this, but maybe he would believe an “expert?!”

      1. Person from the Resume*

        It worked for me. Fairly neat to highlight the part of the letter.

        But you can use the html blockquote tag to copy part of the letter into your response. I personally am found of doing it that way.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Thanks for the suggestion! I’ve seen other commenters do it and wasn’t sure how. Thought this might be it. Thanks for teaching me something new.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, I’m kind of surprised Alison didn’t mention it in her response, but this really stood out to me as well. Not even that he’s sexist, but that he doesn’t listen to you. That’s a terrible red flag, OP. Hope you find a new job soon!

  17. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    I’ve done this thing where when stuck in a situation that is patently unworkable/impossible to fix where I’ll hyperfocus on one thing that’s gone wrong and decide that if that can be sorted then the other issues will get fixed too.

    It rarely works.

    The org chart isn’t going to be sorted, the boss is going to remain a messy sexist and the company will remain understaffed. There’s sadly nothing you or anyone else can do to fix the place into a functioning environment. Only the boss can.

    However, I strongly suspect he won’t do anything until the last minute when all of you have left for better jobs and the place is closing down. But by then it’s not your concern.

  18. Dust Bunny*

    This guy is some combination of incompetent and delusional. Start job hunting. You never have a future at a place this dysfunctional.

  19. Jmac*

    OP is so missing the forest for the trees. This boss is toxic and you will never be happy working here from the sounds of it, the org chart is a completely inconsequential thing. Better to cut your losses and move on

    1. Elan Morin Tedronai*

      I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you sound slightly judgmental… Sometimes when you’re in a truly terrible environment you just focus on keeping your head down and getting through one day at a time. This makes you miss bigger-picture things that don’t directly affect you because you just don’t have the time or energy to even notice them, let alone deal with them.
      Yes, you may guess how I know…

  20. kiki*

    You will only solve this by leaving.

    Yes. I haven’t experienced something exactly like this monstrosity of an org chart, but I have worked somewhere fundamentally mismanaged. I thought I could fix it; I burnt myself out instead. I think Alison is spot-on that this org chart has become a symbol of your boss’s incompetence more than it is actually the most relevant issue you face. Take this five-month boondoggle org chart as a sign to leave rather than something that you must get your boss to address competently.

  21. Jean*

    I am not being hyperbolic when I say that continuing to work for this person will torpedo your career. Get out now.

  22. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    Agree with everything Alison said, and also wonder if going to the board is as impossible as LW thinks. She apparently has enough friends and colleagues who are knowledgeable about the situation to say Boss is a fool that it seems like at least one of them would know someone on the board.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I think the problem with going to the board is, even after the LW identifies the board members and gets in touch with them, what will they do to improve the situation?

      Stage an intervention with the ED? Even if the board members are willing to take this on, will the ED magically transform into a competent manager? I doubt it.

      Remove the ED and then … find another one or dissolve the non-profit? Is the board willing to go through the hiring process?

      Unfortunately, I think the most likely scenario is that the board will listen to the LW, perhaps make some sympathetic noises, and then nothing will change and the non-profit will continue being just as dysfunctional as it is now.

      1. Thethuthinnang*

        Just had to recognize your username by saying: this nonprofit is zorn, and OP needs to leave before she goes totally tharn. ;)

  23. Kimmy Schmidt*

    The Iranian yogurt is not the issue!

    I feel like the bizarre org chart is just one tiny indicator that your boss is ineffectual and this workplace ain’t it.

    1. A lawyer*

      I ran here to say this, I hope this becomes a widespread meme/saying because it perfectly illustrates this situation where you get so hyperfocused on one problem that you don’t see the big giant problem lurking over you.

  24. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

    OP, there is one advantage to having this fantasy org chart: it helps you structure your resume and cover letter by clarifying all the roles you’ve been filling.

  25. Denaranja*

    Ohhh OP you need to leave ASAP. Tiny companies will mostly never work out for people. Reminds me of my friend who worked for a small nonprofit, and the ED was a legit psycho.

    She left, had a come to jesus moment with the person who did her exit interview, and after MANY people also leaving because of him, he’s still in charge. She wrote a professional yet harsh reality review on glassdoor, and he comes in and writes 3 positive ones. She wrote another negative one, calling him out for adding positive reviews, and he again writes some more positive ones. She can tell they’re all written by him bc 1) no one and I mean NO ONE likes working there and 2) they sound like him

    Leave asap, and never work for a tiny organization again.

    1. Trawna*

      Oh, ya. I learned this the hard way back in my 20s. Forty years on, that boss is still my stress dream.

  26. idwtpaun*

    OP, please listen to Alison. Reading your letter as an outside was a bewildering experience. It reminded me of a scene in a play I’ve seen: an organization is facing a crisis amid which the man in charge begins to crawl on the floor to look for a button he lost. When asked why, he says he can’t do anything about the crisis, but he can find the button, so that’s what he’s doing.

    You’re looking for a button on the floor of a sinking ship. Run.

      1. idwtpaun*

        It’s a Russian play called Radio Day, a comedy about one evening/nighttime shift at a radio station, during which their original plans for a charity drive fall through and their made up new cause spirals out of their control.

        1. WFH with Cat*

          That’s something I really want to read but Googling the play title isn’t really getting me to it. Do you know the author’s name?

          1. idwtpaun*

            I’m sorry, I don’t think Den’ Radio (День Радио) is available as a text, not even in Russian, at least not that I could find after a cursory search. It is fully available on YouTube (they filmed one performance for TV broadcast), but only in Russian and without English subtitles. here’s the link to the button-searching scene.

            I’m not sure who wrote it either, it’s credited to the theatre troupe:

    1. MEH Squared*

      This is exactly what I thought as I read the letter. Well, not the button part, obviously, but the general idea. OP, it’s easy when you’re overwhelmed, demoralized, and unsure of everything, to focus on something tangible. It can be the button as noted above, or in your case, the org chart. Even if you got the chart, it wouldn’t change the fact that you’re doing the work of three people, being berated by your boss for the totally normal thing of talking with your coworker about your job, and all the other negatives you mentioned.

      Your boss sucks, yes, and he is not going to change. I’d suggest you get out while you can.

      P.S. to idwtpaun: I’d also like to know what this play is!

  27. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

    My former boss once made an org chart for our department and didn’t put herself on it at all. This of course made sense in a way, because she didn’t really do anything but micromanage all day al la Office Space. But what really killed me was that she presented it to her boss (VP of Finance) and the head of HR in front of the whole department, and neither of them questioned it.

    I felt like I was in crazy town, both that she so shamelessly pointed out how literally every task in our department was covered without her existing, and that upper management’s reaction was “Great job putting this together!” I already had both feet out the door at that point anyway, but hoo boy was it another sign that leaving was the right thing to do.

    1. SpicySpice*

      Sounds like she understands management just fine! Draw a large salary while not providing anything of value except “leadership”.

      1. TechWorker*

        Just popping in to say that managing people is actually work and does take up time :p

        I’m sure there are plenty of managers who are incompetent and do not pull their weight, I’m also sure there are plenty of people who have little idea what their managers role involves; and would only see the problem if it stopped happening.

        1. Snarktini*

          Agreed. I come from an industry that loves flat hierarchies and grew up with jokes about middle managers…and I think we messed up by getting rid of so many of them! Good managers are the glue that brings together people and information. They connect us to training and opportunities. They represent us in meetings so we don’t have to sit in on everything but can still stay informed. They do administrative and strategic tasks so we don’t have to. Without good managers, it’s harder to grow and stay.

      1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        I mean, sure. But that was nearly 10 years ago and according to Linkedin she’s still there and in the same position.

  28. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    Honestly OP – it sounds like the real problem is that what you want/need is not available from this company. It doesn’t matter – the job could be at a place that everybody considered the greatest place on earth to work for – but if it doesn’t fit your needs, then it’s not the job for you.

    OP – this isn’t the right job for you. Time to work on getting a job that is a better fit for you and your needs.

  29. Blue Bell*

    I know we are supposed to take people at their word but I’m having a hard time seeing the sexism and how it ties in to the org chart. Is there something I’m missing?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I don’t think so. I mean, yes, this a person who happens to be a man being a goon to someone who is apparently a woman, but I’m not seeing anything that says he would be less incompetent and useless to a man, either.

    2. Anonym*

      I think it was mentioned as part of the larger picture of issues with this boss, not as something that would be demonstrated in the specific org chart inquiry.

    3. Jora Malli*

      I think it’s exactly what Alison described. OP is having 17,000 issues with her boss and the org chart feels like the one she can fix and/or the final straw that pushed her over the edge. The sexism and the org chart don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other, but OP can’t fix the sexism and feels like maybe she could fix the org chart.

    4. Pocket Mouse*

      OP doesn’t expect boss to listen to her explanations of what doesn’t make sense with the org chart, or to give any weight to requests she makes or concerns she raises, org chart related or otherwise.

    5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I assumed that there are many other stories of the boss’ sexism and that they weren’t included because the letter would be un-focused and way too long.

    6. Dawn*

      OP implied that she thinks the boss would take her concerns seriously if they were coming from a man.

  30. Trek*

    I’d be curious to know why you requested the ORG chart to begin with since there are only three people. I understand you are doing the job of three but an ORG is not really going to show that in any organization. In a larger organization it may show position as open if no one is currently filling it but it’s not going to show three positions under one person. The ORG chart is not going to get you what you want which is the boss to hire more people and to be competent.

  31. Sara without an H*

    OP, do you think of yourself as a “fixer”? Do you believe that, if you can just find the right words/do the right thing, you can change people? That somehow, if you get the org chart right, your ED will suddenly become an efficient and supportive manager?

    It doesn’t work that way! You can rewrite the org chart and create job descriptions and procedural manuals and nothing will change.

    Because the problem is your boss. And short of a brain-and-personality transplant, he’s going to continue to be exactly what you see now: incompetent, stubborn, and sexist.

    You’ve probably built up a number of skills and accomplishments that, appropriately presented, would make you very hirable somewhere else. Check out the resume and job searching advice in the AAM archives, and go forth and get a better job.

  32. megaboo*

    I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a correct org chart. People move around so much and positions change. How do you even do an org chart of three people? Isn’t that a line? I would start looking.

    1. Dawn*

      It works better in the large corporate world where up to a point, reporting structures are fairly consistent regardless of who actually holds the position.

      In my organization we’ve more or less got two parallel charts, but the one for our retail stores, for example, goes: Retail Associate – Store Manager – District Manager – Regional Manager – (Fifth Position) in a direct line up from the bottom. (The last position would make it a little too easy to identify my employer but it’s a linear progression.)

  33. Elizabeth Bennett*

    When you try to explain to your boss that you cannot sustain the workload of three people, **he berates you.** This, in and of itself, is cause to find a better job. Nobody deserves to be berated in a work environment. Period.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Oh, yes, that is absolutely true! I missed that part of the letter, but hoo boy howdy, is sure is!

    2. blood orange*

      Totally agree. Everything Alison has mentioned is all cause to leave, but these two aspects – he is sexist and he *berates you* – are cause alone! Until you added those details I had started to form a picture of a bumbling, but possibly otherwise decent person. To be incompetent AND a jerk = hard pass.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Hard same.

        It’s funny how incompetence and being unpleasant so often go hand in hand. I’m guessing as a defence mechanism so nobody can call them on sucking.

    3. Saraquill*

      I’m so glad verbal abuse is being less accepted in the workplace. In my last office, I got yelled at for following instructions, failing to understand things no one informed me of, walking, using the bathroom, etc. My older relatives didn’t think this behavior was weird, and my extension I should just roll with the punches.

      I still searched for other positions.

  34. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    An org chart isn’t really a binding contract and neither is a written job description. I’m not sure what position you applied for, or were told when you took the job 10 months ago, but rest assured, the boss in a 3 person org can decide your job, as long as you remain there, is whatever he tells you to do today. You are focused in on being right and proving your boss is incompetent…so what?…even if you were to get access to the Board, they probably aren’t invested enough in a 3 person non-profit to do anything about it except let it spin itself into non-existence.

  35. Seeking second childhood*

    Question: is the entire NFP made up of four now three people? Or just your organization within the NFP?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      The entire non-profit organization is three (formerly four) people. The LW’s boss is the non-profit’s executive director.

      1. Seeking second childhood*

        That’s how I read it too, but OP’s request for an org chart would only make sense to me if she is part of a three-person department and they also have other departments.
        I worked somewhere that talked about marketing vs engineering vs purchasing as 3 different “organizations”. Either way, they have 3 employees and the org chart shows 5 times that many, which is bonkers.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Commenter Lab Boss has a (possible) explanation upthread that sounds likely to me:

          My immediate thought was that the workplace sounds chaotic with jobs that are ill-defined, and OP latched onto the idea that the creation of an org chart would somehow make it all make sense, forcing the ED to either clarify all the confusion or to realize how untenable the workloads were and hire more people.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            That sounds really plausible. It wasn’t so much about the org chart as it was about being really clear on roles and responsibilities. But the org chart is an “easy” visual to produce.

  36. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Just came here to say that

    You don’t need a meeting about your role or the chart, or a witness or mediator for that meeting. That would be like putting a lot of energy into finding a perfectly sized bandage for a small cut on your foot when your entire leg is on fire.

    is amazingly brilliant writing. This is the content I come to AAM for.

    Oh, and also? Get out OP! Good luck!

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      No, the Board should have access to the financials and be able to see how many people are employed, and their salaries. Once an ED or president is in place, that’s about the only thing Boards do in a non-profit, keep track of the money.

      This is a boss who has Grand Plans, that never seem to come to fruition. He’s probably sold the Board on his strategic plan of where the org will be, eventually, they just need that grant he’s working on…any second now… or he’s identified a Major Donor who’s about to fund the whole thing… for the next 30 years… really.

    2. Observer*

      Not if the board is made up of actual human beings rather than store mannequins. The basic financials that every board needs to see should be enough to tell that tale.

  37. Velociraptor Attack*

    I mean this in all kindness, but LW, you are definitely hung up on the wrong thing and I think this is a case where a warped environment is starting to impact your views on how organizations work.

    It’s a 4 person organization, the org chart is pretty straight forward, you, the admin, and the colleague report to the Director. It’s easier now that it’s a 3 person organization. I’m also curious why you think this means you’re being promoted and what you think that means. At this point, a promotion would purely be in title only and wouldn’t actually change the org chart unless his admin suddenly starts reporting to you.

    You say you’re looking for information on overlap of responsibilities and promotion opportunity but honestly, those things generally aren’t on any org chart I’ve ever seen. Most of them are simply name and title and reporting structures so you’ve been asking for the wrong thing and now you’re upset you didn’t get it which I think is probably a sign that you’re overall just at BEC phase with your boss. (I’m leaving aside the 15 person aspirational org chart because I think it’s a red herring and doesn’t have any impact on what you can actually do in this situation.)

  38. Lacey*

    You cannot change your boss. You cannot change how things are run. All you can change is whether you start your job search today or you wait until you have absolutely had it and leave in a blaze of glory, but with nothing lined up.

  39. Boss Lady*

    Confession time: I own a business of four people (including myself), soon to be five and I’m in the process of writing an aspirational organizational chart with 14 positions. However, not being an insane person I realize I fill almost all of those positions myself. There’s just not enough work for a full time Accounts Receivable Manager! BUT I’m bothering because it does help define what work needs to be done and who is accountable for what, and as we grow and I need to delegate, I have specific chunks of responsibility, already clearly delineated, that I can pass on to someone else, with or without a title bump.

    1. pierrot*

      That’s what I was confused about, but maybe I don’t understand what an org chart is in this context? I don’t get why “who reports to whom” is a question when it seems like by default, LW and her coworker report to the ED. Maybe the LW was looking for an org chart that included future positions that aren’t filled yet?

  40. Cheesesticks*

    “We have been debating my position, title, and compensation ever since I was hired”
    You have been there for 10 months and this is still happening?

    This issue is much more important and very telling about your work environment. You don’t need an org chart, you need to get a new job.

  41. RagingADHD*

    Let’s say up front that you’re 100% right about everything. No argument.

    What prize do you win by being right? I don’t see one.

    If you like the job and want to keep it for whatever reason-money, leveraging your title for a future career move, passion for the work itself, whatever — then focus on that and quit agitating yourself over pointless stuff.

    If the job isn’t worth it, then keep your head down and save your energy for the job hunt by not agitating yourself over pointless stuff.

    Being the rightiest right ruler of the rightness doesn’t seem like it’s getting you anywhere, so why keep debating over it? You can’t pay your rent with a gold star.

  42. Inkognyto*

    “That would be like putting a lot of energy into finding a perfectly sized bandage for a small cut on your foot when your entire leg is on fire.”

    Alison this is an amazing way to put it. I love it.

  43. Faith the twilight slayer*

    This is a parade of red flags formed by bees that are eating cheap ass rolls. Getoutgetougetout.

  44. LS*

    I am thinking that when you asked for an org chart he might not have known what that was and quickly Googled one. So it is an org chart for some random company that happens to have a few overlapping roles to yours.

  45. Observer*

    OP, I haven’t read most of the messages yet, so I may be repeating what others have said. But do keep in mind that another reason why you should look for another job is that your boss apparently is either unaware or unconcerned with the law.

    You have a right to talk to your coworkers about your job. That’s the law.

  46. Mr. Random Guy*

    I have been in this situation. I have had to navigate the work of three different positions and been berated when I asked about how to manage it. It is soul-crushing. Please, OP, get out.

  47. pierrot*

    “ (tiny matters here because it means that his incompetence is going to deeply affect every aspect of how things operate).”
    This is the exact situation I am going through at my job right now (complete with the 3 employees!) except it’s at a small customer service oriented business. Allison’s parenthetical is extremely on point. At my job, the owner isn’t quite as terrible as your ED so I’m sticking it out a bit more since I’ve only been here 6 months, I’m learning some marketable skills, and my resume is a bit of a mess.

    But having worked at a very dysfunctional non-profit with a very toxic ED in the past, I agree with all the advice that LW needs to leave this job. In my experience (and as the LW alluded to), it only gets worse as time goes on. And unfortunately, in my experience, EDs/business owners who don’t see anything wrong with their leadership style will not change. When it comes to non-profits, I think a lot of boards are ineffectual at best for the reasons mentioned in the letter. They don’t communicate with or get to know the workers and get their information straight from the director a lot of the time. A few months ago I googled the dysfunctional nonprofit where I used to work and they currently only have three board members. All of them are people who are friends with the ED (who founded the org). After I jumped ship, things continued to get worse and all the coworkers I respected the most left or got fired within a year after I left.

  48. Vio*

    so, so many red flags it’s no wonder that “My boss is sexist and doesn’t believe that I am knowledgeable about this” didn’t get a note from Alison but that’s definitely another issue besides all of the others. even if everything else was wonderful, I can’t imagine it’s going to be a fun experience working for somebody who assumes that your gender limits you in any way

  49. El Esteban*

    I got a job for a small nonprofit last year (<6 people), and quickly found myself at odds with the Founder/CEO, and my previous job of 12 years, I was always able to outlast bad managers and get myself transferred, but at a small place, I had no recourse, and left after six months. I swear to myself that I'll never work for anywhere like that again.

Comments are closed.