how long can i resist?

There is a contradicting value that is compromising my understanding on what feels right to me: the value of flexibility. Essentially, what does it even mean? The most I can assure myself of is that it is defined by each one of us, but it can be difficult to know what our personal definition is.

Working within an organization that is wholeheartedly made of all Hispanic immigrants and I being the unique blend of 1st generation Chilean-American, I have come to see that “being flexible” is incapable of being seen as an abused value, according to my administration and my co-workers who secede to this organizational philosophy.

About every responsibility that makes up my job is coupled with the small-printed details of the tasks I will be asked to do–most of the time, at the very last minute. I am not the most organized person in the world; my room is a constant mess of clothes on the floor and my desk overflows with opened and unopened mail. But in my work life, I do my best to create structure, to focus on priorities, and actively create limits to better take care of myself. However, in my short time at my current workplace, I have observed that these ‘goals’ are not what my co-workers consider as important. “Serving the community,”  at all costs possible, is the dictating viewpoint in my organization. Being the largest Hispanic-serving nonprofit in the state, it is an empowering but heavy burden to carry. “Serving the community” the way I see it from my co-workers and administration, means the following:

  • Filling in any and all gaps possible with limited personnel, barely considering their burnout rate and lack of staff retention; thus, very little self-care and work-life balance
  • Personnel having more heart for the people, for the mission than actual organizational and professional experience; thus continuously decreasing their efficiency and sustainability for the future
  • Since everyone is an immigrant from different Spanish-speaking countries, they all bring different values to their work, but with that, they also bring the general custom of the Latino–a slow, go-with-the-flow pace. This means that pretty much every deadline is completed at the very last possible minute. This practice does not allow for appropriate planning to take place, which continuously hinders the organization. However, this is the kind of system everyone is very use to running on. I am just the odd one out that sees this as ‘a problem.’
  • No one seems to know how to say no (so, no limit setting). Our President overcommits, over-schedules, and does not have the sufficient time to supervise all of those she needs to supervise. In turn, this causes for everyone else to be tardy, to be confused and without greater guidance; inevitably, one gets use to waiting and turns apathetic, to be reactive to situations rather than proactive and prepared.

Overall, those are the main points I see as being the roots to the major problem. And again, I am not perfectly organized. I am not type A at all, but I believe that anything and anyone will thrive when there is clarity of objectives and organization.

Even though I speak on all these observations, I still cannot say that I have even found a way to get organized within my own project–and that sucks. The last thing I want is to become unmotivated and for that will to change to dissipate; essentially, to have “conformed” to the norms of the organization. The hardest part is trying to step back from the chaos of what my program has become–and surely, the chaos it always was, to be honest–and finding tangible ways to create order, consistency, and a strong foundation.

I have felt very alone on the side of my administration. In the past 1.5 years my program has been in existence, there has been much personnel turnover, which has not allowed there to be a constant presence and flow of work. Whenever I first arrived, the administration “played up” their successes and what the program was in the process of doing–offering workshops in various areas (i.e.  worker rights and safety, ESL, vocational training). I came in with the thought that these activities were already well into place, as in structurally in place, not having occurred once and still listing those services on their brochure to advertise it is a service being provided. That, essentially, is lying. I believe there is every intent of getting around to having systems in place to provide those workshops and activities in a more organized fashion, but again, it has just not happened for a very long time.

My intent is to be able to foster stronger ties with community partners, in order to have those connections to offer greater opportunities and activities for the population I work with. That is what I believe a Program Coordinator is supposed to do. However, given everything I have mentioned, it has been a very big challenge. I have not known where to start and overall, I lack autonomy in my organization. I know that every 20-something year old lacks that authority, especially when it is their first big-gig, but I do not understand when enough is enough. When, I ask, will there be that brief moment of enlightenment where my administration sees that I can make positive changes; that I just need to be given that trust and respect–not questioned and limited? I see that they have a  fear of change and there lies much discomfort for a 25 year old pushing them to change their ways.

Thus my question is, if they cannot and will not be open to my viewpoints as a new employee, but also considering the powers my job title supposedly allow me to have (to certain limits of course; I am not that ignorant of an ass), then how will I grow? Personally and professionally? I have absolutely no doubt that this job will teach me many, many things. But, will they consider me as a valuable asset not just for my bilingual-MSW skills, but idealistically as a person? If not, how long will I resist? How long will they resist me?

These are a series of questions I am asking myself just at my short 3 months.


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