Media Specialist

A member of the Forum asks for your advice but wishes to remain anonymous to protect their job. They write the following:

“For 11 years I have been the sole manager at a small shelter with 10 employees. The organization has over the past few years steadily lost its way due to an executive director who appears out of their depth, experientially and emotionally. The ED is also the president of the 5-member board of directors. The lack of the executive's professionalism, indeed involvement in any day-to-day activity, has gutted staff and alienated once-loyal, longtime board members who gave selflessly of their time and skills and who raised substantial funds. The ED is now stripping employees of health care insurance in spite of my recommending we apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (she wants no part of it even though it would ultimately turn into a grant).

We have no HR department; those duties rest with me. The executive's lack of vision has frustrated me as I desperately seek ways to keep the organization afloat, but without the authority and means to do so.

The current board, appointed by the ED/President of the Board, rarely if ever meets; most of them live out-of-state and have little to no impact and are not involved in day-to-day operations. I feel I cannot safely seek their advice without jeopardizing my job because of the ED’s role as president.

This job is my life and I am willing to fight for it. I truly believe in what we do, and this is just absolutely breaking me. It's breaking my heart, and it's breaking me mentally, but the thought of leaving breaks my heart even more.

Has anyone in this group experienced a similar situation? Are there remedies you’ve employed to get things back on track? How would you as a neutral party offer business perspective into the mix, wherein the organization might begin to make the substantive changes needed?

I am extremely grateful for your advice.”

  • July 31, 2020 at 06:26 AM

    I would imagine there is some language in your organization's bylaws to address situations like this. Look there first. Absent of that, I would contact each of the Board Members by email or snail mail, including the executive director, outlining your concerns from an operational and human resources standpoint and not pointing fingers directly at the Executive Director and her perceived failure to lead. This way, you are not intentionally excluding her from the conversation, but you are making the Board aware of action items that need to be addressed. You could even ask the other employees if they would participate in a group letter that they all contribute to and sign so any repercussions don't fall solely on just you or making it more difficult for it to be attributed to one person's gripes. Does that make sense? I may be wrong, but I thought there were rules against the paid manager of a non-profit organization also serving as Executive Director of a non-profit Board of Directors.