Career Woman

You’ve got this: Dealing with a horrible boss

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Dr Froswa’ Booker-Drew answers your questions, putting her years of experience and practice into the goal of solving those knotty problems that beset us, and assuring us: ‘you’ve got this’. If you’d like Froswa’ to look at your particular problem, email it to [email protected].

I was hired to be the Marketing Director for my company nearly a year ago. The position has had a high turnover rate because of the current Development Director who used to actually be the head of the marketing team. She has a very negative reputation of not being able to work with others, especially with women. Since my arrival she’s held vital log-in information hostage for my account, accessed ‘marketing only’ files without permission, and most recently, tried to create a second email marketing account using an old Gmail address she wasn’t aware I had access to.

I’ve been victim to many passive aggressive emails and told that I need to “focus on posting on social media” rather than engaging in strategy to support our fundraising and programmatic efforts. Inherently, I know that our jobs require cohesiveness to reach the organization’s goals. As of now, everything, including our funding, is suffering because of the rift.

Our CEO has been brought in on numerous occasions to mediate the situation but she’s faced no consequences and no solution has been reached. How can I help our boss see the negative impact of letting this tension brew? How can I attempt to work with a colleague who has such an aversion to joining efforts? I’m nearing the point of resignation but any perspective to salvage this would be helpful. Please Help!

Dear J,

I’m so sorry that you are enduring this on the job.  It’s wild that on interviews, we expect those seeking positions to share so that we can determine if they are a good fit.  Wouldn’t it be great if the interviewers shared their realities of the job so that you could determine if they are a fit for you as well?  I think there are a number of flags that might have been missed early on.  A job that has significant turnover is a problem and if there hasn’t been anything different that has occurred to change that, the challenge will continue to exist.  You are there now so let’s talk about what’s really going on.

Your issue is not just with your immediate supervisor.  She’s obviously been allowed to behave the way that she does.  Your issue is multi-faceted and includes the CEO as well as the Board of Directors.  The CEO is a conflict avoidant leader.  Based on your email, she is aware of the behavior of this staff person because of the number of times mediation was needed.  I can almost promise mediation was needed with the past employees as well.  They left and the CEO along with the Development Director remained.  This is a culture problem and let’s be honest, the CEO is aware of the high turnover and issues with this employee but seems to be more concerned with results than the process.  If this Development Director wasn’t performing, I’m sure the CEO and the Board of Directors would terminate her employment.  This is often the problem with many nonprofit organizations.  The focus is often so much on raising funds to survive that issues such as creating a strong, supportive work culture is lost.  Many nonprofits focus on helping the client that they fail to take care of the staff that makes it happen.  This is not just a symptom of nonprofits—I am addressing this sector because of your letter and I happen to know the space well.

Until the culture changes, I’m not sure if your efforts to create a cohesive, collaborative environment will happen and this begins with the CEO and the Board.  If the Board is not asking questions about turnover and if the CEO chooses not to address this issue, your efforts although important, might not get the attention or traction to make a difference.  So, a few questions:

  1. Has HR been involved? Is there a process in place to deal with conflicts on the job?  If all of this rests with the CEO, you can see where this might be problematic.  If it is a small nonprofit, this is often the case and if so, there is usually a personnel committee that is a part of the Board to address those issues.  If this doesn’t exist, there are definitely challenges in feedback loops and accountability.
  2. Have you created a paper trail that documents your conversations with the supervisor? Are their follow up emails to the CEO after the mediation sessions?  It is important to document this information.  It does not matter if they do anything with it, it is to make sure that no one can say they were not aware.
  3. If you choose to leave, make sure there is an exit interview conducted to offer your insight. The goal isn’t to beat up your former boss or the CEO but to share your experiences with suggestions that may help those behind you if they are implemented.  I’ll share this, many folks at small nonprofits/organizations do not give bad or negative feedback because they are afraid of retaliation when they need a reference.  This isn’t right but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  I don’t know the organizational structure at your place of business but I will say use your judgement to determine how you proceed.

This is a toxic environment.  I’m not sure how you can be successful with a boss who is hiding information from you that impacts your work and a CEO who does nothing to hold someone accountable for their behavior.  You might not leave tomorrow but you might want to update your resume, begin searching opportunities and building your network while you are there.  Definitely visit www.idealist.org for both jobs in your city and remote opportunities as well.  Best wishes and know that whatever comes your way, you have what you need to handle it.  You. Got. This.

About Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew

Dr. Froswa' Booker-Drew is a Partnership Broker. Relational Leadership Junkie. Connector. Author/Speaker/Trainer. Co-Founder, HERitage Giving Circle. She been quoted and profiled in Forbes, Ozy, Bustle, Huffington Post and other media outlets around the world. In addition, she has been asked to speak on a variety of topics such as social capital and networking, leadership, diversity, and community development to national and international audiences. This included serving as a workshop presenter at the United Nations in 2013 on the Access to Power. One of the most impactful life events for her was being a part of the documentary, Friendly Captivity, a film that followed a cast of 7 women from Dallas to India. Honors for her work include: Semi-finalist for the SMU TEDx in 2012, 2012 Outstanding African American Alumni Award from the University of Texas at Arlington, 2009 Woman of the Year Award by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and Diversity Ambassador for the American Red Cross. Graduating with a PhD from Antioch University in Leadership and Change, she also attended the Jean Baker Miller Institute at Wellesley for training in Relational Cultural Theory and completed facilitator training on Immunity to Change. She has also completed training through UNICEF on Equity Based Evaluations, and is the author of 2 workbooks for women, Ready for a Revolution: 30 Days to Jolt Your Life and Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last as well as a writer for several publications around the globe.

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