Winning the Battle for the Soul of the Social Sector
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Career Curveballs: How to Handle a Bad Boss
Originally published on Linkedin on April 28, 2014.
Before I joined Charity Navigator, I had a few pretty unethical CEOs I worked for. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the MAJORITY of charities are run by well-meaning people. However, there are also some bad apples, just like in any group of people and any type of organization. There is also research and other compelling evidence that documents this problem specifically within the nonprofit sector.
In my case, I’ve worked for a few charity leaders whose primary focus was to line their own pockets while providing low salaries and benefits to their staff, as well as inadequate support for the programs and services serving the people the organization was supposed to support. However, I have also worked for and with amazingly dedicated professionals and volunteers who are all about achieving results to meet the mission, and doing things with the highest ethical standards in mind. Based on my almost 30 years working in the nonprofit sector I have thought much about the twists and turns of my career and what I could learn from the path I have been on. Charity Navigator and now LinkedIn have also afforded this opportunity to share with you some of the lessons I have learned along the way. Here is a list of some of my writings on the subject to help you with bad supervisors, if you encounter them, as well as my thoughts on the policies and principles to follow to help you excel. I also recommend starting with this great general resource on how to maximize the possibility that your organization follows good ethical practices:
1. Principles of Good Governance and Ethical Practice – is a wonderful free guide developed by the Independent Sector in consultation with many charities over a number of years. There is also a workbook to help you find additional resources and track your progress in following all the ethical practices they recommend.
Let’s never forget that supervisors and especially CEOs who do bad things do not just rip off donors (although that is quite serious in and of itself), they also demoralize staff (sometimes causing great people to leave the sector), they damage the quality of services (causing some people to get sick or even die because the quality of care is so below standard) and they damage the OVERALL public trust. They do not just damage the public trust for their organizations but for the entire social sector and all of us who are working in it for the greater good. We need to call them out more aggressively and give them no quarter.
Let’s also never forget that the vast majority of people who work in the nonprofit sector are dedicated to serving others and giving of themselves. This is a truly noble and honorable profession and I believe that most people who work in nonprofits have the personal character and integrity to do the right thing. The majority of charities that we evaluate at Charity Navigator are rated good or exceptional. That is because, among other things, the majority of those who do this work are in it for the right reasons. I salute all of you who fit that profile and hope your career does not have too many curveballs. I also wish you many home runs in your efforts to make the world a better place.