Monday, June 25, 2007

The Retreat

So we had a strategic planning retreat on Sunday to plan for my nonprofit's next twelve months. Two interesting things happened. First, I proposed that we'd raise more money than we ever have in the past, and we'd do it by getting our (lethargic, complacent, skittish to get involved) board active - attending house parties, asking for money, recruiting their friends, etc. The interesting part of this is that no one argued, complained, protested, or even challenged the numbers. They all smiled and nodded and patted me on the back.

This, of course, fills me with dread. I hope they realize what they were agreeing to when they agreed to it. I guess I'll find out once I start making the follow-up phone calls.

The second thing that happened is that one of our staff asked to have her position converted to full-time. She currently works less than 30 hours a week. Her argument: I have too many responsibilities and I can't get everything done with my current hours, I've put in years of loyal service, my qualifications and skills are blah blah blah...

Oh, and when she goes full-time, she wants to take on new duties. She wants to work on fundraising (which is ... ahem ... my job.) She wants to do public speaking, which would be a disaster on ice.

The back story here is that this person has some mistaken ideas about her talents. For example, she thinks she would be a brilliant fundraiser. She actually wanted to be considered for the job for which I was hired. (Which creates a certain amount of resentment toward me.) She thinks outside the box, which is good, but not in a way that's practical or realistic or reasonable. She's often outside the box and out somewhere in the back corners of the warehouse.

Now, none of this is necessarily a bad thing. The real issue is that she's disorganized, does sloppy work, and can never get anything done on time. Never. Ne-ver. She's an artist by nature - and a good one - but she just works in a scattered, haphazard, right-brain way. Good if you're an artist - not so good if you're the heart of a small non-profit. And my simple feeling, which I told to my boss, is that if someone's failing as a part-time employee, you don't reward that by making them a full-time employee.

So we talked about this request with the board yesterday, and my boss was remarkably candid. Long story short: we love the employee, but she's not going to stay here. She's already looking for another job, and - brace yourself - she has requested a six-month leave of absence. She only wants the leave if she doesn't get the promotion. Why does she need the leave? To "get some projects done." I think she really wants the time off so she can polish her resume and get another job so she doesn't have to come back here.

So the following awkward resolution was reached: we would convert the position to full-time. My boss would inform the employee that she wouldn't have her job converted to full-time. Boss will furthermore tell the employee that he doesn't think she will be happy here, whatever hours she's working, and that it's probably time she look for another position where she'll feel more satisfied. Once she leaves - which she will do - we'll start looking for someone to work full-time in her position.

(Interestingly, my boss doesn't think that this will constitute "firing" the employee. I disagree, but whatever.)

So you can imagine that the conversation between boss and employee, when it happens, will probably be pretty awkward and uncomfortable. There may be anger, or resentment, or slammed doors, or curse words shouted across the office.

Why am I telling you all this? Because my boss took the day off today. Which means that our disgruntled employee and I are going to be the only ones in the office, all day. All the livelong damned day. And she will inevitably ask me the following question:

"So ... did you guys talk about my job yesterday?"

And I will either have to give some oblique hint about the discussion - which I don't want to do - or I will have to refuse to say anything at all. Which will make the whole day a series of awkward silences and guessing games as to what happened, during which I will undoubtedly - by a nod or a momentary facial expression or the tone of a response - indicate to the employee what decision was reached.

I'm not happy.

On the other hand, I'm sipping a caramel latte that's damn near perfect. So it's not all bad.

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