I took over a charitable not-for-profit organization in 2005, after my predecessor died, and have worked hard to make this agency a success. Until the board chair retired in 2012, everything went swimmingly. I have continuously improved our performance, and developed an amazing team. I was so successful that last year our funding supporter increased our annual financing by $50,000.
My problems began when a new board chair and a few new members joined the board; instead of giving kudos for a job well done, they are challenging the way things have been done successfully for years.
When I asked for a pay increase, I was denied. I pointed out that there would be a considerable amount of money remaining at year’s end, but they implied that I had manipulated the budget to have money remaining. This made me angry, as they had attacked my integrity. I apologized for my anger in an e-mail and offered to arrange a training session for the board.
The chair then planned a secret meeting to discuss me, and they are talking about monitoring my performance. I got a phone call from the chair, saying that if I was disrespectful at the next meeting, he would stop the meeting.
This board has no interest in improving the agency – this is a power play. The stress is making me ill, but I need my job. Do you have any suggestions?
THE FIRST ANSWER
President, Randstad Canada, Laval, Que.
Sometimes we have the pleasure of working with people we really like and respect, and who respect us, too. Other times, we don’t. With all work, a big part of your success is based on the relationships that you hold with your peers and superiors. Your successes are great, but for some reason the board isn’t attaching them to you.
You need to remove your emotions from the picture and focus on the feedback you are getting and, in this case, your good work. Try to separate your emotional response from the things that irritate you, and always give the board clear but professional feedback. Choose your battles wisely, and understand that you have to work together. You might need a reference in the future, so it’s important to maintain your high performance standards.
Try coping with your feelings of stress and frustration by building some new releases into your life. Find a mentor or someone more senior to you in the field who has had similar difficulties. A mentor can help you learn and develop your skills, which include working with difficult people.
Exercise is a powerful tool to help purge the negative feelings that can build up after a tough week. Try swimming, boxing, yoga. Find the time to have this release and it will make your dealings with ornery stakeholders more agreeable and productive.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Howatt HR Consulting, Kentville, N.S.
Personnel changes can influence a board’s chemistry. New members bring their own goals, vision, leadership and management styles.
The root cause of resulting conflict is often a lack of communication. The success of the relationship between the board and the executive director hinges on trust. To move forward, your conflict with the board must be resolved.
Ask the board to help you resolve what you perceive as a conflict. The board has a responsibility to facilitate a healthy and safe workplace.
Another option is to have a neutral third party to mediate and resolve the conflict – and to flesh out best practices for resolving future conflicts. A third party can also clarify roles and responsibilities, compensation and performance reviews, and review the code of conduct for directors.
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