12 responses

  1. NGS
    February 22, 2010

    What do we do when there is no HR? I worked in a small non-profit (20 of us total in two separate offices) and when there was a problem of professionalism, there was no one to turn to except the big boss, who was the problem. Do we go straight to the board of directors without letting the person know there’s a problem first? That kind of feels like jumping rank unnecessarily… Do we just complain to our peers and other coworkers? That kind of feels like it’s counterproductive at best.
    Help!

  2. Olivia
    February 22, 2010

    I second the meeting with HR. And add to this Do. Not. Make. Fat. Jokes. About. Pregnant. Coworkers. Just don’t make fat jokes EVER. They aren’t funny about anybody under any circumstances.

  3. Alyssa
    February 22, 2010

    Re: NGS, I had a similar problem about 3 years ago at a small start-up company. No HR department and my boss was unorganized and ineffective, inappropriate and manipulative. As it turned out some of the higher-ups, including the CEO, were already scratching their heads about him. If I had known that I would have gone to them much earlier; however, I didn’t end up talking to them until my exit interview (not standard procedure for this company, but I think they were really hoping for some dirt on this guy). And at that point they offered to put me in any other department I wanted in order to keep me around. Unfortunately I had let it get to the point that, for my mental health, I never even wanted to see that building again. In my experience, the higher-ups want to know if anyone, including the boss, is making the environment difficult for people to tolerate.
    I LOVE Amy’s idea about keeping a record of the things the boss says, though. I wish I had done that all along. I ended up having a lot to say about his poor work habits, but on the spot couldn’t think of nearly as many examples of his inappropriateness as there really were.

  4. B
    February 22, 2010

    Not using my site or name for this for obvious reasons, but you poor thing. I was in that same situation only, I wasn’t as smart and just let it go thinking that if I kept trying I’d get to do the better work the company said that project managers gave to good project assistants and I just kept mum about how my manager would give contradictory directions and get pissed that I didn’t find some way to follow both. I told my supervisor that I wanted to work for other managers, but she never did anything about it other than telling me to try harder and make sure MR had no excuse to complain–except that she complained about everything, even if it was perfect, she’d say that I hadn’t “anticipated” her wanting it in a format we had used once 3 months ago for a completely different sort of document.
    As a result, the two girls hired the same time as me who worked for different project managers 2 years ago were promoted and got great raises last year and I got “cost-of-living ($500) because it’s required here, and placed on a 6 month probation 6 months ago. Thankfully, as a result of the probation I finally was allowed to work for another manager. I like the projects I’m working on now and all my managers now say great things about me, but because of that probation I likely won’t get a raise or promotion this year either. I keep hitting my head on walls and wishing I’d spoken up sooner before wasting so much time in something so dead end that now I’m afraid that anyone looking at my resume would wonder how I’m so pathetic as to still be in an entry level job after 2 years at a company known to promote quickly.
    So, kudos to you for at least not being a total doormat like I was.

  5. BaltimoreGal
    February 22, 2010

    Can I also say thank you so much for this:
    “Remember, if you plan on not returning, you must disclose that fact ahead of time ANYWAY. It’s highly unethical to wait until after you’ve taken maternity leave benefits to quit.”
    I could NOT believe that people did this as a matter of habit when I first started working in the “real world.” You can’t expect ethics on one end and not give them on the other.
    Amy’s advice is spot-on from what I’ve seen in my nonprofit-working world. Best of luck out there.

  6. Olivia
    February 22, 2010

    NGS: I think the board of directors is the next appropriate step in your case. Perhaps if you are comfortable with on member, you can talk to that person before bringing it before the entire board.

  7. Suzy Q
    February 22, 2010

    I have never understood why people refer to pregnant women as “fat.” It also really irks me when pregnant women refer to themselves as fat. WTF?

  8. Amanda
    February 22, 2010

    First-time commenter here, you guys. I’m usually a lurker (single, no kids, so don’t usually have a lot to contribute!), but I work in HR in a not-for-profit so I thought I’d drop in my two cents.
    I completely agree with going to HR about this manager’s inappropriate comments – like Amy said, HR may already “know” but lack the actual evidence to do anything about it, which they do need. It’s often surprising how many other people will come forward to back the first person up, once one person has taken that first step. The people in HR are nice! We want to help! I’m sure that your HR department would be horrified to hear how upsetting this is being for you, and will want to make it stop. If I can be trifle cynical, they could also see it as possibly a pre-cursor to a workplace bullying or harrassment issue, and that is DEFINITELY something they’ll want to nip in the bud.
    I also have a second point, and I know that this isn’t really what your question is about, but I might as well throw it out there. I don’t 100% agree that you should tell your employer that you’re thinking of not returning before you take maternity leave benefits. My view is that you’ve worked there, and if their policy is to provide maternity leave benefits and you meet all their criteria, then you have earned those maternity leave benefits and you should absolutely take them. I’m not saying leave them in the lurch at the last minute – if you decide not to return, then you should resign before you’re due to come back and give the amount of notice that it says in your employment contract. They’ll be covering you while you’re on maternity leave anyway, and I find that because of this it’s actually easier to replace someone who resigns while on maternity leave than someone who resigns when they’re not.
    (Note: I am in the UK, completely different laws and norms, please ignore me if this is making you clutch your pearls and reach for the smelling salts)

  9. Katherine
    February 22, 2010

    I really like Amalah’s advice here and I also wonder if you’ve considered asking this question to Ask a Manager, who is a nonprofit manager who runs a blog specializing in answering exactly this kind of question — http://askamanager.blogspot.com . I would try her too.

  10. Cal
    February 22, 2010

    As someone who works in HR for a public health/nfp organisation, I just want to say that we WANT to know! It is true that without accurate and specific examples of behaviour that conflicts with the organisation’s code of conduct, it is really hard to confront performance/behavioural or decision-making issues.
    Ideally, speak up before your exit interview, because these things can be easily dismissed once you’ve left as too difficult, and the org may take it’s chances that a new employee will just let things slide.
    This is what your HR team is there for.

  11. A
    February 23, 2010

    Interesting that you say they may know about her already. When I switched offices, our commander (I’m a civilian but I work for a military organization) held and exit interview with me. In the week prior my coworkers begged me to tell him about our boss and although I felt uncomfortable doing it, I did because they couldn’t risk repercussions. When I finished he looked me right in the eye and said, “What makes you think I don’t know all of this.” I think I stammered out something about assuming that if he knew something would have been done – but suffice it to say I was shocked that he seemed to know how we were being treated and wasn’t doing anything. I’m just glad that I got out. Oh, and I hear from my former coworkers that they’re envious that I moved because nothing has changed.

  12. kakaty
    February 24, 2010

    As someone who has worked for 15 years in various-sized non-profits I have to comment to NGS: Do NOT go to the Board! That is highly unprofessional and will likely follow you if you leave that non-profit. NO NP wants someone who will go to the board with HR issues. It’s not their job to deal with that.
    However, if you have a persoanl and strong friendship with a Board member (which often happens at small non-profits) then making a comment or two during other coversation MAY prompt him/her to look into it on their own. It’s a fine line, but it may help and may just get you fired.
    But just like any other company – if you don’t like working for the CEO and they aren’t breaking any actual laws (sexual harrassment, etc.) then just start looking for another job.

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