Wednesday, April 12

conflict!

This is one of those non-knitting posts, a rant that I am not even sure I will post. If you want an knitting post, go see this new blogger.

I am a volunteer board member of a Local Organization. I am, in fact, the chair of this board. And LO is more officially defined as a public corporation but we are really small. Supposedly serving on this board is a no-brainer nice thing to do for an organization that doesn't accomplish very much (it was formed for a Big Purpose --- which has been finished). We even have a manager, an Executive Director, who is a small business owner specializing in this sort of thing. We are just one of many of her clients, and we are very small potatoes for her. Although the title ED sounds grand, she really does all our clerical work, paying bills, filing forms, coordinating the communication we have with the city. 5 to 10 hours per month work.

What do we do? Well LO has an annual income source and each year we've given a little more than half of it to a Good Cause. We have a few expenses to pay. The rest we've saved for a rainy day. We are either obligated to save or we are not, I have heard both opinions from the ED over the 2.5 years I have been attending meetings. A couple years ago, our annual income dropped by about 50%, an expected change. We haven't changed the amount of our contribution to the Good Cause, nor have our expenses changed. When I realised that, I was concerned, confused. I was told (by the ED) that we could continue like this for 60 years before we ran out of money. So we should consider that as a positive scenario before doing anything drastic such as even thinking about reducing our contribution to the Good Cause.

Well, I am not the kind of person who can just sit back and let nature take its course that way, I have been pushing for some dialogue, soul searching within the board. If we are going to continue on this 60 year road (and what assumptions have been used to get that figure?) I want it to be a conscious decision. So already, I am stirring up trouble. folks are alternately glad that I am willing and able to ask questions and push for real thinking and really annoyed at me for causing them such grief. Especially because I am kinda blunt, not diplomatic. I have been called caring, perceptive, empathetic, nurturing, but I have never been called the most tactful person there is. Definitely one of those "doesn't suffer fools" kinda people.

The Good Cause (which is related to us, but not directly, they have their own board, etc) is in a financial crisis. We board members were told of that from our ED who forwarded to us an email explaining what had happened at GC along with the comment that our ED had already met with their board chair. Wait a minute. Our ED met with the chair of GC? An almost immediate occurence after GC realised they were in trouble? Why? Perhaps just because ED has a lot of experience with non-profits, but that was not clear.

Me, being the blunt and ugly board chair that I am, responded (cc'ing all) by asking for clarification. Why would our ED have been asked to such a meeting? Was she called as a representative of LO? What kind of meeting? Does this mean ED has another role with A Good Cause? Would that mean there is a conflict of interest? And by the way, this brings up my confusion overall as to the role of the ED with our LO. Could she please send us a copy of her agreement with our board so we would know exactly what the roles and responsibilities were?

Evidently I hit a nerve with my questions because ED responded really really pissed off that I could accuse her of a conflict of interest and no, she did Not Have a contract or any written agreement with our board and how dare I cc a former board member who is not a member anymore --- the only reason she could think why I could have done that was an attempt to besmirch ED's integrity even further. (recall, I just replied to all, evidently she had added this former board member to the list herself) Frankly the way I keep attacking her integrity, she was thinking that she didn't want to be our ED anymore. I did the only thing that was smart for me at that point, I sat on my hands and waited a couple days before sending any email. Someone else, a reasonable board member, added to the email discussion that perhaps we all should work on our process, defining our roles and responsibilities and that he was surprised (not judgemental, just surprised) that we didn't have a written agreement with the ED. Almost immediately after that email, ED announced her termination of services effective in three months.

So now we just had our monthly board meeting. and I got chewed out. there are three (perhaps four) members who are really pissed at me; my obnoxious behavior has caused ED to want to terminate services and they really need her. They really want her. They don't want to ask any questions of her that insinuate we don't trust her completely. Yes, Good Cause is in significant financial trouble because they trusted their director and did not do their oversight. But NO, this situation is of course completely different. We DO trust our ED and she would never do anything wrong, so how dare I say things that smack of not trusting ED.

Quite an emotional reaction I must say. Reasonable board member pointed out that we are a volunteer board, and that one of the duties of the professional manager is to deal with volunteers, teaching them if needed how to be more professional, but that in this case, my questions were met with way more of an emotional reaction than was called for.

One of my favorite parts of this awful morning though was when one of the angry guys was blasting me about this, and made the more general statement that I have repeatedly caused problems for the board. I asked for clarification. What other problems have I caused? "Well..., none," he said. (note, not "well I can't think about them right now but I know they are there", just "none")

I could go on, but that's the gist of it. I knew I was going to get chewed out today, and that most of it would be emotional and not justified, that some of it would be justified because I've made mistakes in the process. But I didn't know how it would turn out til afterwards, and that made me very nervous. I didn't throw up, I didn't cry, I looked at everyone eye to eye and let them rant, I argued my points a bit but also figured for some of them "why bother" and the meeting was finally adjorned. Life moves on. I am still chair. We still have hassles to deal with. But for me, the worst is over. My stomach still hurts, not as much as earlier. It will hurt even less tomorrow. I will either remain chair for my term (calendar year) or I will resign. Reasonable board member called me afterwards to ask me not to resign (even though he didn't back me up in public as much as he promised he would).

time to go watch tv with some dulaan knitting.
ciao.

1 comment:

Elaine said...

Let me get this straight - you bring up some really good questions, questions that push buttons, and everybody runs around pointing the finger at you because they feel funny about it. Time for everybody to look under their own rock and see what makes up the gunk they've been avoiding. I'm sorry this is being redirected at you, especially because the point is being missed in the process. I'm sending warm thoughts to you, keep your strength.