A reader writes:
A few weeks ago, I interviewed with a small nonprofit (maybe 8-9 employees) for a full-time coordinator/mid-management-y position that I was extremely well qualified for. Although I didn’t feel like I clicked on a personal level with the other coordinators I interviewed with, I still felt that I answered their questions well and was confident in my abilities to find solutions to the difficulties that they expressed the organization was currently having. I wasn’t surprised a day ago when I got a voicemail message offering me the job.
I followed up with an email asking them about pay, benefits, hours/schedule, paid time off, organizational structure, etc. None of which had been discussed in the initial (one) interview I had with them. The email I got back from them actually made me gasp in horror. The offer was so bad and so offensive that I don’t know what to say in response. Horrible pay (I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector my entire life, so I guess I shouldn’t be shocked by anything…), very little vacation, unexpected terrible schedule, but most offensive – a terrible sick leave policy and not very good benefits. It’s always been part of my core beliefs that one should care for others and leave their community a better place than when they joined it and I aim to work for organizations that share this belief. I thought this organization I interviewed with fit that, but after getting this offer from them I worry they either don’t know how horribly they treat their (potential) employees or don’t care.
I don’t know if I even want to negotiate this into an offer I could ever accept, so what I’m wondering is… Is there a way (without burning bridges) that I can tell an organization that things like their sick leave policy (totally changeable in my opinion) and benefits (may not be as changeable, given how small they are) totally suck and that they should be ashamed of themselves? You know, in a nice way. :)
Absolutely. I’d just be straightforward and say something like, “I’m very interested in working with you, but the benefits package is far outside the range of what most organizations in our sector offer.” If you want to try to negotiate, you could add, “I wonder if you have any flexibility there.”
But if the benefits are truly bad and there’s no compelling explanation for it, I’d steer clear. That’s the sign of an organization that isn’t committed to building the most competitive team it can so that it can meet a high bar, in terms of performance and impact. (Competitive candidates are the people least likely to accept terrible pay and benefits, which also means that you’d probably be working with people who accepted their jobs because they didn’t have better options — meaning they’re either on their way out once they find something better or they’re not particularly high performers.)
By the way, I find it bizarre that they made you a job offer without mentioning salary and made you ask what they were offering, which is another sign that this organization might not really know what it’s doing. Since this is a nonprofit, I’d take a look at what its impact has been in the world, which will give you more information about whether it has its act together. What are its goals, are they ambitious without being unrealistic, and does it regularly meet them? Is it getting things done in the world? That might point you toward whether it’s somewhere worth working, if indeed you’re able to come to terms on salary and benefits.