update: my boyfriend has my old job and there’s tons of drama

Remember the letter-writer whose boyfriend had her old job and was being treated badly by a board member? Here’s the update.

The museum’s operating season ended one week after you posted your response to my question about what to do about Pat. At that time, per your advice, I started slowly getting rid of my volunteer duties by letting the board know that I was resigning my position as chair for a semi-annual event. I also run the museum’s social media account, so I was waiting to decide what to do with those accounts in the new year, as we don’t post often in the off-season.

Pat requested an “employee review” between herself, a handful of other board members, and my boyfriend for this past Monday. When he arrived he was informed that they would not be renewing his employment for 2016. They [or, at least, Pat] cited a general disregard for the board and inability to complete the tasks of the job–most of the “examples” brought up being absolute bullshit, or things that were fully backed by other board members. Pat ran the meeting, and the few board members there are of the “don’t rock the boat” variety that have let Pat get away with controlling everything for years.

Since then we’ve been locked out of the museum’s email account–which makes sense, except I still do social media for the museum and now can’t get into the Google+ account or update the website. I might use that as a reason to remove myself as social media person at the museum– in a “Hey, because you’ve changed the password to the museum’s Gmail account and probably (understandably) don’t want to share the new password with me, I can amicably relinquish control of the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts too.”

My boyfriend might be upset, but I honestly can’t tell–he’s horrible at sharing emotions. But he does have a successful business that he can fall back on, and he rarely takes things personally. He still loves the site, he loves nearly all of the volunteers, and he is still on good terms with nearly everyone.

And now that he’s lost his job at the museum I’m no longer banned from being on the board. Pat has violated the board guidelines by being in the same position on the board for nearly two decades (the guidelines say that you can’t be on the board in any one position more than 3-5 years consecutively). So… we’ve been quietly plotting with a large contingent of unhappy volunteers to vote Pat out of the board at the next election in June, citing Pat’s violation of the board guidelines.

I know, I know, we’re feeding the drama. But Pat’s violations of the board guidelines could actually hurt the site further down the road, irregardless of the damage Pat is doing to the site right now (which is a whole other story I won’t get into that involves a bigger organization we answer to). And, of course, the other volunteers, my boyfriend, and I really do believe that it will help the site’s morale if Pat is taken out of the picture–even for one year or two.

Thank you, everyone, for your advice on this issue. It looks like it took care of itself and is no longer an employment issue, but a volunteer organization issue.

{ 59 comments… read them below }

  1. KR

    That was wild from start to finish. I’m glad that the OP is in a position now to potentially change something in how this organization is run, especially considering that OP cares so much about it.

  2. UndercoverForThisOne

    In my experience there hasn’t been a small museum that hasn’t been full up with drama. Something about big fish in little ponds, and people who get really caught up in “their” vision for the museum. They suddenly believe their vision is the only vision.

    And the “that’s how we’ve always done it” crew? Good for you for trying to get them out. Too many of those types can stagnate a museum for years. Its strange how those people can always see what other people are doing wrong but never turn that lens in on themselves.

  3. AMG

    I apologize for correcting your grammar, but the word is ‘regardless’, not ‘irregardless’. It will not reflect well on you professionally to use the latter.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s very true, but please don’t correct letter-writers’ grammar here, as per the commenting rules. Thank you!

      (I totally agree with you about “irregardless,” but it opens the door to nitpicking in general, which I don’t want.)

    2. kac

      I had this wonderful, charming & sophisticated great aunt (who was a secretary at Harvard up until she retired in the 90s) who I adored and she’d use irregardless. Then she’d always laugh and say, “I know it’s not a word, but it’s so fun to say!”

      So I have a soft spot for the word. :)

      1. Elizabeth West

        That’s sweet. However, that word is always associated with BullyBoss for me, because he used it frequently. I would silently laugh to myself every time I heard him say it.

          1. PlainJane

            “Planful” – gah! I thought this word was invented by my former boss, who was also a fan of “impactful” (another horrible workplace word).

      2. NurseB

        Actually, Miriam-Webster online has this to say about the word:

        “Usage Discussion of irregardless
        Irregardless originated in dialectal American speech in the early 20th century. Its fairly widespread use in speech called it to the attention of usage commentators as early as 1927. The most frequently repeated remark about it is that “there is no such word.” There is such a word, however. It is still used primarily in speech, although it can be found from time to time in edited prose. Its reputation has not risen over the years, and it is still a long way from general acceptance. Use regardless instead.”

        I generally don’t like the word either but it technically is a word. :-)

          1. BusSys

            So late of a reply, but this brought back memories of first grade. We’d have to recite “‘Ain’t’ is not a word, and I’m not going to say it” following such transgressions. Which out on the playground quickly became “‘Ain’t’ ain’t a word and I ain’t gonna say it”

        1. AnonZ

          Regardless means “without regard”.
          IR is a prefix meaning “not” or “the opposite of”.
          Irregardless, if it is a word, means “not without regard” i.e. “with regard”.
          So whether or not it is a word, it is incorrectly used unless you are trying to express something that is “with regard” in an overly complicated and convoluted manner.

        2. Lynne

          Well, Merriam-Webster falls heavily on the side of descriptivism, not prescriptivism; you’ll find just about anything in there. Philosophically, I agree with that – languages are evolving things. Personally, there are some words or new usages of words that I just don’t like, and want to go all prescriptivist on, but instead I think to myself, “evolving language!” :) (“Reticent” instead of “reluctant” is one people seem to like around here – as in, “I feel reticent to do that.” *shudder*)

    3. Houston Howler

      ENGLISH TEACHER!! But the world is a more grammatically correct place thanks to folks like yourself. Remember. Grammatically correctness is better then politically correctness.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        I haven’t done iZombie yet, on the list.

        Suits is so much fun. As implausible as it is, a good chunk of it is a heightened version of this OPs situation, only Big Law.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        Big spoilers:

        Battles for control, thrilling who is in and who is out and what on EARTH is going to happen next continue!

        Or, “Suits”. :-) Oh that Louis! Oh that Jessica! Oh that Harvey!

        And Donna (angels sing).

  4. AnotherAlison

    OP, it’s time to go. Don’t participate in the ouster of Pat. You seem to be getting some sort of personal satisfaction from staying involved in the drama here. It sounds like there are others who can carry the torch if getting rid of Pat is the right move that would be better for morale. Start the New Year fresh. Wipe your hands of the social media accounts, and find something new to fill your volunteer needs. The museum will carry on without you and your boyfriend’s involvement.

    IME, I’ve only felt better once I let drama-filled situations go (whether that’s a gossipy coworker or my dad’s entire extended family).

    1. UndercoverForThisOne

      “The museum will carry on without you and your boyfriend’s involvement.”

      Unfortunately, this may not be true. Boards like the one OP describes – permissive ones that let the loudest and most out of control person control the ship, are exactly the kind that end up sinking museums. I’ve seen more than one go down this way. And then you have a whole other set of problems on your hands.

      But OP for your sanity, AnotherAlison is right, it might be better for you and BF to find other museum work. It sounds like you might have already since you’re just volunteering now, but I think it would also be best for your BF. Not to mention if Pat does sink the ship, it would be better for both of you not to be on it.

      1. RVA Cat

        This. I think one of the key lessons at AAM is that you can’t take it on yourself to fix a disfunctional organization. Sometimes you just have to step away and let them fail.

        1. Doriana Gray

          Yup. I understand the impulse to want to help save a workplace you care about, but sometimes letting things fall apart is the only way for the Powers That Be to finally get a clue that their problems are serious.

        2. nofelix

          The difference with a museum is that it’s not just some company where failing only has economic consequences. If it can’t continue to manage its collection of objects and records then they can easily be lost or destroyed – meaning that our society loses these very special artefacts of our history. Some of these will have been donated for the benefit of everyone to learn from, and may be irreplaceable. Other museums can take some parts of a collection, but each has their own remit of what they accept.

    2. BRR

      +1

      I feel like the LW is trying to get Pat back and sometimes it’s better and harder to be the bigger person.

      1. Artemesia

        I think they should move on for their own sakes — but I certainly don’t fault trying to ‘get Pat.’ Why shouldn’t they enjoy a little Schadenfreude? I know, I am an awful person.

        1. neverjaunty

          Because this isn’t just being pleased about Pat’s downfall; this is actively remaining in (and doubling down on) the drama in order to try and get back at Pat.

          And I have to wonder how much of this is LW being annoyed on her boyfriend’s behalf, when he doesn’t even seem all that bothered himself.

          1. Mookie

            Right. If the OP is really invested in donating her time to projects like this, it’s more than possible that this kind of ham-fisted attempt at a coup will mar her reputation. And if she decides to stick around, post-ousting of Pat, people involved will remember. They’ll likely forget what Pat did or didn’t do to deserve it, but they’ll definitely remember that the OP’s stratagems for resolving conflict involve deception and backbiting. Even the volunteers she coaxes into cooperating with her may, down the line and if it’s prudent to do so, distance themselves from it and shift blame towards the person doing the orchestrating (who, incidentally, has a personal grudge against the victim).

            Also, if Pat is violating the rules or behaving unethically, you’re not serving the interests of the museum by waiting until an election rolls around before identifying the problem. If she’s doing something egregious enough to be removed from the board, correcting or disciplining or pushing back at her should be separated from the re-election or re-appointment process. Holding back damaging information in order to capitalize on it later for quasi-political reasons makes one look opportunistic, not diligent, and no better than Pat for all her faults.

      2. Anon Accountant

        That was the vibe I got too. OP step back from this drama and volunteer your expertise with another organization at least for a while.

        How about trying volunteer match or checking other small organizations that would love to have you as a volunteer? Don’t get more wrapped up in the drama Pat and museum has.

    3. Bend & Snap

      I have a former colleague who took down her boss like a lion takes down a gazelle, and she’s never forgiven herself for it. She let spite and unhappiness rule her actions and has regretted it ever since. Her former boss’s career never recovered.

      If the goal isn’t truly to help the organization, you should really step away.

      1. Shannon

        Honestly, you should probably just step away for right now. It’s too easy to tell yourself in the heat of the moment that you’re doing it for the good of the org, when later, you’ll look back and wonder if you were just using that as an excuse.

      2. Anon Accountant

        Early in my career I watched a coworker take down another coworker and she was relentless in her pursuit. That person’s reputation (“Sarah”) was soiled badly and quite frankly unfairly. There was bad management which contributed also.

        Not saying this is what’s happening her but OP please don’t let yourself be sucked into the drama any more. Disengage and cut ties.

    4. neverjaunty

      This. There is no “but”, OP – you are not only feeding the drama, you are actively fueling (and participating in) it. You’re planning to stage a coup against Pat in a volunteer organization your boyfriend no longer works for, and where you’re not even on the board and at a time when you’re actively planning to withdraw from the volunteer work you are doing. Is there any point to this other than a wish that Pat get her comeuppance?

      Also, as a reality check: this is a board that has allowed Pat to violate the rules and issue their marching orders for many years. What do you think the chances of this being successful are – that none of your sympathetic board members will spill the beans, or ‘go along to get along’ at the last minute? I wouldn’t give it Vegas odds.

      1. Doriana Gray

        Also, as a reality check: this is a board that has allowed Pat to violate the rules and issue their marching orders for many years.

        This. Their refusal to do anything up to this point about someone they know is a problem speaks volumes.

      2. MsM

        Honestly, OP, it might send more of a message that Pat needs to go if you walk away. As it is, the “don’t rock the boat” contingent may continue telling themselves that all they have to do is keep you two apart and everything will work out. And considering that even you don’t seem optimistic this plan will buy you more than a year or two, I’m not sure they’re wrong.

    5. Recovering ED

      I’m suprised that so many people feel like OP needs to go rather than try to get Pat off the board. To me, it depends on how personally stressful OP is finding the situation. To me, it’s clearly the right thing for the museum to get Pat off, and there’s lots of reason to do so– just enforcing the term limits would clearly do the job (unless that gets awkward because lots of people have overstayed their term limits).

      OP has no obligation to do so (unless she gets on the board herself, in which case she IS morally obligated to try to do the right thing for the org, in my mind), and if she’s finding it personally stressful and draining it’s likely best to move on.

      But if OP really cares about the museum and is able to hold herself somewhat apart from all the drama, then the nonprofit sector would thank her for working to try to remedy this corner of all the nonprofit sector weirdness. Fundamentally, the museum is at the mercy of the board and all the drama has to be negatively affecting it.

  5. Sara

    OP, go look up #MuseumSwearJar on Twitter. “That’s how we’ve always done it” comes up pretty regularly. Also I think you will find some of your frustrations shared :)

  6. Macedon

    OP, you need to move on. First you were pursuing this because of your boyfriend, now it’s for the better of the organization… there’s a fine line between justice and vendetta, and you have to ask yourself (in a way that we can’t) whether you’re toeing it.

    Right now, you sound too emotionally involved in this entire affair. If Pat is creating this much damage – and I am not doubting your word on this in any way – the other volunteers should be able to oust her on their own. You can take a step back, focus on a new volunteering opportunity for yourself, support your boyfriend as he finds his professional footing after this, or take on anything else but this.

      1. So Very Anonymous

        That is especially ironic when you consider that the acronym for a major museums professional association is also AAM (American Alliance of Museums).

    1. nofelix

      My fiancée works in museums. The pay is not great (but not awful), you need a PhD to get many of the senior positions, and board members are frequently unqualified for their positions. Also, permanent positions are tricky to get.

      However, the work she gets to do is fascinating. It branches off into many opportunities for side-gigs – TV shows, book deals, conference panels, running workshops, travelling exhibitions, scholarly articles. There are opportunities for interesting travel if you want them. There are a lot of specialisms to find your niche in. And they do sometimes have large budgets for really interesting and unique projects.

  7. Miss M

    I always wanted to work in a museum. After reading some of the related AAM questions, I’m wondering now if it’s a good idea.

  8. Miss M

    Though OP, probably it’s best you ask yourself this question: Are you interested in helping push Pat out 1) because of the current status of museum or 2) because of your past drama with Pat?

  9. 2horseygirls

    While I have not worked in museums, I have had my own challenges with nonprofit EDs and the hands-off attitude of boards liberally salted with the ED’s plants/personal friends and clients.

    There is a former employee (who was my direct supervisor at the nonprofit) who very admirably conducted herself in the most professional, ethical, not-taking-anything-personally manner I have truly ever witnessed. Recently, this former employee was asked by the ED to be on the board. I am looking forward to seeing her input and influence in the future.

    There is a possibility that the “coup” could help. I just hope LW is prepared for status quo (if it does not change anything), or that it could even come back to bite her in the butt, so to speak.

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