It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Former cofounder is trash-talking our organization
The cofounder and initial executive director of our small nonprofit was fired a few months after we launched for gross failure to carry out responsibilities and in no small part because of the way she treated the staff and other board members. As we were just starting out, we didn’t have the paperwork or foresight to have her sign an NDA. We have since found out informally that she is telling people she was pushed out because of “untrustworthy behavior” on the part of the other board members and not because she was at fault (naturally), and has been contacting our volunteers and saying negative things about our board and staff. Since none of this is public, we can’t figure out how to address her without her taking it as validation of her version of events and potentially escalating her behavior, or to make it publicly clear why she was fired without looking unprofessional ourselves. Is there anything we can do?
For what it’s worth, we have not done any of the things she accuses us of, and our organization has thrived in the several years since her firing. We are of the opinion that her behavior since explains why she was fired and that she comes out looking the worse for it. However, her behavior has caused some distress for our volunteers which we’d prefer to spare them, though it doesn’t quite reach the level of harassment. We’d also like to know how to handle inquiries should anyone contact us to check her credentials in the future.
If you really want to push it, you could talk to a lawyer about whether you’d have grounds for a defamation case. If you did, it probably wouldn’t need to go that far. Often a stern letter from a lawyer will solve this kind of thing. But that’s not necessarily the best way to go; it’s possible that it could inflame her further and make things worse. Or not — it’s also possible that it could work (although then you also risk the “oh, I’m not legally allowed to talk about what happened there” remarks, said in a tone that implies “I blew the whistle on them molesting children.”
If it’s been a few years, I’d lean toward just letting it go and assuming that she’s making herself look bad.
As for the question of references, you’re under no obligation to give one. You could simply say, “We’d rather not comment,” which is its own breed or damning. Or hell, you could give a fully truthful one, but “no comment” is probably a cleaner way to go.
2. New boss quit right before I’m supposed to start
I had accepted a job offer and will start in the next two weeks. Today, I received an email from the company that my “new” boss whom I would’ve report to has given her notice. Mind you, she has only been with the company for 1 year. This is a big concern for me as she was one of the main reasons of my acceptance.
Also, the location is a bit further for me but I was willing to overlook it because the opportunity to work for her would outweigh the cons. In addition, the other staff member I interviewed with are fairly recent hires with the longest length of service of 6 months. There seems to be a lot of turnover.
I forgot to mention that now the position will be reporting to the VP temporarily who resides out of state. There seems to be many red flags. Would it be okay to not accept the offer? I don’t feel comfortable going into a job with so many doubts.
Ugh, this sucks. It’s always a little tricky to accept a job primarily because of who you’d be working for, because that person could leave at any time. But in this case, you have the benefit of finding that out before you’ve actually started.
I’d do this: Knowing what you know about the offer now (the location, the unknown boss, the temporarily remote reporting structure, and everything else you already knew about the job and company), do you still want it? Would you have accepted it originally with these conditions? What if you’d started with the old conditions, but it had changed to this set-up a few months in?
I don’t know what your answer should be, but that’s what I’d be looking at to try to figure it out.
3. Pointing out a lack of diversity in our materials
I work at a public university. The team that produces the annual report has recently started publishing them as a calendar. Last year’s had beautiful pictures of our building’s architecture, but no people.
This year’s calendar had pictures from across our campus during the 1940’s/1950’s, each focusing on a group of students. I couldn’t find a single person of color represented in any of the photos. Our campus has had some serious diversity problems in the past, and diversity is a huge issue within our unit’s professional community. Diversity and inclusion are a huge part of our professional training, where we are very literally asked to look for diversity within any materials we are assessing.
I know we have photographs that would have shown diversity within our student population during this time, and I find it hard to believe that out of the 13 slots to fill, at least one couldn’t have been included. I’m presuming that this was simply an oversight by our fundraising team and there was no purposeful intent to exclude any specific groups of people.
I would like to say something about this but I don’t want to be an asshole and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. We are a public university, so I’m worried that criticism like this may trip some more official discrimination investigation triggers that would be inappropriate. How can I make this criticism but not come off as a jerk that got someone in trouble? I’m pretty new and don’t have 1-on-1 rapport with the higher-ups.
Approach it from the assumption that someone just didn’t notice and would appreciate having it pointed out (which is probably the case). I’d say something like this to your boss: “I know that we’re making a big push around diversity and that we’ve been asked to be careful to make sure that our materials show diverse groups. Would it be worth pointing out to someone on the fundraising team that all 13 photos in the calendar are 100% white?”
Or, if you have standing to approach the fundraising team yourself (which depends on your role, internal politics, and probably just how new you are), you could say to them: ““I know that we’re making a big push around diversity and that we’ve been asked to be careful to make sure that our materials show diverse groups, so I thought I should mention to you that the photos in this calendar somehow ended up being 100% white. I know you can’t change it now, but I wanted to flag it for future materials.”
4. Listing old honors and awards on a resume
I recently attended a workshop given by a professional with 18 years in the HR industry. She stated that it is acceptable to put honors and awards on our profile that we feel will be most interesting to the world/recruiters. How far back can you/should you go?
For example, I received awards for creative writing, service awards four years in a row, was a debate participant award, and Vice president of a youth group (of my peers at the time). The problem is, these occurred a considerable time ago. What is your take on this ?
Don’t use up the resume space on them. You have very limited space on your resume, and you want to use it on things that will truly strengthen your candidacy. Awards from a long time ago won’t do that, unless they’re truly exceptional and unusual. (If you won a Nobel Prize, you could keep that on. Debate participation, no.)
Even if you feel that you have the room, don’t include them because (a) when hiring managers skim the page, you want their eyes falling on something strong, not on a service award from 15 years ago, and (b) you don’t want to imply that you haven’t done anything notable since then.
5. Required to work on a holiday
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is listed as one of my paid holidays in my benefits package and offer letter. I just found out I need to work this day and that I will lose the paid holiday. Is my employer required to give an alternate paid day off? I am salaried, exempt, and work at a nonprofit in Wisconsin.
Nope, they aren’t. No law requires employers to offer paid holidays at all, and they can revoke them at will, unless you have a written contract specifying otherwise. I think you might be thinking that because it’s listed in your offer letter, that’s acting as a sort of contract, but nothing in there prevents them from changing the terms in the future. It’s pretty normal for exempt people to have to occasionally work in an evening, over a weekend, or during a holiday.
All that said, you could certainly ask your manager if you can take the day off on a different day. Many managers will be fine with you doing that.