dealing with a horrible, lying director and management that won’t act

A reader writes:

I work for a nonprofit as a director with six other directors, and we report to the executive director (ED). There are a lot of things I enjoy about the job – I work a lot, but also have a lot of flexibility in my hours; it’s meaningful work that I also happen to get compensated well for; I have a lot of discretion in deciding what my department takes on; and I have good working relationships with almost every other department.

And there’s the rub. One of the other departments has been totally dysfunctional the entire time I’ve been at this organization. It was so apparent that at one point people – both inside and outside the organization – joked around that the director of Bad Department must have blackmail on the ED in order to not have gotten fired. Lots of crazy things happened, the ED sat idly by and/or defended Bad Director, an outside mediator got called in, I had drafted my resignation letter and was a week away from submitting it, when the ED finally called a “team building meeting” with the outside mediator. The day before the team meeting, it was announced that Bad Director had “voluntarily resigned.”

Now we have a new director of Bad Department – a friend of the previous Bad Director! — and in a few short weeks this person has (falsely) accused other directors of bullying and threats, has outright lied about what has been said in meetings, does not respond to any of the other directors’ emails unless the ED is cc’d on the email, and refused to attend important meetings until and unless the ED issues a direct order for them to attend. It’s gotten to the point where the majority of the other directors have told HR that we refuse to meet with Lying Director without witnesses in the room because of the false accusations and general stomach-churning horribleness of every interaction with Lying Director.

And the ED? Has straight out told myself and the other directors that he has no plans to fire anyone and that we all just need to “figure out how to work together.”

I’ve decided I’m not going through this stupidity again, even if I don’t have another job lined up. I’ve been considering going back to freelancing for a while anyway, so I can do that while I figure out what to do next. So I have a few questions:

1. I should quit, right? Even though there are a lot of other good things about the job, this is an insane level of toxicity that I shouldn’t subject myself to?
2. How many weeks of notice do I have to give, given that I run a department?
3. When do I quit? There’s an industry conference, and a major deliverable from my department, both in April. If the deliverable comes out the way I think it will, it could be a significant resume booster. The industry conference, my organization will pay for me to go, and I’ve been asked by the conference to do both a presentation as well as sit on an expert panel. It seems like I should wait until April to submit my resignation, but I’m also concerned about staying in a workplace with someone who’s shown a willingness to falsely accuse me of things, especially given that the industry I work in is a pretty small world.

As bad as Bad Director and Lying Director both sound, the real problem here is your executive director, who apparently outright refuses to manage and is running the organization as if it’s Lord of the Flies.

So yeah, quitting makes sense. Even if Lying Director somehow goes away, you’re still going to be working for an executive director who sucks at managing and dealing with life in general, and that’s likely to cause other problems anyway.

Of course, whether or not quitting makes sense for you depends on factors I don’t know — like what your previous work history is like (for example, lots of short-terms stays versus a more stable track record) and how easy it will be for you to get another job with the things that are important to you (like flexibility, similar level of pay, meaningful work, etc.). So you’ve got to factor in that bigger picture.

But assuming you do decide to quit, I would be cautious about quitting with nothing else lined up. What usually makes sense for most people (at least if you’re not being asked to do anything unsafe or illegal, and assuming the situation isn’t affecting your health) is to start actively job searching, and then quit once you’ve accepted another offer. That’s because job searches can take a lot longer than planned, and you want to be able to consider job offers without feeling pressured to accept one because you’re not working and don’t have money coming in, which significantly raises the chances of ending up a job that you’re not happy in. It’s also true that it can be easier to find a job when you’re already employed (although that’s not always true).

You had mentioned that you’d freelance for a while, which might be a solution, as long as you’re factoring in how much money that’s likely to bring in and how long you’re willing to do it.

As for logistics around leaving: Directors are sometimes expected to give three or four weeks notice before leaving. There are organizations that expect more, but (a) you’d know if you were working at one of those and (b) even then, it’s still reasonable to stick to three or four weeks. Frankly, you can even stick to two weeks if you want (and in fact that might be normal for directors at your organization; it is for many), but you definitely don’t need to give more than three or four.

It sounds like there are significant benefits to you to waiting to resign until April, so you might as wait until then unless you decide the situation is so unbearable that you’re willing to forfeit those benefits. But it sounds like most of the directors are refusing to meet with Lying Director without witnesses present, so you could stick with that, as well as minimizing your interaction with her. Frankly, since you’re on your way out anyway, you could even tell your executive director that you’re not willing to interact with Lying Director because you’re not willing to be exposed to false accusations. We already know that your executive director isn’t willing to step up and manage, so there’s a decent chance she’ll let that stand.

And hey, she’s already announced she won’t fire anyone, so you don’t need to worry about that. Set the boundaries you want for the remainder of your time there, and encourage the other directors to do the same.

Read an update to this letter

{ 216 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Poster*

    There are so many ways you too could abuse the “We aren’t firing anyone” mantra.

    Be a better person, but hey, at least you are well within reason to continue to demand multiple witnesses to anything said to this individual.

    Good luck with your job search!

    1. OP*

      OP here – thank you! It’s definitely tempting to abuse the “we aren’t firing anyone” BS, but then I think about all the people counting on the work of this non-profit to get basic essential needs met, and then I get angry all over again about the ED being ok with this department being such a drain on the organization.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Honestly, unless the board replaces the ED, I don’t think this org is going to be able to be effective anyway. The ED is a terrible manager. That’s hugely limiting, no matter how great the rest of you might be!

        Get out and use your talents somewhere where they won’t be limited by ineffective management.

        1. OP*

          That’s the conclusion that I’ve been trying not to come to. I was hoping that if the rest of us worked our ass off, we could make things happen and make up for the ED. But you’re probably totally right. :(

          1. Lance*

            In an ideal world, perhaps… but if the person at the top is the problem (as is the case here), it would take a lot to achieve that end. More than is reasonable of yourself and the other, actually functional directors.

          2. Sketchee*

            You care about the mission. It may help to reframe the best solution is to not support the organization that is undermining the mission. Good intentions without the proper action can be misleading. That false hope may be stopping other organizations from being effective or moving into this space.

            All of the energy all of these wonderful people could be used to support that mission. Instead, the ED has decided that rather than support the mission, he wants you to focus on an internal person. He’s directly assigned you away from the task you’re all hoping to do.

        2. LBK*

          Right – if this situation does eventually turn around, it will be in spite of the ED, not because of him. You don’t want to work somewhere that the person at the top is the biggest obstacle to success.

          1. hbc*

            Thank you for so succinctly stating this. I’ve had a hard time expressing why I’m so unhappy at work, and this nails it.

      2. Hills to Die on*

        Start a new nonprofit that does the same exact thing and take everyone with you except the turds. Just kidding sort of.

        1. Secretary*

          Is there a way the directors could go to the board as a group about this? Or the exec director?

          Has the exec director heard all the directors in one room say, “We cannot work with Lying Director because it puts our professional reputations on the line? Can you give us some suggestions on how you want us to deal with this if you are not going to terminate them?”

          1. OP*

            Yes. The ED’s solution is to be in every meeting with LD and the other directors until we’ve built enough trust to not need that. As you can imagine, that’s not going so well.

            1. Observer*


              Doesn't the ED have anything else to do? This is even worse than it originally sounded, which is saying something!

            2. Lara*

              How on earth are you supposed to ‘build trust’ with someone who routinely makes false accusations against you?

            3. Expert Camelid Midwife*

              What is the boards take in all of this? Are they aware of the problems with BD and LD and the ineffective ED??

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Don’t really do that though. Starting a nonprofit takes an enormous amount of time and funding — so much funding — and there are usually plenty of other orgs out there competing for that same funding, and some of them are likely more effective than the OP’s.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            I understand. Like I said–I was kinda kidding. Wishful thinking mostly. :)

          2. GG Two shoes*

            +1000 as someone who went to college for NP management, I came out with the mantra, “collaboration, not competition” whenever someone wanted to start their own non-profit.

        3. AKchic*

          Starting your own non-profit takes so much effort already, and when you’re doing it to actively spite another non-profit, the optics aren’t good from a funding standpoint, let alone a good-will standpoint. Non-profits need both to succeed.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            I’m sure it would be bad. It’s not a real solution–just a fun imaginary one.

    2. KH*

      Don’t rely too much on the ‘we’re not firing anyone’ line. I know lots of people who say stuff like that and then later say they don’t remember saying so.
      The firm position could be just lack of willingness to listen and comprehend the gravity of a situation. When confronted with quantitative evidence of unprofessional and disruptive behavior, it might be possible to change that seeemingly firm position.

  2. Sloan Kittering*

    If it helps, I remind myself that my organization is paying for me to job search (and I’m taking paid vacations on their dime too) – signed, someone else desperately trying to get out. Wish freelancing was an option for me, I’d be gone yesterday.

    1. Anonymoose*


      Along the same lines, my first thought was that OP should be strategizing how to maximize the conference so it’s one big successful interview process. It’s a perfect opportunity to be amongst both peers and heavy hitters that may have employment, especially since OP will be speaking. Make sure to have CVs and cards available at all times. Be more aggressive about inviting folks for coffee between sessions, and take advantage of all social mixers that are planned.

      Of course, not all the job opportunities she’s likely to come across will be local, but hey, don’t look the paid-for gift horse in the mouth. Use it, OP!

      1. OP*

        Thank you for the advice! Will definitely strategize how to maximize the opportunity. I’m considering printing my own (non-organizational) business cards (that I’d use once I’m freelancing) but I’m worried that it’ll be too obvious. so instead I’m going to pre-write my personal email onto my org cards so that people can get in touch with me there.

        1. Anony*

          I agree that putting your personal e-mail on your org cards is the better move. You can also follow up with people from your personal e-mail. Since you are representing your company at the conference, handing out different cards seems like it would be a step too far.

        2. The Curator*

          Stick it out. Go to the conference. Be a rockstar. Network. Don’t work with the toxic individual. No time, on deadline etc etc. If you need something from the toxic person, go through the director with the ask and the deadlines. April is almost here. Document. Don’t meet alone. Don’t engage with other peers about the toxicity of the situation. Print out emails for documentation and bring the file home. Get your own personal business cards. Moo is very nice and fast.Create a separate freelance gmail account. Create a website that describes your competencies. Update and link to linked in. Keep it simple. Transfer your professional contacts to a thumb drive and take home. Update your resume. Be ready for your new opportunity. After the conference, after the project completes, give notice and use your unclaimed vacation for a much needed break and networking time.

            1. TardyTardis*

              One last caveat–keep copies of everything *at home*. You never know when a Sabotage Event could be coming down, and if someone really holds grudges, weird stuff has been known to happen. And wouldn’t you love to be able to say, “Oh, what a good thing I was working on stuff at home!”

    1. Hills to Die on*

      You can make it until April. I made it months places that I didn’t think I could take one more day. Just get to April, get to that conference, and get another job. Nobody will believe LD anyway because this will get around fast. If it isn’t already. Chin up- you can look at every 5:00pm as being one day closer to never having to work there again.

    2. sam*

      This was what I was going to say – if nothing else, the conference is a good place to meet/reconnect with people and network.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I keep running into posts where this is applicable: You can make it 3 months with an end in sight. Three years, nine months, those are hard if the only payoff is at the end. But end of April is 2 months. And giving yourself that deadline will probably feel like a huge weight off your shoulders.

      Good points about networking at the conference.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And if she has to give 3-4 weeks notice might just as well go the distance. Perhaps you have PTO that you can use up, OP? Maybe you can be on vacation for the last week of your notice period?

  3. BethRA*

    Is there a Board of Directors you can bring this to? Even if you’re on your way out? I know there are a lot of useless Board/Members out there, but some will act if they understand the ED is making a dumpster fire out of the organization.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I canNOT understand why an ED that had this much inertia over getting rid of a bad employee – would allow a friend of that employee to backfill the position. What an idiot.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Honestly, it’s usually laziness and poor management training. I see EDs do this often just so they can avoid dealing with or confronting the issue. And it always has a massive hemorrhaging effect on the organization and on morale.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          I totally see the inertia of not firing someone – that makes sense to me. But to get through that, finally be rid of the dead weight after years of putting it off – and then pick his buddy who has all the same problems??

          1. OP*

            And now you see why there are jokes going around about blackmail. The irrationality at every step of this journey has been mind boggling.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Perhaps it’s rhe opposite of blackmail. You rarely see this level of dysfunction unless there is some flavor of personal entanglement.

              1. Seal*

                My guess is that the ED simply sucks at their job and is too lazy/dumb/incompetent or just plain overwhelmed by the job itself to recognize the actual problem, let alone do anything about it. Any ED that tells their department heads to “figure it out how to work together” rather than stepping in and actually managing when a department head is so clearly out of line has no business being a director of anything. My director pulled this same BS on me fairly recently when another department head who was supposed to be working with me on a project intentionally cut me out of meetings with a potential (and very wealthy) donor I had known and worked with for many years. When I raised my concerns about the other department head’s actions with our director, I got screamed at in front of other people and told that he “expected his department heads to work together”. Still have no idea how to work with a department head who flat out refuses to work with you, goes out of their way to withhold information, and lies to potential donors about your intents and actions. To no one’s surprise, the other department head’s work had to be completely revised by me so as not to embarrass the organization or subject us to lawsuits (which did not go over well with anyone, including our director) and the potential donor is now someone who will never give us another dime. And yet, there were no repercussions whatsoever for the other department head, who already had a long history of incompetence and questionable behavior. Needless to say, I’m job hunting.

              2. Frankie*

                Honestly, I worked for a department that refused to fire an obvious drug addict with tons of performance issues, who didn’t have a really long tenure or anything else to hold over the directors. There was nothing rational about it, the addict had no power except that they filled a seat…the dysfunction was so deep they just wouldn’t take action, even when the addict wasn’t turning out any work.

                So you may well be correct, but there also may not be any earthly reason at all. Some people can dig so deep into denial that they allow absolutely insane situations to continue.

            2. Narisr*

              Have you ever asked in a joking manner while laughing a bit ‘So what does Fergus have on you?’ Just to see how your manager responds. Maybe if they knew that’s what people thought they’d act.

              1. Statler von Waldorf*

                I wouldn’t. I got fired on the spot for saying almost exactly like that once. The official reason for my dismissal was “slandering a manager with accusations of illegal activity.” People with skeletons in their closets can be quite defensive about them.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I wonder if this is the flip of the person who is a pleasant coworker but terrible subordinate–the person who is hell to work with unless you’re right above them receiving their odes to your left eyebrow and its incredible business decisions, footnote about how other department are all jealous of your rapport.

            1. Jesca*

              I work with this guy. Constantly stepping on people’s toes volunteering to take on work they are not skilled in or that is even their job while blowing off their actual job duties. The bosses think he is such a go-getter with so much gumption! When is reality he is quite the fraud with limited experience that he is trying to hide by proposing work above the current manager’s skill level (even if it is above his own). I try very hard to shut him down when he gears this towards me, and I am just waiting patiently for it to all come crashing down on him. What a tool. Unfortunately right now I am the only one here who does actually have extensive experience in training in what he keeps trying to volunteer himself for, so I may be waiting awhile. The sad thing is, its not even uncommon stuff! Which is why is it sooo easy to spot that he is a huge gigantic ass kissing managing up fraud! Though I think corporate may be catching on to the fact that management at this location is severely lacking.

              So this is likely part of what is happening here with the Bad Director, the new Bad Director, AND the ED. They is woefully inadequate to handle their responsibilities but is also really good at managing up.

        2. Jesca*

          I don’t know. I am kind of taking the stance that the ED didn’t believe the previous director was doing anything worth firing, and only “pushed” for him to quit because of the pressure. I am assuming he hired the new one on at least some grounds of continuing the disruption and making the other directors look like the actual problems. He seems lazy first and foremost. But I think he may be, and this is total conjecture, doing a little revenge against everyone in the meantime for forcing him to manage.

          I know this seems irrational, but the guy is not behaving rationally now. He likely got some flack then, and is misplacing his anger. Who knows. He may even be coaching this guy to act this way. I know it is remote in the realm of a workplace, but I have seen it. It is possible.

          1. OP*

            Honestly, I agree with you. No one thinks the ED actually thinks that Bad Director was a problem – the problem was that all the other directors were MAKING it his problem by refusing to cover for Bad Director anymore. So since he doesn’t think BD was a problem, we’re not convinced he thinks LD is a problem worth dealing with either.

            1. Jesca*

              These situations to me always seem futile. BUT I will say that I am with everyone else saying to go to the board regardless of the consequences. I mean, this isn’t going to get better. The dude is retaliating and will only continue to do it. The best thing to do is to go as a group and recognize that you have nothing to lose. One way or the other, as it sounds, the ED wants you all gone. He seems to be actively trying to make that happen.

              He hired a guy who was friends with the guy who had to resign.
              He knowingly allows new guy to run rickshod all around the place
              He is preventing you from going to the board but new employee already is.
              He is telling you that your only option is to deal with all of this.

              That all says, “I am trying to get rid of all of you, because you made me do work.” And really, do you think it is salvageable? So anyway, you have nothing to lose, in my opinion, by going to the board and having your sides heard. At the end, this will crash and burn so hard on the ED, but this will happen much sooner if the seed of doubt is planted now in the minds of the board. Don’t leave without them having a polite earful.

    2. OP*

      OP here – I literally just found out that Lying Director is already going to certain people on the Board crying about how mean the other directors are to them. And that certain Board members are buying it, despite the other directors’ years-long track record. The Board here is also fraught with problems so I’ve been careful to not go to them, but it may be time to start. I’m trying to figure out how to do so in a way that doesn’t blow up in my face.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        FWIW, I’ve worked at an organization where staff would try to call members of the Board to cry about their impending retirement or firing. There are certainly 2-3 members on our Board who buy the show. But the others (over 90% of the votes) see through it. You may be surprised.

        But if Lying Director is going to the Board, that’s worth reporting to the ED, too. It’s 1000% inappropriate for them to go outside of the chain of command UNLESS it’s to report significant problems that either involve the ED or that the ED won’t act upon.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          If OP escapes to a better job and then updates us that Lying Director successfully executed a coup, I will laugh so hard.

          Flee hard, flee fast, look back through your barely spread fingers.

        2. H.C.*

          Agreed, in nonprofit folks I’ve been in – most Board folks will [pretend to] listen and punt those issues back to ED to deal with, and the wishful thinking part of me hopes that going rogue to the board will lead ED to reconsider not firing Lying Director.

      2. Crystal*

        OP, wouldn’t this be a case of “going as a group” as Allison always recommends. If ALL the Directors besides this one go to the Board surely that would help? Or is this person that persuasive? And what is LD’s goal? They want to get all of y’all fired since you forced their friend out?

        1. OP*

          I think it would help, but the ED (who is very savvy politically) has explicitly warned the directors about going to the Board. So for us to do that would mean incurring their wrath – which is fine with some of us who have a foot out the door, but for the ones who want to stay they have to think about what that means for their long-term work environment. In terms of “going as a group” – that was the ONLY time we got the ED to pay attention to the problem with the original Bad Director, by going to the ED as a group. Then the ED proceeded to yell/curse at me, and then made veiled threats to suspend me.

          1. paul*

            so why do you trust your director at his word when he says its a bad idea to go to the board?

            1. Not So NewReader*

              He has proven that his threats are real. It’s probably the only thing about him that is real. Ironically, the lazy leader has plenty of energy to make good on threats.

              (I think I worked for this guy’s brother….)

          2. BRR*

            Ugh this sucks. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. The group thing I think is going to be your best option. (Unless the ED and board are both so terrible that the sort of silent threat of losing all of the directors at once means nothing to them). Also do you have any specific board members you’re close to? You might be able to mention to them that you heard things and wanted to quash any rumors or some phrasing like that.

          3. BethRA*

            “made veiled threats to suspend me”

            Does your organization have a whistle-blower policy?

            Honestly, sounds like it might be worth a return trip to the Board – if the got idiot ED to finally take some kind of action, it seems they might open to addressing Idiot’s lack of management.

            But yeah, while you search for a new job…

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              This. many nonprofits are now required to have whistleblower policies. It won’t protect you if these people are truly twisted and dysfunctional, but it would put the Board on notice if they aren’t already.

          4. Anonymoose*

            “the ED (who is very savvy politically) has explicitly warned the directors about going to the Board. ” Interesting…..doesn’t want to get his hands caught in the ineffectual cookie jar? And how did the idea of your group going to the board even come up? I am very curious about the context…

          5. Observer*

            I think that this actually proves that going to the Board is probably a GOOD idea. And for the people who need to be able to keep working there, the ED is eventually going to get annoyed AT THEM (not themselves or LD) for not “having enough trust” or not “figuring out how to just get along” and take it out on them anyway. So, not getting the toxic person mad is not really a useful goal here.

            This makes me think of the link someone posted a while ago about sick systems.

            1. OP*

              That’s a good point that the ED is just going to be annoyed at everyone eventually anyway if we refuse to “make it work” (i.e. cover for Lying Director). If you could share the link about sick systems I’d love to read it!

                1. Pennalynn Lott*

                  Thanks for the link, Observer. The article pretty much describes both the past 15 years with Boyfriend and the three years I was at World’s Most Recognized Software Company.

                2. Weyrwoman*

                  This LJ gets shared sooo much – thanks for posting it, I was looking for it the other day!

                3. Lindsay J*

                  Holy crap, I’ve never read this before but it describes my relationship with my ex almost exactly.

            2. UnabashedVixen*

              OP, once you’ve got a new job and are leaving this toxic one, is it possible for you to request an exit interview with the board? I’ve sat on a couple of non-profit boards, and we’ve used this process for employees who reported to the ED, so we could see what they have to say about their experience. Since they already have another job, they’re more open about their experiences. If nothing else, it might make you feel like you’ve done what you could to alert them to what’s going on.

              1. First Time Caller*

                I like this idea a lot. Secure your own safe exit first, but since it sounds like you do care about the organization and the organization’s cause, use an exit interview to give the board some insight into the dysfunction.

              2. OP*

                People who’ve left get an “exit interview” with HR and the ED, and literally no one ever hears about the results of the exit interviews. I will keep it in mind as a potential request, but I’d probably only do it if I had another job lined up (see above re the board torpedoing other directors who tried to leave).

                1. skylight*

                  since you are concerned about your reputation in the industry, maybe it’s best to wait until you’ve been in the new job a few months. in the meantime, document and compile info to send to every board member. tell all of them at once so no one can tip off ED or Lying Director.

          6. H.C.*

            If that’s the case, why does LD get to go to the board about their grievances? Or is ED not aware of that (in which case, bring it to ED’s attention!)

            1. Lance*

              That’s exactly what I’m wondering. So if any of the other directors go to the board, ED will be mad, but LD gets to freely go complain to the board and get away scot free in the end? No, something is very much off there (well, this entire situation is very off, but that’s another big point toward the whole).

            2. neverjaunty*

              Yes, isn’t THAT interesting. Almost as if the ED doesn’t want to know how cozy they are with Lying Director and company.

          7. bridget*

            Gracious. Well, circling back to your initial question in the post: Yes, you should definitely quit. The ED’s approach sounds like he will continue to generate issues regardless of whether the Lying Director stays or goes.

          8. Purplerains*

            I worked at a non-profit where it was explicitly stated in the employee handbook that we could only go to the president of the board of directors if we had any issues with the ED or the organization. If we went to anyone else, we would be fired. You guessed it, the ED made absolutely sure to become best friends with whomever the current president was, so there was no way you could approach them about anything. And yes, one time a staff member, knowing this, went to another board member to discuss several issues regarding the ED, the board member then “told on them”, and they were promptly fired. A different long-term staff member was instantly demoted because they answered a board member’s question in a board meeting in a very reasonable/accurate way, but the ED felt they had been contradicted/made to look bad in public.

            1. Specialk9*

              I don’t recommend this, but at the most toxic place I’ve worked, someone hacked into a coworker’s email (she saved the password on the computer that only she used), printed out emails in which she vented frustration about management, and anonymously sent it to everyone in the board.

              Hugely dysfunctional place.

      3. The Ginger Ginger*

        This is bad because right now Lying Director is controlling the narrative with all of leadership. She’s the only side of the story the board is hearing, and the ED is actively not helping. That alone is a very good reason to get the real story in front of the board. You don’t want Liar McLiarface to be the only one telling the story.

        OP, I saw elsewhere that your ED seriously discourages the director’s access to the board. Any way to leverage that since the Lying Director is actively talking to the board? Or at least to say to ED (after you – or all of you – also go to the board, “well Liar McLiarface talked to the board, and we all thought it was important that her perspective wasn’t the only one being heard”.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          I wonder if you are my friend Ginger who is Ginger. I will send you/her a DM on social media…

      4. Anonymoose*

        “The Board here is also fraught with problems so I’ve been careful to not go to them, but it may be time to start.”

        Actually, I wouldn’t bother at this point. There’s already two strikes against them. If you didn’t even trust going to the board previously, going now AFTER being sold that ‘boo hoo, the other directors are picking on me’ and them believing it….I don’t think there’s a chance in hell, unless you have hard evidence against the ED or LD. It may just be time for your entire director level to have a mass exodus to make your point. I mean, really. Is the ED close to retirement age? Have there been other orgs sniffing around ED? If not, then ED probably thinks they’re in a totally prime position and won’t move unless they’re totally forced to – like 99% of their directors leaving them. That gets public attention. Not that you folks would care at that point since you’d be gone, but…at least the org would have an actual chance of turning around.

      5. Observer*

        Well, if you do this, I would say that 1. you need to have very careful documentation of everything. The more you have in email, etc. the better. 2. Go as a group.

      6. Not the director*

        Don’t go to the board. This is a cut your losses situation. You can’t win here. Do your job. Go home and enjoy your time off. Do your “freelance” ground work. Look to the future. Do not engage in a group rebellion.

        Here’s what happened to me. I left a job because the “toxic” director wasn’t going anywhere and the ED didn’t think there was a problem. I successfully gained employment. I missed my old job, my old colleagues but not the toxic situation.

        Two years later. Toxic director was gone. ED was gone. I was asked back at a higher position and salary. I chose to stay at new position.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, there’s no winning. The bees in the office are overseen by wasps and hornets in the board. Flee, fly, flutter to freedom.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This would be my recommendation, too. I sit on a Board with an Exec Director who does not like to fire people, so he engages in conduct that would be considered constructive dismissal (illegal in my state, and actionable) to get people who are on the outs to leave. He also won’t fire long-term directors who are abusive, bullying, and disruptive, and he dithers about it.

      The Board had no idea this was happening until about a year ago, when we conducted an exit interview with an outgoing director (someone at OP’s level). Then we received a whistleblower complaint. Then three more director-level positions turned over. This has all happened over two years. Since the first exit interview, we’ve taken a LOT of action to transition the ED out (including discipline and more rigorous performance oversight and more frequent performance reviews). Things aren’t 100% fixed, but we’re at about 75% after two years (and still working on it).

      Similarly, a partner organization just had 14 staff quit in protest over their ED’s mismanagement and bullying. If his Board doesn’t fire him, it will be a travesty and will cost the organization all of their goodwill and reputation.

      Boards often move slowly, but they’re also out of the loop with what’s going on at the sub-ED level. Letting them know what’s happening (especially with others) can help them understand when they need to get more involved.

      1. paul*

        I may be a bit cynical, but I feel like if a board is a good board it would probably have started asking pointed questions and wondering WTF was going on before then–surely 14 people didn’t just up and quit without there being other things happening first?

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          I believe it. Our board gets performance reviews for our CEO from our directors. Which get turned in to the CEO for approval first. Approval of their own performance reviews.

        2. Antilles*

          I wouldn’t blame the Board too much here.
          1.) For Board members, this typically isn’t their full-time job – it’s a part-time volunteer passion. Depending on what else the person has going on, it’s also not unheard of for a person to actually be on a couple different boards at the same time (presumably in different fields, because duh).
          2.) The Board often primarily communicates with the ED. This gives him the opportunity to undermine contrary opinions (or even prevent such opinions from reaching the Board at all).

          1. Observer*

            Yes. But when THAT MANY high level people quit, that should be a signal to the board to figure out what’s going on.

          2. Ashley*

            Or the Board is stacked with friends of the ED.
            OP if you have any relationship with a board member you trust, it is worth mentioning the problems if not now then after you give notice.

          3. MsSolo*

            I worked for a museum where several members of the trustee board had never even been. They were weirdly put out when we held a board meeting on site.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          The problem is that no one complained to the Board before the 14 quit together (same day, same time, same resignation letter). The Board’s
          primary liaison is the ED, and in most cases, you (the Board) don’t actually want to get involved in micro-level personnel issues unless there’s a bigger compliance concern. So it’s easy for things to go unnoticed until there’s a big problem because the Board of a 5+ person organization cannot and should not be engaged in managing sub-ED staff.

      2. Camellia*

        “Since the first exit interview, we’ve taken a LOT of action to transition the ED out (including discipline and more rigorous performance oversight and more frequent performance reviews). Things aren’t 100% fixed, but we’re at about 75% after two years (and still working on it).”

        So is the ED still there after two years of working on it?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, but it’s not the Board’s first choice (we also learned about the constructive dismissal stuff for the first time 3 months ago). So the second best option was discipline and docked pay.

          The problem is that there’s no institutional knowledge except for the ED, and no bench. The ED has been in his job for 40+ years. But the Board wants him out by next year and has been working to put in p,ave the knowledge and systems needed to be able to do that.

      3. zora*

        I think this is helpful advice, but I would also caution that the opposite can also be true. I worked with an organization where the Board worshipped the ED, even after serious allegations from multiple sources came to light, and a group of staff tried a similar thing, going to the Board as a group to get the ED fired. The ED actually “resigned”, left the building and everything, and then the Board voted to go back and BEG them to return because “no one else can run this org.” (which was total bull). But the ED had done such a good job cultivating and stacking the Board for so many years.

        So, I think I would encourage the director in question to seriously consider what they know of the Board and their relationship with the ED before deciding what to do. I think it is equally likely that the Board will 1. Be appalled and start moving to replace the ED and 2. Fully back the ED and do something crazy destructive like fire every director involved. Some Boards just really aren’t rational, you have to know what you are dealing with.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Is this a situation where it might make sense for all of the other directors to band together and reach out to the Board? (I’m assuming there is a Board since it’s a non-profit).

  5. Mazzy*

    Don’t quit without something lined up. I’ve found it ever-more harder to find a job, let alone a good job, as I climbed the ladder. Director jobs aren’t just sitting around waiting for applicants, and if they are, they are highly competitive. Also, many more Director level jobs go un-advertised, as opposed to entry level positions. I would advocate for doing what you need to do for your sanity and mental health (leave for long breaks or early when it gets bad, for example), rather than quitting. I mean, if HR isn’t going to do anything about truly horrible employees, I doubt they are going to do anything if you leave a few hours early, or whatever form “take care of yourself first” takes.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree. If OP can stick it out through April, and if OP can give themselves permission to dream about leaving, it may make the job transition period easier. But I would apply for jobs while still employed–especially when coming out of a nonprofit.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      Yeah don’t hurt yourself to spite them. Make them pay while you job search. And take some sick leave and some vacation – maybe leave early a few times. Take it easy.

  6. Hiring Mgr*

    I would start the job search, but stick it out ’til April (it’s only a month from now!). Plus, if you’re looking to remain in the same field, you can probably network with relevant people at the conference..

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was going to comment this too. Might as well start the job search now, since it’ll take longer than you think.

  7. Not Today Satan*

    I’m of the opinion that if you have savings or another safety net (i.e. a spouse’s income, family) you know yourself best. I’ve been in super toxic work environments and it can really drain you and hamper your ability to job search effectively.

    Last time around, it got so bad that I forgot to even go to a job interview. I ended up resigning, started volunteering in the field I wanted to transition to, got a couple temp jobs, and found a job in my new field 4 months later. This was in 2013. But I had savings and the job I got was semi-entry level, it would probably be harder for me to accomplish now.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      This is my number one reason I’m jealous of my married friends (and the rest of it seems like kind of a wash haha) – they have a backup income and backup insurance options so they have the freedom to quit jobs if they need to. I have savings, but the cost of insurance would eat through them so quickly that it doesn’t make sense to leave a job with benefits something less certain :(

      1. OP*

        Yeah, it’s the insurance thing that makes me so hesitant. Having worked for some really volatile companies before, I am now in the habit of always having savings so I can run for the hills. But non-profits provide such excellent health insurance benefits, it’s a big part of why the other directors aren’t considering leaving.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Especially right now, with the US insurance markets being so weird – the costs seem to be all over the place.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          I have not found it to be universally true that nonprofits offer such excellent health insurance, but I guess I’ve never seen what similarly sized for-profits are offering!

        3. Specialk9*

          I’m in private sector and have worked for govt. I’ve never had any problem getting really good medical care, and I’m a ball o’ problems, medically speaking. The only out of pocket is super boutique doctors who don’t have to take insurance. (But most people don’t need those boutique doctors, realistically.)

          Honestly, that sounds like comfort and fear of change talking. At your level, you’re going to get good health insurance wherever you go. And likely paid more.

  8. CrystalMama*

    Now is the time to forge your Own path OP! Keep moving towards actualization and your keep intentions strong! Visualizing your next step can help it manifest.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      I’m not sure exactly what that means Crystal, but it has a really nice vibe.. I like it!

  9. Mike R*

    Go to the conference. It will be a networking opportunity that could lead to your next job.

    1. Irene Adler*

      And it will remind you of what it is like to associate with colleagues who are of good character, not abusive, etc. IOW, a breath of fresh air.

      1. I See Real People*

        I second Irene’s advice. Sometimes when you’re in a toxic situation, it eats away at your self confidence a little at a time. That conference and it’s people will feel like sunshine and remind you that you deserve better!

  10. OP*

    OP here – thank you so much for answering my question! It means a lot to hear your advice, and also the advice of the commentariat here at Ask A Manager. Based on the advice I think I am going to start actively looking while I’m here. Part of why I was going to freelance first is it’s a small industry, and I found out recently that when other directors have tried to go to affiliated/allied organizations, the Board and ED have torpedoed them, so i’m going to have to figure out how to neutralize that.

    1. paul*

      Do you mean the board refuses to give references, or do they actively sabotage things? Or are people on multiple non profit boards and sinking candidates that leave one org to go to the other?

      1. OP*

        Actively sabotaging – multiple non profit boards, plus a small industry where everyone knows each other.

        1. paul*


          Is it feasible to only apply to non profits where there’s no board overlap?

          It sounds like a shit director’s kind of the least of your organizational problems TBH.

        2. Bea*

          What. The. F……..

          A company set up to help others are going after former employees so savagely. That’s so gross and makes me sad and angry on so many levels. These are disgusting people to be associated with.

              1. Specialk9*

                Naw, we’re in the fast zombie era now, you gotta sprint to keep ahead of zombies these days.

            1. Andy*

              yes! except faster, and without falling dramatically to the ground after tripping over every green pebble.

              1. First Time Caller*

                And inexplicably keep looking back to check if the zombies are still following you (THEY ALWAYS ARE!) until you trip and get your foot stuck in a conveniently-placed divot in the ground.

        3. Engineer Girl*

          So April is really important. Go to the conference. Deliver the product. Get accolades. Get your name out there. These are your inoculation against toxic board.

          I originally wanted to suggest that you and your fellow directors approach the board as a group right after the conference. Then you would have lots of standing. On a functional board you and your directors would have enough standing to say “it’s us or LD”. But if the board is bad too then just use your standing to network.
          Until then fly under the radar. Deliver with excellence. Get your name out there so people will question they lies.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Also, if several of you leave at once it will also be telling. Are your fellow Directors looking?

            1. OP*

              I just found out that a director who I thought was going to try to fight it out – is updating their resume. I am sort of hoping several of us leave at once. Unfortunately a mass exodus has happened at affiliated organizations and it didn’t wake anyone up.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                Oh it will never wake up the board!

                But it will become apparent to the other organizations in your field. These things take time.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      Torpedoed the move to a new role, or torpedoed the organization people moved to? If it’s blocking you from going somewhere else, just keep it quiet and tell them you’re taking some time off to travel or you’re starting a llama snuggling business.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yeah, but when the same people are on multiple boards, it makes it difficult or impossible to interview at one without your current board hearing about it.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Makes sense. I’m not in the nonprofit world so I hadn’t thought about that until OP and paul mentioned it.

    3. Ainomiaka*

      That at least sounds like staying through the conference and talking in person would be step one. Get your side of the story out there first.

    4. Buu*

      At some point people will surely wonder why every person they reference from your org has a bad reference. Do you have any friends at other orgs within your sector? A personal rec might help negate some of this.

  11. Chelsea*

    This advice column has, above all else, inspired me to never work at a non-profit. What ridiculous, lawless places.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Oh, so many for-profit organizations are just as bad or worse. Unfortunately.

      1. voyager1*

        Yes and would add: small organizations vs large organizations is many times just trading one set of problems/disfunction for another.

      2. I'm A Little TeaPot*

        I would argue that nonprofits do have a higher prevalence of certain issues that even small for profits would. But yes, small orgs are notorious.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I think almost all nonprofits have some kind of expectation that we’re all working for a cause rather than just the dollars, which can lead to some dysfunctional thinking pretty fast – but that’s also why I choose to work at them (I have worked nonprofit all my life now) so I can hardly complain about that.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          I saw that on small programs too. Even working in the same company. Program has 50 and fewer people? Usually toxic. 50-1000 people? Pretty good. Over 1000? Too big to stretch out and get experience.

      3. Anon to me*

        True, but I tend to think that this is a bigger issue in smaller nonprofits, because there is a supposed buy in for the mission of the organization. I think that compounds the issue, especially with employee’s who are easily manipulated or committed to the mission.

    2. OklahomaSpeaks*

      It took me a while to get in at my nonprofit with a great salary. But I used to feel the same way—I constantly worked with individuals who had the financial backing of a spouse or parents to play at helping the less fortunate while working for “pocket money”

      1. Lil Fidget*

        They do exist! Claw your way up to places with HR departments and actual strategic thinking!

    3. Bea*

      That’s business in general. Non vs For profit are all just different arms of the same crime family in the end.

    4. Fleahhhh*

      Good thing I don’t use the dysfunctional stories about for-profit businesses here as justification for never leaving the nonprofit sector!!

      Someone in a mostly functional nonprofit

    5. LBK*

      This is mostly confirmation bias – there are so many horrid workplaces written out here that aren’t specified as for-profit since it’s the default. You only notice a trend among non-profits because it’s usually called out, but they’re far from constituting the majority of the worst letters here.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I think it stands out for NPOs because we like to think of them having a higher standard. Their mission is something beyond revenue generation or so it seems. I think if we counted the posts we would find that there are actually more complaints about the for profit sector. The level of disappointment seems to be greater in the NPO sector, though.

      I can say that from the logical side of my brain. For myself, I don’t want to work for an NPO again. I don’t want to take that chance. When it’s bad, it’s really bad and there seems to be no brakes, nothing to stop the badness.

      1. OP*

        You hit it on the head with the level of disappointment. I’ve worked for both NPO and FP, and I was emotionally ok with more dysfunction at FP because – well, I was just there for a paycheck and some experience. At a NPO, you’re so invested in the mission that it can feel like a crushing defeat when you encounter these obstacles to success.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        This. I think this is also why we get frustrated with dysfunction in government. If a company is crazy, well, OK guess I’ll go elsewhere for my Santa-themed tree houses. But if it’s city hall, or an NPO dedicated to a cause I care about, I can’t help but think they /should/ do better.

    7. This Daydreamer*

      I work for a non-profit that has some very minor grumbling, but we all get along, are dedicated to doing the best for our mission, aren’t overworked to death, and are making a difference for the people we help. If I have a rough day, I have several people who I can call, in the organization, who I know damn well will be supportive.

      It’s not all non-profits. It’s a small fraction of non-profits. You actually can help save the world without losing your mind.

  12. She Who Must Be Obeyed (formerly Laura)*

    Carry your cell phone around (you probably do anyway), and record every conversation you have with Lying Director ;P

    1. Ihmmy*

      I suspect this was said jokingly but just in case anyone is considering this: don’t. It is illegal to record people without their knowledge/consent in many places, and this will be a huge betrayal of trust if it comes out and will likely substantiate the LD’s claims of harassment (even if the recording itself contains nothing egregious)

      1. She Who Must Be Obeyed (formerly Laura)*

        I was joking (the ‘P’ kind of represents “tongue-in-cheek” in this case, emphasized by the ‘wink’ of the semicolon), but in many states, only one party has to consent. It’s often enough to state that the conversation is being recorded, though…or maybe to even ask if you can record it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Ha! Putting two and two together. If the boss won’t fire anyone then why not bring the cell out before the conversation and say, “I will be recording this conversation as there seems to be confusion later as to what was said. This puts you on notice that you are being recorded.” Then, start the recording and as the recording is running, repeat. “We are now recording this conversation Liar Liar is aware that I am recording this for a permanent record.”

  13. Bea*

    Once you’ve decided to leave, the detachment you’ll develop will help you coast through while launching the job search.

    This is a terrible situation to be in but reminder it’s not on you to protect and salvage the organization. They’re sinking their own ship, it’s about taking care if yourself and your needs.

    1. OP*

      Thank you. It’s so true, once I’d made up my mind that I needed to quit, my day to day ability to cope improved so much because when shit hits the fan I can just sort of look at it and no longer feel a desperate need to fix it.

  14. voyager1*

    Hey OP,

    Quick question. Why did ED hire the friend of someone who was so bad? Did they just not know that this person was just as toxic. That whole part just jumps out at me, wondering if something else is going on like fraud or messing with funds or something.

    1. OP*

      Nobody understands the move either. There have been jokes floating around about Bad Director having blackmail on the ED, and now the “joke” (har har) is that Bad Director told Lying Director what they had on the ED.

      1. Oranges*

        I’m wondering about how much the ED values the work. I’m guessing he’s doing a family or friend a “solid” by hiring them for a job that “any one can do” and is just willfully ignorant about things.

        He seems to view the rest of the directors as toddlers. “Work it out” and “We made it his (the ED’s) problem” while talking about the BD. I’m betting he has an image of himself as a beneficent boss and all his directors are whining.

        1. zora*

          It’s tempting to try to figure out the logic of situations like this, but often there is none, and it just makes you go crazy if you keep trying to figure out “Why??”

          But, to disregard my own advice: I have also seen power-hungry people like this where they really just want people they can have control over, so they are more likely to hire a known quantity than a complete stranger where they just don’t know what they are getting. I think I have worked with this exact ED’s type before, and that’s what I have seen.

          1. Oranges*

            Yeah, the why doesn’t matter to the OP’s course of action. I’m just always curious about what makes other people tick. Power hungry is def a possibility.

            1. zora*

              I get what you mean, but sometimes there just really isn’t logic to these things. Some people just make knee jerk decisions and if you try to figure out why, there just isn’t a good explanation. So, sometimes I have to remind myself to stop trying to figure them out, because there is no answer and all that’s going to happen is hurting my brain. ;o)

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Or money hungry people. The boss could be using the org’s funds for his own agenda. Not that I have seen this before or anything.
            OP take a look at the org’s yearly financials. I saw the Miscellaneous Account was the second biggest account on the books. Right away I knew that was where the money was being tampered with. If someone audited that particular account they would have been buried in an impossible pile of paper and numbers.

  15. AKchic*

    April is just around the corner. You *can* do this. I promise you, waiting is worth it.

    You will have delivered a great product that will be a resume booster.
    You will have gone to a conference that allows you to network and be on an expert panel (again – resume-booster).

    You will also have time to be paid to look for another job while you continue to collect that paycheck and keep trying to help the company run in spite of itself.

    I also recommend dropping a line to the Board of Directors and let them know what is going on. They have the power to remove the ED, and the new Lying Director, which may mitigate the need to leave the company.
    You don’t necessarily have to do this yourself, but someone else can do this for you as a 3rd party intermediary who would like to keep you anonymous because you are concerned with backlash/fallout/potential whistleblower issues. Alternatively, you could also have a group of you write a group letter to members of the board describing the situation. They can’t fire the majority of the staff at the same time without causing serious disruption.

    I also recommend documenting all issues and continue documenting them as they happen so you have an accurate timeline of events to refer back to whenever you need it. Email it to yourself at least once a day (if you update it daily/hourly/as-needed).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Pay particular attention to things that violate regs pertinent to your arena. There are general regs too to watch, such as health and safety issues that have been ignored or not addressed in a proper manner.

        As a rule of thumb people like this can end up violating important regs and then you got them on something concrete. The times that I have seen this done, the reporter went with small violations. For example, OSHA would agree X is wrong and just order the company to fix it. No big deal. So you are looking for a reg violation of medium to large proportions.

        I can almost promise you that violation is there somewhere. See, people who are always covering their behinds, tend to be busy covering their behinds and they miss stuff. Sometimes it’s important stuff.

        1. zora*

          Good point. In the case of my story (more above) the thing being covered up was extensive sexual harassment and general bullying, the ED just really liked being ‘the boss’ of everyone, micromanaging everything the staff did, and having plenty of people around that would let him throw his weight around and yell and stomp his feet whenever he wanted to. There is usually something being covered up that people know is wrong, if it ever got out to the right people.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      Surely there are people who can say something to the Board who know about this craziness. I will do it if you are in a pinch for someone. lol. ;)

  16. CatCat*

    Just tell Lying Director that only the one holding the conch can speak. Kidding/Lord of the Flies fan.

    I’m also wondering if the Board has any idea what’s going on.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I would be so tempted to put a conch on my desk as a little decorative item to amuse myself.

  17. Fleahhhh*

    OP, so much sympathy for you here. It sounds like it may not be the worst idea to go to the board when you’re leaving – but for your own sake, I would wait until you have an offer letter and are out the door. I’d also waiting until April, for the conference (NTEN maybe??) and to give yourself time to get some applications & interviews (hopefully) under your belt.

    If you were committed to staying, I’d say to go to the board now – but if you’re ready to go (and understandably so!), save it for the exit interview.

    BEST of luck to you on the job search! I hope you find another organization that treats you well and appreciates your skills & experience.

  18. PersephoneUnderground*

    Can you post something on Charity Navigator (if it works like that, I’ve never used it) or some sort of nonprofit review site, or even glassdoor, so this org doesn’t keep getting people’s donations to waste on dysfunction after you leave? If I were a donor I’d be livid to hear about this sort of mismanagement. I know you were hoping it could turn around but it sounds like other orgs in the same field are a better bet than trying to save this housefire- their board and their ED both have issues of integrity and competence.

    1. JuniperGreen*

      This is a great point about donors! And also, I’m not sure what kind of mission you have or populations you serve, but are your clients/recipients of your services impacted by this behavior? If you do decide to go the board, you might consider framing it as how this behavior/toxic environment is effectively reducing your impact and ability to deliver on your mission (that is, assuming you have a recent and relevant mission/vision statement). Perhaps then the board might be less likely to write this off as “drama” or “in-fighting.”

      (Also, this situation is awful and I wish you the best wherever you land next)

  19. J.B.*

    OP – depending on exactly what field this is in – are there any grants at play or social services requirements? Could you find if there are any whistleblower protections? I would be particularly concerned with the potential torpedoing you with other organizations (!!!)

  20. Observer*

    Another thought, as well. If all of the other directors are seeing what you are seeing, then word WILL get around, so your risk in staying a bit longer is low.

    But, yes, start actively looking. This kind of thing will absolutely come back to haunt the organization. It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN. And, while it could take a while, you don’t know that. You want to be as far away from there when the inevitable happens.

  21. Technical_Kitty*

    I have worked with an awful manager who was racist, sexist, willfully endanger his employees, ignored protocol, ignored complaints, and once tried to keep a sick employee from seeing a doctor as the medic recommended. This person also lied constantly, always to make himself look better and always at someone else’s expense. This was in a remote exploration camp, so we were very isolated. Nothing was done until an entire crew threatened to quit and he was exposed as a huge liar, and then he was only removed from the project. Management are often not concerned with their employees deeds, but with their investment in the employee. Or they are just awful managers, but the outcome is the same.

    So OP, if your boss is doing nothing about this, FLEE. Stick around until April, maybe make sure you have something else lined up, but keep witnesses in meetings with this person, make sure to protect yourself.

    1. Artemesia*

      I have watched small non profits with incestuous boards allow themselves to be run by total incompetents. The good people left; the board didn’t much care and the organization continued to be horrible. The OP needs to very aggressively job search; this one is a lost cause.

      1. Technical_Kitty*

        Yes, once they highest level has decided that they are going to allow awful behaviour for whatever reason, get out of there.

  22. FrontRangeOy*

    All things being dependent on how the relationship between directors and the Board is structured, you might consider a talk with Board members you’ve worked with on committees, deliverables, or events. The organization I sit on the Board for recently lost a phenomenal director in part due to office “jokes” gone wrong (mild compared to what we read about here but still, bad) and an ED unwilling to set the tone for stronger office culture. If that director had brought their concerns to us informally, we might had been in a position to deal with it before we lost an industry star. As it was, the director didn’t tell us what was going on until after choosing to leave the organization. The episode did negatively impact our ED’s annual performance review – won’t loose their job but may also loose us some donations and will affect our community reputation. Won’t make an impact this year but over time, we build a paper trail of what our ED is/not capable of and if that’s for the good of our organization.

    TL;DR – if your org’s structure allows for it, talk with Board members in a factual, non emotional way

  23. Non-profit veteran*

    I disagree with a lot of previous comments – I wouldn’t say anything to board members; I think it’s naive to think they’d support staff over the executive director. If they wanted to manage the ED they would have done it already.

    This is based on my experience at a non-profit with great staff and an abusive CEO. Turnover was through the roof, staff members much beloved by the board left en masse, board fully aware of all dynamics but never took action. Speaking to the board about internal management issues was a fireable offense. In a small industry I think trying to go around your chief executive is more likely to hurt you than help you. Best bet is to get out!

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Agreed. I have 20+ years of involvement in and consulting for nonprofit organizations. A board of directors is not a hiring committee or HR. (If they are getting involved in staffing decisions other than ED and a few other directors, then they’re a micromanaging board that probably has a lot of other problems, too.) Losing OP, plus maybe other directors and other staff, is something this board will just have to endure. Hopefully it will be a good wake-up call about the health of the organization.

  24. NJ Anon*

    Wow, sounds like my old job except it was the ED who was the lying director. Every single department director has left. He replaced us all with his buddies. So glad I’m out of there but hated to leave.

  25. BronxOrganizer*

    This problem of the lying director & the ED who believes them or won’t demand they shift behavior might be an epidemic in non-profits these days. In the last three years I have encountered this at two organizations – where colleagues literally made up stories about me to serve their self-interest & the EFs just assumed that those individuals were the victims. Most recently I encountered a director ( manager ) who was hired to integrate the work of 5 teams but has mistaken her role with being director of those teams. For complicated reasons involving health benefits I was working as a consultant but acting as a director of a small team. She decided she hated me after about 3 days I believe because I offered advice to her on some matters shortly after she started. I had been told by the ED to coach her from underneath because I am 28 years her senior ( I am trying to move out of senior roles & work on projects with particular appeal.) The ED had lead me to believe the new manager would be hands off my department & eager for coaching – the exact opposite was the case. She proceeded to lie about me, stymie routine work I had planned by refusing to authorize research & meetings, she refused to return or even read my email & she expected me to introduce her to people who were strategic allies or funders while aggressively insulting me in closed meetings. The things she said were so mean spirited & odd that I believe the ED thought I was making it up. So wish I had taped her. She refused to hire me officially & got the ED ( who had months before repeatedly asked me to work FTE for them – we were waiting for my old & superior health benefits to run out) to back her. I am an almost 60, overweight white woman & despite my many years of experience – I can not find a comparable job or right now any job. Our sector is committed to racial justice hiring & combined with persistent sexism about “opinionated” women and ageism & discrimination against fat people – I am beginning to wonder if I will ever be able to get any job other than freelance ever again. So if you are younger & relatively attractive maybe you can afford to quit but be careful. Many non-profits want beautiful & easy going people these days

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      > So if you are younger & relatively attractive maybe you can afford to quit but be careful. Many non-profits want beautiful & easy going people these days

      Witnessed this first-hand with a prestigious nonprofit organization in a large mid-Atlantic city. Trying to tell the story while keeping it sufficiently anonymous is impossible, but I will say that they engaged in illegal age discrimination in hiring and firing, multiple times over the few years that I volunteered there. People forced out and replaced with someone younger, or older, more experienced candidates passed over for younger, less qualified candidates. It was shocking and so disappointing. It’s not just ladies in Hollywood who have trouble getting work after age 40. :P

    2. Engineer Girl*

      It’s been my experience that dysfunctional bullies say horrid unbelievable things in private. Because it is private. The best you can do is get up and walk out.

  26. Yet Even Another Alison*

    Alison’s comments, as always, are spot on. Stay away from the lying, toxic director – and continue to build up your creds (in other words stay) by presenting at the conference. Leave on your terms with your nest adequately feathered. Keep close track of decisions made at meetings when you are in the presence of toxic director – creating meeting minutes with summaries of actions and decisions. If the toxic one comes up to you in the hall or other one-on-one venues – do not engage unless there is another director present. If toxic one tries to state actions or words that you did not do or say – immediately ask for clarification and CC your ED. Challenge professionally and swiftly – but do not appear to be too confrontational about this – particularly if you are female. (Organizations still have a harder time, at least some do, dealing with women who “fight back” if you will) You might say something about wanting to be very clear and precise when toxic one tries to attribute actions or statements to you that are not accurate. Harder to argue with the premise of desired clarity in business. So sorry you have to deal with such poor management.

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