my boss won’t stop posting fake news and false memes on our company Facebook

A reader writes:

I work for a small charity and report directly to our founder/president. We have a contractor for our Twitter and Instagram accounts, but our president refuses to hand over our Facebook pages to anyone.

Lately, he’s started posting fake news/memes. The memes are “in line” with our mission in that our mission is around social justice, but they’re wrong. For example, we were especially loathed for sharing that incorrect meme saying something like more kids have died in school shootings than in the Iraq war, which is absurdly wrong.

We receive dozens of emails and our reviews plummet every time he does this. I’ve brought it up to him five times. The first two times, he “explained” that the news/memes are “partially” true and that he doesn’t delete them because it increases engagement and exposure, and the last three times I received no response at all. (My only way of communicating with him is through email, so I document everything because it’s very easy for him to ignore me.) The worst part is that our organization takes a firm stance AGAINST fake news.

I’m in charge of answering our email, so I’m the one who has to deal with these people who are (justifiably) angry about the misinformation we spread. I forward them all to my boss so he knows the impact of his posts and then try my best to smooth things over with the emailer. When my boss sometimes replies to them, his response is always essentially that he’s been in this business for decades and knows better than everyone else.

We’ve had our Facebook Ads account revoked, lost a full star on our reviews (which should have been almost impossible with the number of five-star reviews we’ve received over the years), people are telling their friends that we’re frauds, and donations have almost ceased. I’m embarrassed to be working in what used to be a coveted position in a highly-regarded charity. I’ve started looking for other jobs, but there are few prospects right now. Is there anything I can do to save us in the meantime?

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked what’s up with email being the only communication method between her and her boss, because that’s quite odd:

I’ve worked here for a year, and my boss has only physically been in the office for maybe six weeks of that time. He won’t talk on the phone, I don’t even know his actual number (he gives out various ones depending on who he’s talking to), he refuses to buy me a work phone (so I have to give out my personal number to people who sell it), and he won’t answer any contact through unofficial means like Facebook — unless the person is important, of course. The ONLY way he will contact me is through email. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s because it’s really easy to just not acknowledge an email.

I actually think you’ve got bigger problems than your fake-news-loving boss. An organization president who only communicate with his staff through email is … not great.

I mean, if you were a huge organization and you were many layers of management beneath him, maybe. But you said it’s a small organization, so there’s no excuse for this other than that he’s really terrible at managing people and/or is purposely avoiding accountability for his decisions and/or both. I’m guessing both.

You say the charity is highly regarded, so I’m curious if the founder/president has always been this way, or if something has changed in recent times. For example, maybe there used to a be a competent second-in-command who reined him in but who’s no longer there, or maybe he’s just become increasingly checked out as time has gone on. Or maybe he’s always been like this, but the rest of the staff has been strong enough to compensate. Or maybe he’s truly great at some other aspect of the job, and just really bad at the parts described here, who knows.

But please know that the part of this where he’s incommunicado is really strange.

In any case, as for what you can do about it … I’m not hopeful that you can change it, because you’ve already taken the obvious steps and they haven’t worked.

In general in a situation like this, you’d want to do the following, in roughly this order:

* Talk to the person and explain in very clear, concrete terms the harm the behavior is causing — in this case, that your reviews are plummeting, your membership is angry and calling you frauds, your Facebook Ads account has been revoked, and donations have almost ceased (!). That last one is usually pretty hard to ignore, and the fact that hasn’t mattered to him is a particularly strong point in the “all is not well” here column.

* Have someone senior to you and with more standing/influence raise the issue and repeat your points.

* If the problem continues after that, decide how strongly you feel about it and how much capital you’re willing to invest in pushing back. If the answer is “lots,” then at that point you can do things like organize your coworkers to push back as a group (which can be harder to ignore and can give you some cover).

Ultimately, though, sometimes the leadership of an organization will make terrible decisions and be impervious to reasoned feedback about it. When that happens, generally you need to accept that they’ve made their decision and you need need to make yours (in other words, accept that it’s not likely to change and decide how bothered are you about it, and choose whether to stay or go accordingly).

But this guy is watching donations dry up and doesn’t care. Assuming you’ve made sure he knows the connection between his memes and the decrease in revenue, this isn’t a “try to make him see reason” situation. It’s a “exit the ship as quickly as you can” situation.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 265 comments… read them below }

      1. Hey-eh*

        I used to love following The Ordinary on Instagram and I bought a lot of their products but yeah.. I finally unfollowed because the posts were just so.. so.. weird.. Does anyone know what happened there?!

        1. CTT*

          Racked has been keeping up with all of his travails, although they know as much about what’s really going on as anyone else. But I’ve been enjoying their updates regardless.

        2. Anon*

          I can hardly claim to be an insider, but I was so enamored of The Ordinary that a year or two ago I went looking on Glassdoor to see if Deciem might be a good company to work for. The impression I get is that this has been going on for a while and is just louder now.

        3. esra*

          That’s what happens when you straight up fire your marketing team. The ceo is just doing the insta now.

      2. Justme, The OG*

        +1 on the reference. I have been watching this (sadly, because the products are great).

      3. Say What, now?*

        Wow, just got caught up. He defended himself by saying his controversies are generating sales? I mean sure I didn’t know what the Ordinary was before this minute but I’m not inspired to buy it now! I can’t imagine that this company is around a couple of years from now if this keeps up.

        1. Beckysuz*

          I had no idea the CEO was crazy but I’ve been buying their products for about a year now and they really are top notch. The serum foundation is amazing. And the high fluidity primer is the bees knees, I use it to smooth my curly hair before blow drying as well as on my face

        2. Ecce Wombat*

          I just bought a 2 year supply of their azelaic acid brightener, which works better for me than pretty much any acne product. Given the rate of meltdown I’m figuring they’re just not going to be around that much longer.

    1. Kathleen_A*

      The first person I thought of was my late and only semi-lamented BIL. (I say “semi-lamented” because he wasn’t at heart an awful person, and he loved my sister and she loved him, but jeeeeeeez being a PITA – a militant PITA – was really and truly his hobby.) Anyway, he died before FB memes were a thing, but he was a devoted and tireless troublemaker when it came to politics, and he loved to forward emails that included “facts” about politicians he didn’t like (which was pretty much all of them. I one time gave him a T-shirt that indicated his support for the Whig party and he *loved* it.)

      I don’t want to get too political, so let’s pretend he hated, say, Chester B. Arthur, and let’s pretend that Chester had a reputation for being not all that bright. And let’s also pretend that BIL found somewhere an obviously doctored image of a letter that Chester wrote in which, thanks to PhotoShop, it appears as though he’d misspelled his own first and last names and also the name of his mom. And let’s pretend that I hadn’t yet reached the point where I just deleted his forwards unseen, and that I wrote back to BIL and said “BIL, this photo is clearly doctored. Attached is the un-PhotoShopped original, and as you can clearly see, Chester did indeed know how to those names.”

      BIL’s response? “Well, it may not be literally true, but it demonstrates *a* truth.”

      I think the OP’s boss is also a believer in disseminating things that may not be literally true, but that are *a* truth. So good luck trying to talk him out of that, poor dear OP.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Oops! It’s Chester A. Arthur, not Chester B. I was combining Chester’s name with the equally obscure Rutherford B. Hayes, but in any case, I’m pretty confident that both Chester and Rutherford could spell their own names and the names of their moms. :-)

      2. EddieSherbert*

        *lays head on desk*
        Wow. People that use that kind of logic drive me batty. Just.. what? No? *sigh*

        1. Kathleen_A*

          I know, right? What I said to BIL – and he really did say this very thing, more than once – is “So by ‘a truth,’ what you actually mean is ‘a lie’?” He said I just didn’t understand the situation. I’m surprised I never gave myself a concussion by pounding my head on the keyboard.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              “Your reality facts are picking on my made-up facts.”

              I just head desk at this.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          It sounds like an emotional truth they’re trying to express. This is not a good way to do it though.

        3. Birch*

          I’ve seen people use this argument when sharing scaremongering memes with incorrect “scientific” and pseudoscientific “facts.” They don’t understand that they are literally undermining the point they’re trying to make by sharing false statements.

      3. Lindsay J*

        I think the OP’s boss is also a believer in disseminating things that may not be literally true, but that are *a* truth.

        This attitude seems to be more and more popular these days and it’s getting to me. I’ve called out (nicely, and assuming that the people did not know the information was false and would not want to be endorsing it if they knew it was) people on Facebook for spreading disinformation – even though I generally agree with their political beliefs that they’re pushing – and I’ve gotten this response several times. And it’s really frustrating and annoying. If something is “a truth” use true examples to demonstrate it. If you don’t have any true examples, maybe take a hard look at whether something is a “a truth” or just something you really want to believe. Spreading and engaging with misinformation hurts the cause – whatever your cause might be.

        I’ve wound up just hiding most political posts, and especially those of people who responded to people pointing out misinformation with a line like this.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yes. There’s enough actual facts there to support your argument, or it may be worth reconsidering it…

          And I’ve challenged quotes and memes that back my viewpoint but are basically nonsense before.

          1. Zillah*

            So much ditto. Some people actually appreciate it, but a lot of people treat me as though I’m literally the worst person for being like, “Well…”

            My favorite was the meme about when various countries got universal healthcare which was 1) wrong on many counts and 2) put Germany as getting universal healthcare during WWII.

            Like… I get not knowing the intricacies of every country, but it’s not that hard to eyeball the most well known genocide in modern history and say that genocide and universal healthcare are mutually exclusive.

        2. GreenDoor*

          Wow. You could be me. I’m one of those people that had to end a long-standing friendship during the last presidential campaign because a friend felt, as OP”s boss said, that “even if a small part of this article/meme/post is true, then it’s worth it to get people thinking,”

          Um. Nope. All it means is that you’ve gone and drunk someone’s Kool-Aid and are now trying to pass the glass on to the next person. Just nope!

          OP, something to think about is the fact that the more this goes on, the worse your organization’s reputation will get. Get out now, before your good name is tainted by association! You don’t want future employers thinking that YOU subscribe to those fake ideas just because you work there now!!

        3. Iamanengineer*

          I think there can be a fine line between satire/metaphors/hyperbole and outright fake news. It depends in part on the presentation and in part on your audience. “Cats are plotting takeover of the world” – obvious joke. “___ plotting takeover of the world” – maybe a joke, depending on background pucture and other memes you post.

        4. Anion*

          Yes. It’s not “a truth” if you literally can’t find any true examples of it. If there are no true examples of it, then what you have is not “a truth,” it is “an untruth.”

      4. Emi.*

        This makes a lot of sense to me—when I see people getting called on fake statistics their response is usually “Well, the general point still stands!” Buddy, if it does, find some real numbers for it to stand *on*.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Yes, that’s it exactly. If it’s SO true and SO obvious, why do you have to bolster it with a lie?

      5. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        This is pretty much exactly the same argument my dad used when I explained to him that a viral story that went around at election time was a straight-up lie and showed him the very easily observed evidence. Sigh.

      1. LouiseM*

        I actually kind of wish this wasn’t right at the top…Alison likes to keep this site a politics-free zone, which as a major news junkie I really appreciate. It’s odd that this was an exception!

        1. Foxtrot*

          Agreed. When things get political in non-political environments, you need to ask “what was the purpose of this post?” or “what was the person trying to accomplish?” A lot of times, the answer is just pot stirring.

          1. Zillah*

            I think that that’s a little uncharitable. It’s something that’s on a lot of people’s minds, so they make jokes about it. Whether or not you agree with their doing so, it doesn’t need to have some nefarious, drama mongering motive.

            1. Foxtrot*

              Right after Obama’s won his second term, I had a coworker bring in a countdown clock with Obama’s face that just ticked away until January 2017. He kept it on his desk and didn’t make a fuss. I found it tacky, tasteless, and I thought it had no reason to be in the workplace, but I guess you’d just see it as a light hearted way to blow off steam?
              I don’t think political jokes serve much purpose beyond being a way to stir up drama.

    2. Amanda*

      I guess our government is kind of a charity. Not sure if some of our “elected” officials are actually capable of putting their pants on without a servant financed through their staff allowance

  1. Barney Barnaby*

    Many charities have a Board of Directors, several large donors (either people or corporate), or other advisors. Consider enlisting their help.

    1. Amber T*

      This is an occasion where I think it would absolutely be reasonable to reach above him, whether it be to his own boss or the BOD!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In theory, sure, she could go to the board. But doing that is a very big deal and will likely have consequences for her, especially since this guy is the founder. I’m not convinced it’s worth the pay-off, given the other problems it sounds like the org has, as opposed to just leaving.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It really depends. Boards for organizations like this are often absentee friends of the President who don’t pay attention to oversight as long as the org isn’t burning down. Or, they’re willing to accept absurd explanations out of fear that if the president leaves they’ll be stuck doing the work until they identify a replacement.

          That said, OP, you are living in a house of evil bees. Your boss sounds catsuit crazy (thanks autocorrect), and it sounds like he’s committed to this jackassery (fake news fosters engagement? Maybe if the engagement is flames, bad press and pulled donations). But it doesn’t sound like he’ll change.

          1. Future Analyst*

            I might have to start using “catsuit crazy”– it feels like an appropriate descriptor!

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              It’s just a variation on batsh*t, and given the number of furries I know, I’d actually avoid this pretty hard. Stick with batsh*t.

              1. H.C.*

                Ha, my first thought of catsuit is the full length tight-fitting one-piece, as opposed to a cat suit in the costume sense (tho I suppose it could be both!)

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                It wasn’t an intentional variation! Autocorrect literally changed “batshit” to “catsuit,” and I left it as is because it seemed Pfeiffer-y.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Boards should be getting regular financial reports. If they aren’t, this is probably a board of personal contacts of the founder that was picked because they’re hands-off and not likely to get involved. A board like that isn’t super likely to intervene if the OP contacts them. So my take is that she’d probably be messing up her reference from her boss on her way out, with very little gained for the organization. I don’t see any signs that it would be worth the risk to her.

            1. Observer*

              The thing is that she probably won’t be able to use him anyway.

              Right now, she probably needs to keep the fact that she’s looking a secret. If she jumps ship, he’ll almost certainly be angry enough at her to try to spike any job prospects, and we know that he’s willing to “shade” the truth. And in the long term, once word gets out about what he’s been doing, his reference is going to be something she wants to avoid.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I wouldn’t assume that! There are certainly some managers who take resignations personally, but there are more of them who don’t (including plenty of otherwise bad bosses).

                1. Observer*

                  But he’s not just a bad boss. He’s someone who is apparently ticked off at the OP for having the temerity to think that her fact based assessment of the situation is correct vs his years of experience and knowing more than anyone else.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Eh, I see lots of managers who are annoyed by something like that but consider it one discrete area and will still give a good reference.

                  But it’s true that the email-only thing will be a problem!

            2. Newly Obsessed Reader*

              Board may only get reports quarterly, or semi-annually, or even annually. OP doesn’t say, but if this “house of evil bees” (awesome!) only started getting really evil in the last month or even two, it’s not enough time for the board to realize something bad is going on.

              A BoD, in theory, should be another type of check-and-balance, just as a higher-level manager or a decent HR department would be in a f0r-profit company. (Obviously, as we’ve seen, those resources can be just as useless or even damaging as the source of the problems, but it’s not a given.)

            3. Ainomiaka*

              I would worry about someone knowing the OP didn’t say anything being a bigger net negative than the bad reference. Particularly if bad boss gives a good reference. Isn’t not saying anything going to make them seem like a collaborator in this?

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Oh, they definitely should be getting reports! It’s just that, in my experience (as a nonprofits attorney, among my other weird hats) organizations with this level of dysfunction usually have a rubber-stamp board that isn’t looking meaningfully into loss of income. So I agree that the Board is unlikely to provide the kind of governance check that OP could expect at a more functional nonprofit. And if that’s the case, then it’s not worth the professional blowback for OP to report the issue to the Board.

          3. Chaordic One*

            You are so right, Princess. At the toxic dysfunctional nonprofit I worked at the board consisted of a bunch of rubber stamps.

        2. Melodious Thunk*

          Smaller founder-led non-profits often have out-of-touch boards who won’t necessarily know what’s happening month-to-month and maybe only see annual reports. Nonetheless, they have a fiduciary responsibility to intervene if the CEO begins to behave irresponsibly in ways that harm the bottom line. I think this is a situation where the Board, or at least the most sensible person on the Board, receives a packet including all of the offensive posts along with feedback from members/donors and an accounting of the associated drop-off in donations.

          I mention this because it wouldn’t be the first time that something like this was evidence of new cognitive problems in an aging founder, and it definitely would be on the board to intervene if something like that was happening.

      1. Observer*

        I think the OP needs to leave. But, they also need to let the Board know. This IS a big deal and if they don’t know that the guy is busy destroying the place and totally mismanaging things, then need to be informed.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Same. I’d be out of there so fast. This is the kind of thing that effects your personal reputation. Your boss sucks and isn’t going to change, so update your resume and find something Not Dysfunctional.

          1. Pine cones huddle*


            I have been in a situation where the poor public choices of leadership were embarrassing to me. I found myself feeling ashamed of the work that was being produced and didn’t want to put my name on and even felt like I couldn’t use it in my portfolio because it would do more harm than good.

            And for jobs in social media or communications it’s not uncommon to refer to a Twitter or Facebook page that someone has been managing to get a sense of their style. If someone sees this they could immediately pass on LW as a potential employee.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ditto. Tell the Board on your way out. But don’t stay there, complain, and hope it gets better. It won’t get better.

          1. EddieSherbert*


            I’d probably secure another job offer and THEN let the board know. Just in case going to them could bite you in the bottom like Alison suggested (and I’d be worried about that just based on what I know about the founder!).

        3. Samata*

          I couldn’t imagine being on a BOD and not seeing the posts and formulating a plan to do some damage control. Or knowing his quirks, re: email only.

          I also know that it happens, though. Sigh.

          1. Ali G*

            It sounds very much to me that he is running the show. To be a non-profit, all you have to do is meet the min # of Board members for your state (where I live it’s 3). So his “Board” could very well be him, his wife, and maybe a friend or sibling. They don’t actually “do” anything except exist on paper because the Boss is running the show.
            If this is the case, LW has little to no recourse through the Board. She’s better off jumping hsip while she can.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              LW should run for the hills. No work phone, so she has to give her personal number? Nope. Facebook Ads revoked? Nope. Donations all but ceasing? Nope.

              Get out while you still can.

      2. No Mas Pantalones*

        Serious. I read this one and was practically chanting “Get out, get out, get out, get out” by the end.

    3. Roja*

      My thoughts went straight to the board also. This is something they, if they’re at all decent, should be very concerned about.

    4. Starbucks Girl*

      I disagree. I think OP should focus their efforts on leaving. Bringing this to the Board will probably be a waste of time.

      If the Board follows the organization on social media and is up-to-date on financial reports, then they already know what is going on and are choosing to not do anything about it. If they don’t follow social media or financial reports then they are not very involved, which signals that they are either ineffective, hands-off and agreeable, or buddies with the President. Either way, there probably isn’t much OP can do to make the Board intervene at this point.

      1. Newly Obsessed Reader*

        It’s entirely possible that the board has simply not noticed. I know people who are on multiple non-profit boards and couldn’t possibly keep up with the social media of all of them.

        OP doesn’t say, but the time period in which all this is going down could also be short enough that the board hasn’t noticed the lack of donations and/or seen a financial report dire enough to warrant questions.

        Anytime something is wrong in a non-profit organization, its board of directors should be a resource for fixing it, similar to upper levels of management or HR in for-profit companies.

        I do agree, though, that OP may want to have an exit plan in place before going to this particular board.

      2. LW*

        LW: I have some feelers out, but all the jobs I’ve ever had have intentionally kept my skills sub-par so I have a hard time finding other work. I’m self-taught in a LOT of valuable skills, but you can’t prove “self-taught” on a resume or cover letter.

        1. Competent Commenter*

          Hi LW! I’m wondering what you meant about your skills. Do you mean that you have a lot of self-taught skills but don’t get a chance to use them at work? I can see where it would be difficult to demonstrate those, but you could look for some volunteer opportunities that would let you showcase them. I just had an interview this morning where the interviewee mentioned some relevant things she did in her volunteer life and even her personal life, and because they were well-chosen that was fine. Saying that your well-organized kitchen is the only example you have of organizational skills wouldn’t fly, but saying that in your spare time you extensively use a certain social media platform very effectively and at a high level (not the actual example but that’s the idea) was okay in this case.

          But if you mean that self-taught skills can’t be mentioned, I strongly disagree. Nearly all my skills are self-taught and I’m at a director level (the kind of director who has to do a lot of hands-on work and needs a lot of different skills). No one taught me about social media, Adobe Creative Cloud, website editing, etc. beyond a basic hour tutorial, if that. That’s pretty standard. I demonstrate that those skills are real through the discussion we have. I don’t need to pull out a training certificate for Creative Cloud or WordPress, etc.

        2. Cedrus Libani*

          If I had to take all self-taught skills off my resume, I’d be down to “potty trained and makes an awesome potato salad”. Don’t sell yourself short.

          If the skill is relevant, you should expect to be interviewed by people who actually have that skill and would know if you’re BSing. But it might actually work in your favor if you can show you’ve gone out of your way to improve your skills, based on your own initiative.

          Depending on the skill, maybe you can put together a portfolio? For example, I’m really good at making complicated data visualizations. My resume does say this, but if I’m called on it, I have a personal webpage with some highlights of stuff I’ve made. I showed it while interviewing for the job I have now, and I think it made a difference in their impression of me.

    5. LW*

      LW here: Our board, donors, and advisors worship the ground he walks on. Not to mention, I’m not given access to any of our connections’ contact info.

      Short of finding someone in the press to blow the whistle, nobody’s going to care what he posts. Except for me and the Facebook censors, of course.

      1. Observer*

        Make sure you have copies of the emails you sent. Ramp up your job search.

        And when you leave formally inform the Board in writing. Not because they will try to fix the problem, but because one of these days it will blow up in their faces. And then they are going to look for a scapegoat. You want to protect yourself.

      2. JSPA*

        You may not have the contact information given to you. That doesn’t mean you don’t have access.

        We all have access to google.

        You presumably have access to some sort of annual report or organizational documents. So,

        Annual report / documents –> names and perhaps some other details of board members.

        names and some details –> look for distinctive names.

        Distinctive name –> deep dive, on google. (Not the stuff you have to pay for; those are easy but not reliable, in my limited experience.)

        Google name and include term, “board,” as they may be on other boards that do have contact info. Name and term “donation” if they’re likely to be donors to other charities. Name plus “public comment” plus name of municipality, if they’ve given public comments or testimony, which often requires giving contact info. Name plus likely neighborhoods. Name in common email formats plus common email services. Name plus area code for your area, etc.

        If you get something that looks about right, cross check diligently, including with image google, to see if there’s more than one person of that name. If you find them, send a very neutral first email (or even more neutral nice notecard) about wanting to touch base.

        You don’t have to specify whether you found the name or were given it, unless asked. Saying, “it isn’t terribly hard to google someone, these days” is tolerably honest, and should handle any fears about cyber stalking. Caveat: if they show no interest, do not press on because of time invested; that would in fact be stalkerish.

  2. Myrin*

    I’d like to build on both this letter and the post we had a few weeks ago to answer a follow-up question: How does one push back as a group when your only means of communicating with the boss is via email? Ambush him during one of the six out of fifty-two weeks a year that he’s in the office?

    1. Amber T*

      If all six/10/20 of you send a similar email (hey boss, what you’re doing isn’t cool, can you please -), assuming the boss isn’t 100% checked out and is still slightly engaged and willing to listen to reason, that might get the point across. It just sounds that this boss is so far gone that the entire world could tell him he’s in the wrong and that would just make him even more stubborn (or less likely to care).

      1. Antilles*

        Right. In this particular case, I don’t think there’s any level of push-back that’s likely to change his mind. If his response to “hey, we’re getting flooded with anger and losing donations” is to brush off the concerns with justifying it as ‘partially true’, there’s unlikely to be anything you can say that’s going to get him to listen.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In this case, I’d get the most senior person on staff to tell him they need to set up a call with the staff and insist on it. If he refuses that, the problems are so big that they’re not solvable anyway.

      1. LW*

        Basically everyone in this organization is on the same level of seniority except me. There’s really no staff; it’s just the board and me.

        Man, I am really giving inside baseball and going to get fired.

        1. Close Bracket*

          “Why did you leave your last job?”

          “Well, my bat shit insane boss caught me asking a question on a work advice blog regarding some of the finer points of his insanity …”

  3. OtterB*

    Is there a board? This seems like something that would be worth going to them about since your boss is so nonresponsive. Though I’m guessing that since you said he’s the founder as well as the CEO, there’s probably not an independent board.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I’m trying to figure out if this was ever a long-term viable org or if it’s basically one guy’s dream that is just coming to its logical end.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I would say that if you do reach out to the boss (individually or as a group), you should copy the board on that communication.

      2. Amber T*

        Without bringing politics into the discussion *here* – I’m wondering if the org has something to do with a controversial or polarizing topic (or something that has become more polarizing in recent times), and Boss’s views may have deviated from the org’s original goal or intention, so he’s killing the beast from within? Now I’m getting conspiracy theorist vibes from myself and am thinking of a less-funny Ron Swanson…

        1. paul*

          Or he’s a hard core True Believer(tm) and doesn’t care about anything but The Mission. I think most larger social focused non-profits have a person or two like that, but they’re moderated by colleagues who are as interested in actually getting stuff done as they are ideological purity.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          If this guy is the CEO and founder, wouldn’t it be easier to just shut down if he’s changed his mind on the mission?

          1. strawberries and raspberries*

            You’d think that, but a lot of non-profits will get “mission drift” when there’s an opportunity to get a new funding stream and soon enough they’re doing a lot of different work than they initially set out to do.

    2. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

      Boards are rarely truly independent, but most states require you to have a board if you’re a nonprofit (and OP indicates that, at least at one time, this was an organization of some stature). I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a large board of mostly donors who don’t take much particular interest in the function of the organization.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Or the president’s buddies. But in theory, if this is a 501(c)(3), they’re required to have an independent board.

    3. Super Anon Today*

      Yeah, if he’s president and founder then the Board may not want to step on his toes even if he is out of line, because he could bring the house down around him out of spite. Our nonprofit had this problem in the past :(

      There was a post a few weeks ago about co-founders not being as available and balls being dropped. I wonder if any of the comments there would be helpful?

  4. Ellen*

    Since this is a charity, is there a board that you can go to? It seems that they would want to know what’s happening.

  5. UtOh!*

    Something does not smell right here, you are probably better off stepping up your job search, you don’t want your reputation to be connected to a charity that has no regard for how it’s being viewed by the public (and those who support it!) Run, don’t walk!

    1. Future Analyst*

      Yes, this. OP, I know it sucks, but I would spend your energy job-searching, not trying to rectify this situation. Your boss sucks, and isn’t going to change.

  6. paul*

    small non-profits; putting the Dis in dysfunction.

    OP, this place sounds like a resume’ stain. Escape if you can.

      1. Snark*

        And we’re all out of letters, so there sure as hell isn’t going to be any “fun” in dysfunction.

    1. SL #2*

      Every single time I read a letter like this about small organizations going totally off-the-rails, I am eternally grateful that my small five-person non-profit is fully functional and normal.

  7. Mustache Cat*

    I had a full-body shudder at this letter. My deepest condolences, LW, but sometimes there isn’t anything you can do about an off-kilter boss.

    Someone whose CEO alienated a major board member over politics right after the election…

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      My deepest condolences as well.

      Someone who left a non-profit because they didn’t believe my documented complaint about the accountant, who they fired the next year for embezzlement which was not on my list but I was the only other person in the non-profit who understood accounting and she was really happy to see me go.

    2. Interested Bystander*

      Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. My deepest condolences as well.
      Someone who left a non profit because the board picked one hard working, successful employee to run off each year…

  8. LeRainDrop*

    Alison, I was confused by the second sentence. I read the whole letter thinking that it was the contractor who refused to hand over the Facebook account, and then realized only in the response that it was actually the boss who refused.

    1. Mrs. Psmith*

      I thought the same thing too, I had to go back and re-read the whole thing before realizing it was the boss who has hijacked the FB account.

  9. Snark*

    I think OP is sliding into the “but I must save the mission!” trap I’ve seen a lot of nonprofit/charity employees fall into when the founder/CEO goes bonkers and takes the org down with them.

    OP: you can’t save something that someone more powerful than you is apparently determined, for their own idiosyncratic reasons, to destroy. Plan your exit.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. He’s steering the ship directly into an iceberg. Your mission now is to find yourself a lifeboat.

        1. BadWolf*

          Probably shouldn’t have laughed but I did. And then I thought, “Only room for one on this door, sorry coworkers!”

          1. Specialk9*

            Listen, they did tests to see how much weight a door could take!!!

            (But seriously, why didn’t she die of hypothermia?)

            1. Snark*

              Maybe his romantic sacrifice for her was sufficiently…..heartwarming?

              *fingerguns pew pew pew*

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Personal theory: she’s a psychic vampire and absorbed Jack’s life force to keep herself alive until the rescue showed up.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think the email-only thing is a clue–this is someone who is recently in diminished health. Physically, so they don’t get out as much; I’m not sure how much mental deterioration to speculate about versus just not getting out to experience some corrective information inputs from people other than hive-minded online boards. Not talking about “needs a nurse and to lose his car keys” here–just someone with a diminishing real-life circle settling into the dopamine button pushing of fake news articles. (Which spread more easily than real ones, because they feel so good. Hit the button again!)

        So yeah, alert someone more senior than you if that is a possibility, but unless the board is willing to oust him tout suite the bees are not going to quietly settle down and you need to be finding an exit.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I am speculating that the following things are connected: • Diminished time in the office • Only communicates by email • Amping up of sharing fake news

            Maybe it really is a sharp change in behavior; there’s not enough in the letter and it’s third hand. But I could see a set of existing personality traits, where becoming more tired and home-bound emphasizes some that were de-emphasized before, and vice versa. He feels that what he can do work-wise to keep fighting the good fight is to spread the word, using information found in the less fact-checky corners of the internet.

            1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

              This is a valid possibility but it really isn’t super helpful in terms of what LW can do. Sure he might need some help, counseling, medical attention, or etc. Or he could just be a jerk. Or something in between. Still, even if LW knew for a fact this was caused by her boss’s health, this wouldn’t be her circus to deal with. If that’s a less emotionally and mentally draining approach for her (vs. boss being self-centered and apathetic to anyone outside of himself), that’s one thing, there’s so little info and so little LW could do, I don’t think proposing health concerns is warranted.

    2. Observer*

      This is true.

      Ramp up your job search and start saving like crazy. You want to be able to leave without something lined up. It may become necessary.

      1. LouiseM*

        Absolutely. I commented below that my friend fell victim to this “but the mission” situation and it really harmed his career. Truthfully, he could have and should have left without finding a new position first…because his long tenure with the company actually harmed his job search and made it so he could never find work in his field. His name was mud because of his association with the creepy ex-CEO.

        1. Snark*

          And it’s hard! I get it! You work for a nonprofit/charity because it’s something you believe in, because there’s so many needs in this world, because you want to help humans and make the world better. And that’s noble. But it can also lead you to cling on, bravely trying to serve the mission, while your salary, reputation, and the mission itself get tossed into a wood-chipper to feed one dingbat’s vanity and arrogance.

          1. AMPG*

            I currently work for a non-profit that’s very effective and does good work for a lot of people, but its mission is not one that really calls to me, if that makes sense. I feel sort of bad about that sometimes, but I actually think it might make me a slightly more effective employee because of that. I can advocate for it with a clear conscience, but I can also point out weaknesses in our services or management without taking them personally.

            1. RVA Cat*

              This. You’re like their Bronn of the Blackwater, saving them when they go charging off to their doom.

      2. SignalLost*

        Yeah. I hate to say it, but OP needs to be in full-time job search mode and considering secondary plans to cover bills, etc, if this goes toes up. I … do not think this is salvageable, and OP may want to consider the potential hit to her reputation of she tries to fix a problem of this magnitude. The consequences thus far are not minor at all, none of them, even though it might seem like the donations one is the worst.

    3. Snark*

      And, I should add, I would not automatically say this. But he’s delusional, and his management (and mismanagement) approach is deeply dysfunctional, and he’s apparently willing to alienate donors by telling them, basically, that he knows better than they do about how they should feel about his “partially true” horsepuckey. Every major metric for the success of a nonprofit is declining. My feeling is that, even if there’s a board of directors, they’re not going to contradict him. If you say anything, or do anything, to push back, regard it as a purely self-serving move to keep the org stable for another month or two so you can maybe transition with something lined up.

    4. LBK*

      Completely agreed. The fact that the money is disappearing and he doesn’t care means the org is not long for this world. Get out before you’re thrown out.

      1. Snark*

        Either that, or he doesn’t notice the money is disappearing, which I would expect from someone who spends six weeks a year in the office. Same conclusion, though!

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The one thing I could think of is that maybe the org isn’t primarily funded by small donors. Maybe it’s mainly funded by foundation grants, etc., and it’s just small dollar donors who are drying up. Still an indicator of serious problems, but I suppose it’s possible that there’s still plenty of money for now. (For now!)

    5. Anonym*

      Serve humanity elsewhere! When you get to elsewhere, you will be able to serve humanity more effectively than you can from this shipwreck! (Repeat to yourself as needed if/when you feel guilty about leaving.)

  10. LouiseM*

    OP, this is a sinking ship!!! Usually I am skeptical of the “start job hunting NOW” advice because I think it can be pretty out of touch and unrealistic for a lot of people’s situations. In this case, though? Your reputation will suffer the longer you stay here. I have a friend who worked at a nonprofit (for a somewhat “fringe” advocacy cause) that went down the toilet fast. Similar to your situation, the decline was caused in part by the CEO, who was a serial creep as well as an ineffective leader. My friend stuck around for years longer than he should have because he believed in the mission and it really tanked his reputation. He hasn’t worked in the field for years.

    1. k.k*

      Yeah, it’s time to get far far away from this organization. It would be hard for the organization to regain it’s reputation without some serious actions including some public apologies/explanations. Considering you can’t even get this guy to stop making these posts…not gonna happen. At this point, you can still get out relativity unscathed. I know you say there are few prospects right now, but I think you’d be better off taking something in the short term that isn’t a perfect fit but is doable, than to stick around and have this be the last thing on your resume.

    2. Specialk9*

      Even more practically, their money has disappeared. Who’s paying the OP’s salary? The job is done.

      1. AMPG*

        They might have grants that are still in effect that are keeping them afloat for now, but most philanthropic communities talk quite a bit amongst themselves. This will end badly no matter what.

  11. Lala*

    Knowing that donations are coming to a halt, I would be amping up my job search, because if it continues, at some point there might not be money to pay you. And I’ll echo what others have said about getting your board or whatever involved if there is one. Assuming they exist, they’ll likely be extremely upset to find out this is the state of things.

    1. Observer*

      And if they are NOT upset, that tells you that this is not only a lost cause, but it’s radioactive.

    2. SignalLost*

      It reads to me like there isn’t a board, which is also alarming. But in my experience, that would be mentioned as a matter of course for a problem like this. I agree OP needs to jump ship.

  12. RG2*

    I know this is a really small part of the problem, but it can be a big one for you, so get a Google Voice number ASAP.

    Also go to the board if there’s no one internal who can solve this. If donations are really dropping, they have a clear responsibility to address this.

    1. RG2*

      Just saw Alison’s comment above and she makes good points re: the Board. They do have a responsibility to address it, but it’s probably not in your personal best interest to be the one to go to them.

        1. Ainomiaka*

          Yes! I get that this guy is not likely to react well to his crazy being challenged. And so I agree with the start job searching advice. But are there really going to be fewer issues for the OP if they say nothing? I don’t think so.

    2. Nanani*

      Periodic reminder that Google Voice is USA only.
      Yes there are methods of obtaining one from outside the US, but it’ll still have an American area code.

      IF OP is in the USA then fine, but this site does have a sizable international readership

      1. Pathfinder Ryder*

        Thank you for this, from someone not in the US tired of Google Voice being suggested as universally applicable.

  13. Observer*

    OP, bring this to the Board and start cc’ing or BCC’ing them on all these communications, including one where you clearly lay out all of the issues that have resulted.

    Then start looking for a new job. The CYA portion is to keep you safe when – not if – things explode. But, even if the boss stopped posting the false memes tomorrow, damage has been done. And the reality is that it’s likely to get worse before it gets better, if it even does.

    1. Narise*

      Hopefully OP is printing copies or forwarding copies of those emails to a safe account so she has them in case she suddenly doesn’t have access to her computer or workplace.

      1. Observer*

        That too. Looping the Board in prevents them from trying to scapegoat her by claiming that if someone had just TOLD them, they would have DONE SOMETHING. Never mind the fact that if donations are drying up, they should realize that something is up.

        But, OP, Narise is completely correct. BCC *everything* to an outside account that your org cannot access.

  14. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    I had the same confusion. I thought the contractor had gone rogue. Let him ignore your emails; change the passwords and send him his last check certified mail. What’s the problem? Oh, your president has lost his mind. Sorry to hear that. You are screwed. No, seriously. He’s not playing the fiddle while Rome burns, he is lighting matches.
    You probably should kick your concerns upstairs if at all possible. If there is not a board, and your boss is truly the final word on all things Organization, get out. Get out while you have your sanity and your reputation.

  15. Clorinda*

    What are the chances this ‘charity’ is some kind of long-running scam that’s coming near the point of inevitable exposure? OP, get out while the getting is good, even if you have to expand your job search to a different field.

    1. Observer*

      Good point about the scam. I was thinking about that too.

      A few days ago someone posted on a non-profit admin group I’m on about an ED/Founder who had been scamming something like 70% of donations for YEARS.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, it was bad.

          What was even worse than the ED, though, was the number of people who KNEW and did nothing. It’s just unbelievable that the prior board FINALLY figured it out and quite rather than do something!

          A number of people noted that they might have some legal liability for that. I wonder if that’s the case or not. But it is thought provoking.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            Someone I know was on a nightmare board a few years ago — the nonprofit works with kids and they figured out that the founder/ED covered up abuse. The entire board would have loved nothing more than to peace out, but their personal ethics AND their lawyer insisted they stay until new leadership and accountability/safety measures were in place.

            Obviously each scenario is its own thing, but if the danger of personal legal liability was real for the person I know, it’s possible for that other board too.

          2. JSPA*

            Example of how gray zones exist (and why they’re not the best model). ACORN (I know, but let’s not talk politics, it’s just an example I’m aware of) had a melt down in which the founder’s brother fell of the wagon in some manner (don’t remember the details) and embezzled a large sum. The founder (and board?) took a lot of flack (reasonably!) for covering it up. But what’s not reported is that, after brother got himself back together, the two teamed up to make reparations / make apologies / repay a significant chunk of what had gone astray. Without wanting to derail into the specifics, which I don’t remember anyway, it’s an example that sometimes, choices that are “not really the right answer by any normal yardstick” have worked out. Lives turned around, money repaid, people contributing rather than in jail, reparative justice, mission saved. Kind of cool if you can get there, right?

            The problem is, of course, that this is the exception, not the rule.

            Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who read a story of this sort and hope that their situation will also be an exception. But we can’t all be exceptions. (There’s a reason the exceptions are called exceptions. And a reason the rules are called rules.)

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      That makes so much sense. Think in terms of the plot of The Producers where a flop makes them rich because they don’t have to pay off investors. Mix that with a little Ponzi money shuffling using the limited income of this fiscal year to cover enough of the pilfered amounts of earlier years, and the Mad Prince might just be a genius.

  16. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    If donations are grinding to a halt, your paycheck is not going to be far behind. OP, you need to bail! Run! Vamoose! Get out of Dodge! Ollie outtie!

    1. Snark*

      And let’s not indulge in any illusions that a boss willing to communicate, or not, exclusively via email will have the slightest hesitation around firing you without notice at the earliest need. He’s going to be drawing his last check from the dry corpse of this org. You’re not.

    2. Samata*

      And I am really worried that continued employment here will hinder OPs ability to get another job. I am not normally in the “quit without a job lined up” but OP, is there a chance you can get a job waiting tables or at Starbucks or somewhere that will offer you a steady paycheck and some flexibility while you hit the job search hard?

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, something I saw online the other day prompted me to ask Alison the same question. People who have worked for the current White House are having a HUGE problem getting other jobs–usually, that’s not an issue because WH is a big resume point. Now, not so much. If the charity’s reputation tanks and the OP is still associated with it, the same thing could happen to her.

        If I were the OP, I’d put some distance between me and this organization.

        1. Cassandra*

          Same thing happened to Uber employees after the scandals really started piling up. Prospective employers wanted to know why employees’ ethics sensors hadn’t tripped such that they left.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          I wonder how people who worked for the Weinstein Company are doing finding jobs… :-/

  17. Apocalypse How*

    Reminds me of my old Toxic Boss when I worked at a theatre. He was the founder and artistic director. After the big terrorist attack in Paris, he posted a racist rant about people of Middle Eastern descent on Facebook. His post were public, and people started criticizing him on the theatre’s Facebook page. The local independent newspaper caught wind of it and was going to write an article about the controversy. For some unfathomable reason, the Board of Directors decided the best way to handle this was to let Toxic Boss get interviewed by the newspaper. In the interview, he pointed to me being a “Jewish-American woman” as evidence of our theatre’s commitment to diversity. This came several months after he tried to force me to work on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, calling me “unethical” for asking for time off outside of Christmas and New Years. At that point, I realized he saw me as a prop instead of a person and it all went downhill from there. At any other organization, he probably would have been fired, but because he was the founder, he couldn’t get fired–otherwise there would be no theatre. I’m working at a much healthier organization now, and silently wait for my old workplace to self-destruct.

    1. hayling*

      “Jewish-American woman”? JFC. At least he didn’t call you a “Jeeeewwwwww” like that horrible woman a few months ago.

      (Note: I am also Jewish)

  18. Murphy*

    Ouch. I’m not sure this is a situation that can be salvaged. If donations have almost stopped and no one’s doing anything, that’s a huge problem.

  19. ArtsNerd*

    re: the Board — I think Allison’s correct in that it won’t serve the OP well to go to them. If they already had a relationship with a board member worth bringing this up, it would already have been discussed. I don’t know if there’s a way OP can professionally suggest, in subtext, that supporters approach the CEO and board directly. (Phrasing ideas welcome, if so! I could have used that in my early career.)

    As someone who has served a board term on a small nonprofit though, WHERE THE HELL IS THE BOARD.

    I’m curious as to how long this has been going on as well — if it’s a very recent nosedive then maybe they haven’t had a financial meeting since the start of this behavior. But if it’s ongoing… they’re basically legally obligated to notice that donations are plunging and have a fiduciary duty to the organization to put a stop to this. I know lots of boards don’t actually work that way, but they are courting a legal nightmare on top of the existing PR one.

    Good luck to the OP. I echo the other posters that it’s time to stop working about the mission and start focusing 100% on an exit. It’s not your responsibility to keep the donors at bay when their anger and distress is as well-founded as this. Just keep sending messages up the chain and worry less about successfully smoothing things over — your energy is needed in your job search.

    1. FrontRangeOy*

      Yup, I want to know where the board’s heads are at too. The board I’m on, we’re actively encouraged to follow the org’s social media and interact with it. If a senior staff member went off the rails, we would see the evidence ourselves and fairly quickly.

    2. drpuma*

      I recently resigned from board membership of a small founder-led non-profit due to the founder’s inability to keep us in the loop. I did hang in there for a while because I wanted to do good in my community. Last straw for me was finding out about a major campaign to purchase property from press coverage and not the founder directly, even through the founder was interviewed in the article. Dysfunction goes up as well as down…

  20. Bunny*

    Hey, LW.

    Don’t give out your personal cell anymore. Use a google voice number. It’s free, and you can set it up to forward to your cell in such a way that the original caller does not know your personal number. It will even send a transcription to your gmail.

    I’m a journalist and I give that number out to the masses, posting it everywhere. It’s on my business cards. And it forwards to my personal cell.

    I have a work phone, but I don’t want to give the boss *my* contacts and sources.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I did this and I ALWAYS know if it’s a potential employer calling because my real number is not on my resume. You can see their number through caller ID just fine–all you have to do to answer it is choose whether to use the GV number or the device number. The Google Voice app also allows me to call back using that number, so they don’t see my real one. Best of all, it’s free.

      Sometimes I get a spam call with the same area code (I chose an out-of-state number). But those are easy to ignore.

      1. Bunny*

        Some people have my personal cell. The mayor does. The police commissioner does. The public? NOOOOOOO

    2. Skunklet*

      so THIS is the biggest thing to me – the cell phone… so this personal cell phone thing is not new – they’ve BEEN so cheap you’ve ALWAYS had to use your own personal phone? um, no. absolutely not. they’re having serious financial issues – and it really doesn’t matter the reason… run, run, run. And I don’t know who said it but yes, do NOT sell yourself short on ‘self learned’ skills… no one cares WHERE you got them from, they’re still SKILLS! Good luck!!

  21. BadWolf*

    Are board members following the charity on Facebook? I feel like at least a couple them would probably have added the charity page. If so, they’re seeing things real time and…haven’t addressed it? Or are making plans behind the scenes?

    1. Ama*

      Yeah, not that the director of our nonprofit would do anything like this, but if something controversial went up on our Facebook page you can bet at least half of our board members would be calling to voice their displeasure (there are board members who call us to voice their displeasure at things they just *think* we’ve done incorrectly, even when the board member is the one who has their facts wrong) and if she didn’t have a solid explanation they’d be taking steps to remove her.

      The lack of response suggests to me that perhaps this director (since he’s the founder), stacked the board with people he knew wouldn’t challenge his authority and/or made sure there isn’t a formal method for removing him from office.

    2. Observer*

      This is a very good point. And given that this is a charity that supposedly has an official stand on fake news – which is largely a social media issue – for board members to NOT be following the accounts indicates that they really are not doing their jobs.

  22. Paloma Pigeon*

    Many boards are clueless – even when monthly financials are presented to them, especially when there is an entrenched founder who has recruited a meek board that defers to their authority. Joan Garry has a great column about this:

    OP, are there any consultants in the development or communications fields that have some cachet in your community that you can reach out to for help? Sometimes it takes an outsider to repeat what insiders have been saying for eons to get folks to listen.

  23. blackcat*

    Given the refusal to communicate via anything other than email, I have to wonder if the founder died and the organization has been catfished by a foreign teenager who runs one of those profitable fake news sites…

    1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      More realistically, perhaps the founder has a medical condition that causes massive behavior changes. Dementia has that potential, as do tumors in the brain. It’s very possible for someone to go off the deep end and everyone around them to bury their heads in the sand.

      1. Red*

        That was actually my first thought. I wouldn’t be surprised if the founder was sick.

        Either way, I would run far, far away from this job, OP.

      2. NW Mossy*

        I wouldn’t describe the OP as burying her head in the sand – as Alison noted, she’s tried several obvious remedies for banana-crackers behavior.

        However, the founder’s his own man, whether he’s suffering from a medical condition or simply boarded the No Longer Rational Express. No one, not even family members and lifelong friends, can take possession of the founder’s mind and force him to engage in different behavior. They can speak to how they and others are harmed by the behavior, but there’s a reason why we have that old saying about leading horses to water.

      3. Half-Caf Latte*

        I read too much old Dear Prudie and my first thought was “Emily Yoffe full medical stat!”

  24. LKW*

    Agree with all of the comments regarding getting out as soon as possible.

    LW -if this is not normal behavior and has increased in frequency or pitch over time it’s entirely plausible that this person is suffering health issues. I am not going to even try to armchair diagnose this but what comes to mind is substance abuse/ stroke/ dementia all of which can interfere with judgement. The fact that the boss hasn’t come into work in that long just adds to the mystery and likelihood that something else is up.

    This is not your issue to fix.

    It’s time to put your feelers out -start looking for something new and jump ship before it takes you down.

  25. Curious Cat*

    Since it sounds like this is way past the point of trying to reason with your boss, my advice may be moot, but I would put together some solid analytics if you have access between the Facebook posts and your donation numbers going down/angry reviews coming in. Sometimes its easy to avoid angry reviews as subjective and one-offs, but if you’re able to put a hard, numerical correlation between all the points, it might have a greater impact.

  26. bopper*

    Charities have boards…talk to them.
    But at some point the boss may do what they want, the board will resign, and the charity will fail.

  27. AKchic*

    LW – as much as I want to tell you to go over your boss’s head and go to the board, I’m going to recommend not doing that. The board probably is already aware of this issue and has chosen not to do anything. This is a quickly sinking ship. Please make sure to find your bar of soap so you can wash ashore quickly. In laymen’s terms – jump ship. Jump ASAP.
    Each time this boss shares false/fabricated/altered stories and you get emails, contact the boss to find out how they would like the fall-out handled. Each and every time. If the boss ignores you, then all you can really do is reply back to the complainers that the individual handling the social media accounts stand by the postings they make and have declined to comment at this time, if they would like to comment directly to that individual, their email address is X (and then give them the email address). If they would like to make further commentary above that person, the board of directors can be emailed at X (and give out an email address for the board).

    You can’t save a person from their own folly.

  28. Andrea*

    I think your question about whether it is a recent change is key, especially combined with the isolation and really weird communication methods. I’d be wondering if something is going on with him personally, like substance abuse.

  29. Oxford Coma*

    If you don’t find a new position before this charity goes belly-up, you probably aren’t going to be able to salvage a reliable reference from this place. Job search fast, job search intensely, and try to tuck away as much viable CYA as you can.

  30. Emmie*

    OP should focus on her community reputation too. Is she signing these emails to the community in her name? If so, I recommend creating an alias to respond, using no last name, or a general response with no name. In addition to the paycheck consequences, the reputation of this org is going down. It will loose its positive influence on your resume. I know you’re job hunting. Continue to aggressively pursue other jobs and keep your mind open to different opportunities.

  31. Bagpuss*

    If / when you do let the board know, would it be possible for you to give them an over all picture of what is happening?

    e.g. not “We get multiple e-mails about..” but “We got 25 e-mails about x,31 about y. Over the past 3/6/12 months we have lost $xx in donations and [number] of people have contacted us to say they will be withdrawing our support.

    Over all, donations have gone done by $xxx compared with last year” it may be that they are mostly smaller donors and the board and/or boss see it as a relatively small issue.

    But I do agree with the advice you are getting to get out, ASAP. I don’t think this is salvageable. (and I would guess that if you want to work in a similar org. they will be aware of the issue and read between the lines as to why you are leaving, whereas if you wait until the org. goes belly up and are then looking, you may be disadvantaged by association.

    Good luck.

  32. CAS*

    OP, I’d take all of this as a cue to get out of there. This isn’t your organization to save, and it is a shame that the founder/president is running it into the ground. When I read the part about the founder/president being a know-it-all, it reminded me of founder’s syndrome.

    I had a boss (a nonprofit executive director) several years ago who had fallen into a trap of defending her beliefs about what the agency should be, while simultaneously ignoring all of the evidence around us that changes were necessary for the agency to be effective and to survive. She absolutely believed that she knew best, and she would fight to the death with anyone — staff, board members, funders — about altering the organization’s direction. I left my job in large part because I could no longer do my job under the circumstances. The agency could no longer meet its mission because it was not changing with the times. My boss took any attempt at change as an offensive strike against the agency and would lash out at anyone she perceived as threatening it. As a result of her clinging to her limited vision of the mission, she ran several staff out of the agency, including me, she alienated and lost board members, and ultimately, the agency lost a considerable amount of funding. The agency is gone now. It no longer exists, and its services were folded into a larger, more successful, and progressive agency.

  33. S Stout*

    This charity sounds really fishy to me (I worked at a 501 (c) 3 for years). Charities are usually transparent, so the boss being unavailable rings alarm bells for me.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I like the theory upthread that this started as a normal charity, but is now a play on Weekend at Bernie’s with a Macedonian teenager using the charity to drive traffic to his fake news site.

  34. S Stout*

    Re: donations. Once donors decide NOT to donate, it is extremely difficult to get them to come back. Once trust is lost, it’s gone.

    1. Bea*

      And they’ll find another place to give money. So even if you oust this crazypants, they’re like “sorry, donated to XYZ Charity instead, no funds for you ever again, you goofed.”

  35. MLHD*

    If there is a board of directors, take it to them. The president’s powers are still checked!

  36. GV User*

    OP! Get a Google Voice number! I still get weirdos and marketers calling mine, but at least fewer weirdos and marketers are calling my real phone number.

  37. Chaordic One*

    Now that I think about it, I remember a case where a nonprofit’s founder (who had been at the organization for a little to0 long, and who really wasn’t performing all that well anymore) was deservedly fired from his position. There were also some shady financial shenanigans going on. This was also met with outrage from the donors. Poor Nonprofit Founder removed from office by the heartless board! And after all that he did to get the nonprofit started (and then run into the ground).

    Surprisingly, the organization survived. Communications from the nonprofit avoided mentioning the controversies that led up to his being fired, (Poor Nonprofit Founder will no longer be the president of the Nonprofit) but thanked him for his vision and past achievements and talked about “moving forward.” After several years a truce was reached with the founder who was given an honorary title and ceremonial position in the organization, but with no power to do anything. He showed up at fundraisers and seemed to enjoy the attention.

    It must not have been much fun.


  38. LW/OP*

    Hey all, here’s the answers to the most common questions. Feel free to ask anything I miss. I’m definitely getting recognized and fired at this point, anyway, so may as well get it all out, lol.

    1. The Board, our donors, his friends, our connections, and the entire community are basically in love with him. They’ll do anything he wants. I have no resources within the organization.

    2. We do have a board, but as I said, they’re in his pocket. They exist simply because you have to have a board. It’s made up of his friends.
    2a. I am ABSOLUTELY NOT ALLOWED TO CONTACT THE BOARD UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. And the one time I did contact a board member, way back when I was first hired, they went directly to my boss with everything I had said, even though this board member told me I could come to them in confidence any time I had a concern.

    3. I’m looking for jobs. There’s just nothing I’m qualified for around here, and I can’t move. All jobs I’ve ever had have kept my skills so low that it’s been almost impossible to even get interviews. I’ve self-taught myself a lot of useful skills, but self-taught doesn’t tend to fly on a resume/cover letter.

    4. As much as it sounds shady, our organization really is legit. I had some accounting work thrown on me (never worked with money in my life, never had an accounting position, still my job), so I see where all our donations go, and they all go where they’re expected to.

    5. This charity has existed for 15 years running exactly as it is now, so: A. No changes will be made, and B. It’s not going anywhere.

    6. The founder only communicates through email because he has “more important” things to do than listen to my concerns. I’ve been with the organization a very short time, and as I said, it’s been going strong for 15 years. Any changes I suggest are ignored – except once, when he sent an email cursing at me because he decided I was trying to tell him that I knew how to run the charity better than he was.

    I know I desperately need to get out. The program I run is my baby, though, and he has plans to really hurt it (in my opinion), so I really want to stay to protect it. Plus, I have no options to get out at the moment. In my interview, I was promised the empty title of “director” of something but never received it – that would have really helped my resume.

    I just really need to somehow save our reputation until I can get out so I continue getting paid and my program gets the funding it needs. Any suggestions for that would be so appreciated. I feel so lost and trapped.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Based on what you’ve described, you can’t. He’s the final word here, and he’s told you no. This is how he wants to run things. That’s his call, even if it’s a really wrong call. I know this sucks! But you’ll actually probably have more peace of mind (and make better decisions for yourself) if you see that clearly; otherwise you’re going to be constantly stressing over how to fix this, and you do not have the ability or standing to fix it.

    2. AKchic*

      Unfortunately, you can’t save your program, or this organization. It is a sinking ship. Continue to look for work elsewhere. His actions are his actions. Document everything. You may need it later (defamation allegations, something happens and he tries to pin it on you, etc.).

      There’s nothing wrong with being self-taught. I spent a long time in low-end administrative roles because I was self-taught. Then I went to union administrative because the pay was so much better. I can now volunteer my time in the non-profit world rather than try to scrape by living paycheck to paycheck working in it.

    3. bluephone*

      Okay, this will sound harsh but: there is no saving your program baby. Even if you somehow miraculously saved it (and the company’s reputation) and then left for a better job, that whole “company” will still go down in flames. Possibly literal ones b/c I don’t put it past your joke of a founder to ask his friend, Arson Daly, to stop by one day.

      There is no saving the company’s reputation. It is beyond tanked. The longer you stay with this company, the more of a black hole it will be on your resume. I empathize with the difficulty in finding something else so I’m not going to throw platitudes like “wait tables!” “hook up with a temp agency!” at you.

      But you absolutely need to banish any thoughts of “I have to protect my program! I have to save the company’s reputation!” and focus instead on, “this company is tanked. this company is hosed. this company is dead in the water. NO ONE can save it. So how do I survive until the end of the workday when I can go home and spend the rest of the night job hunting like I’m getting paid for it?”

      Do that every single day until you’re free from that company. It sucks. It’s not fair.

      But there is no saving this company and the sooner you realize that, the better you will ultimately be. Stop trying to save it and focus on GTFO out of a burning building before it collapses and buries you alive. Maybe that means giving your 2 weeks’ notice without a new job lined up. Maybe it even means quitting on the spot tomorrow. Maybe it does mean lucking into a part-time, weird-schedule job at Starbucks so that when you do walk out, you’ll at least pull in some money while you job hunt.

      But there is no saving this company because you can’t save something that’s already dead.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        Right. I know what it’s like to walk away from something you’ve built, and that you feel strongly about. It sucks. But you don’t have an option to live in the world where everything works out. You can spend your time in a doomed attempt at damage control – and I’m assuming that saving delusional fake-news-huggers from the consequences of their own poor behavior isn’t your heart’s calling – but you can keep doing this until there’s no longer enough money for both of you, or until your crazy boss decides he’s sick of your face. Then you’re unemployed, and if I know anything about the type, you’ll also have a blistering reference from a boss who blames everything on you. Not good.

        Or, you GTFO. Maybe your heart is in saving the whales, but you have to go save the pigeons for a few years. You do good work, learn some skills, get a reference that doesn’t insta-kill your chances. And if the pigeons haven’t grown on you, then you can use your new skills to get a proper job saving the whales again, this time at an organization that actually has it together enough to put your efforts to good use.

    4. Luna*

      What type of jobs are you looking for? This is a situation where I would definitely recommend branching out and applying for anything you might be qualified, even if it means switching fields.

      1. LW/OP*

        I actually dramatically switched fields to take this job. And took a $30,000/year pay cut. My budget can’t take another hit, and I already make about the same as I would waiting tables or working at McDonalds. I can’t really work retail jobs because I have some messed-up feet that make it really painful to stand for very long, and I make juuuust enough that I can’t find any jobs that don’t require an additional pay cut. I’m trying to build up a freelance copywriting/SEO/social media portfolio, but so far, everyone who’s committed to letting me work for them (for free just to build my resume, I might add) has flaked out. They didn’t hire someone else, they just say, “Oh yeah, we’ll get together sometime, I’m just really busy,” and then we never get together.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I don’t know if you’re still checking comments here, but have you looked into remote work? Since you can’t move away and you can’t stand for long periods, remote work might be a solution to let you move to something either permanent or to make money while you keep looking. It could really expand your options. There are websites that just post remote jobs and might also have a lot available.

    5. Student*

      You’re qualified for other jobs. Send in applications for anything where you meet 40% of the criteria and are interested. It’s a common misconception that you have to meet 100% of the requirements in a job posting. Women fall for that fallacy disproportionately.

      Put self-taught, useful skills in your resume. If they’re hard to work into resume bullet-points because they are self-taught, make yourself a skills section and list out competencies that are job-related. Don’t hesitate to tell people in an interview that they’re self-taught – be prepared to give concrete examples of things you can do with those self-taught skills. If you’re advertising your self-taught carpentry skills, for example, it’s a lot more impressive to mention the custom-designed cabinet you made for yourself than the bird-house you made with a follow-along-with-me book. Same goes for electronic skills- it’s better to have a proper project (even if it’s for yourself and modest) that you’ve done rather than following along with a bunch of pre-designed, simple examples.

      I don’t know what your reasons are for ruling out a move, but I’d urge you to reconsider. If you have kids, they’ll survive a move, even if it’s disruptive, and they’ll be better off in the long term with a happier parent with a more secure job. If it’s your spouse, talk to your spouse about how much this matters to you and how stuck your career is. If it’s money, save up, ask family to help you out some, and look for cheap options on moving – they’re out there. Moving is hard and sometimes it’s scary, but you’ve described a situation where you have no viable career future in your current location. If that’s an accurate assessment, you need to move eventually – your only option is whether you do it on your own terms or whether you wait until it’s an emergency after you get fired from this job.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      #3 Self-taught skills absolutely go on your resume. If you do basic accounting and handle data spreadsheets, write that down. It’s in your job description, whether or not some accrediting board gave you a certificate in “uses basic Office” or whatever.

      #5 Your office if full of bees.

      The program baby: I think Snark addressed this upthread–you are not going to be able to save it. Standing there holding your finger in the dyke, waiting for all the things out of your control to suddenly change their minds and stop attacking it–they have no reason to do that.

      I just really need to somehow save our reputation.
      The reason no one is giving you directions on how to do this is that you can’t. This is not in your control. The founder’s actions are not in your control. The board’s actions are not in your control. All you can do is remove yourself from the room full of bees.

      1. Probably Nerdy*

        A lot of STEM job postings request that resumes have a “Skills” section, and I would wager that most of the ones that people list there are self-taught. Shoot, all of the ones in my Skills section are self-taught….

        1. GameGirl*

          This. I completely jumped to a different career in video games, one that I’m probably not “qualified” for. No one batted an eye–they only cared how well I did on the tests, which is typical of jobs where there are a lot of programmers and artists, but even more so in video games. I wish more companies would be as open to educational diversity as tech is.

    7. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Self-taught skills are still skills that you’ve learned. You don’t have to have taken a special class or earned a certificate to put skills that you’ve picked up along the way onto your resume. If you learned Excel, Quickbooks, Word, Constant Contact, Raiser’s Edge, or whatever in the trenches, just put it on there.

    8. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

      Oh LW, I’m so sorry. Like everyone else has said you really need to leave. Trying to protect program is gonna drain everything out of you and it’s not guarantee that it’ll actually be protected. Your self-taught skills can go on your resume and cover letter. you say their useful so say how. Talk about the program you run. Talk about the slack you’ve had to pick up. You do have marketable skills and achievements, I promise.

    9. Bea*

      Self taught DOES BELONG on your resume and your cover letter. Holy crap, my heart screamed reading this, I’m so sorry you’re going through so much shht and degrading your skills set like that.

      I taught myself accounting and business operations because of similar circumstances (things thrown at me). You will come out of this and you have more skills than you know right now.

    10. Observer*

      1. You can’t fix this. Give up the idea. You also cannot save the reputation of the organization. You can’t even save your program unless you can take it with you. That’s harsh but it’s the truth and you need to deal with the truth, even more than most – it’s all the lying that’s getting you into trouble.

      2. Don’t be so sure that the organization is not going anywhere. Something HAS changed – donations have dropped. And you’ve also lost one good potential source of revenue besides donations.

      3. Skills are skill, self taught or not. Definitely highlight them.

      4. If going back to your old industry is an option, would you consider that?

    11. Interviewer*

      In the olden days, I would have told you to run straight to a temp agency for a job answering phones, and it really was the most elegant solution, 15 years ago.

      Take a deep breath. Put together a list of everything you’ve done – filing, typing, phones, software, event planning, training, writing, social media, you name it. Then get online and start applying for positions. Commit to it, make this your job every night after work. They don’t have to be perfect roles for the right amount of money. Think about the many hats you’ve worn. You’re looking for a place to grow.

      You are never trapped where you are. You just need a little bit of courage and strength to open that door.

      Good luck to you! Please update us.

    12. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      For freelancing: Don’t work for free. Work for a reduced rate or trade work (e.g., graphic- or web design) but don’t work for free. Ask for 50% up-front. Have a contract: this can be an email with the details of the project and the client responding that they accept the terms. Working for free means people don’t take you seriously and flake on you. If you set some boundaries, then you’re respected, even when working at a reduced rate.

      I understand the trapped feeling very, very well and am so sorry you’re going through all of this. If there was ever a time to reach out to everyone you’ve ever met and ask for help, this is it. Tell your friends what you’re dealing with and ask them for any help they can give you. You don’t have to deal with this on your own.

      For the project: I wish I didn’t have to say this, but for the sake of your physical, mental and financial well-being, you are probably going to have to let it all go. It’s hard (and again, I promise you that I know how difficult it is) but you are more important than any project. You are valuable and have a lot to offer any organisation. More importantly, you’re important to yourself, friends, family and this world.

      This place does not deserve you and your boss’s behaviour is disgusting. Situations like this are why I am very careful about where I donate my money. I now only donate directly to the people who need it and am wary of non-profits. It’s a shame that organisations dedicated to doing good treat their employees so poorly.

      You’ve got a lot of great advice here and I hope your situation improves soon. Self-taught skills absolutely belong on a resume! Wishing you all the best and please do update us if you can.

    13. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Oh, another idea. Ask your friends for their input regarding your skills and what you have to offer. When we’re feeling badly, it can be hard to see the good in ourselves. You sound like a resourceful, dedicated person, and your friends can help remind you of that. Good luck!

  39. LW/OP*

    Oh, and I’m the only employee. So I really have no help or resources.

    He used to communicate with me a lot, but he recently either got sick of me or is just dealing with some traumatizing stuff he went through recently. I have no clue if he’s communicating with anyone else, but I do know I’m not the only one who got a rude, cursing email.

    1. Student*

      You have the option of going to the board with a more neutral question.

      “I’m having trouble getting in timely contact with my boss while he’s out. My emails on urgent matters aren’t reaching him, and I don’t have any other method of contacting him. Do you have any advice on getting in contact with him? How do you want me to proceed with urgent matters while he’s unavailable? ”

      Make sure you have an actual urgent matter in pocket, that he’s ignored contact from you on, to discuss if the board member asks for details. And that you know how long it’s been since he was last in the office. Talk as if you assume the board member knows he’s out of office for extended periods, not as if you’re trying to get him into trouble over the absence. You’re just sorting out a communication snafu.

      1. CanCan*

        He seems to be the boss for all practical purposes. He’s the one with the power to fire you and he’s the one who’ll be giving you a reference. Going to the board would be a dangerous manoevre.

        If your boss were really not communicating with you (i.e. stopped answering all emails for several days in a row – a week maybe), and there really is an important/urgent matter, then you may have an option of reaching out to the board to as Student suggested. But if he responds to some emails but not others, – just keep contacting him. Send him reminders. Remind him about deadlines. Ask him if you can do things differently to help him stay on top of all the emails (i.e. assume he’s not responding because he’s busy, not because he’s ignoring you), – e.g. would he like a daily summary of all the items on which you’re waiting from him.

        In other words, just try to be a good employee and KEEP LOOKING for another job.

        And give up trying to convince him about fake news. His mind is made up. You’ll only hurt yourself fighting with him.

    2. Bea*

      He’s batshht. He does not have all the power. He is an abusive prick who is spewing this on you because he knows how personal you’ll take it. You can escape, I flounced on a psychopath recently, you just have to start looking and trying. Trapping yourself in your mind and thinking of doomsday will only punish yourself more than anything.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Honestly, he sounds like an awful person and this place is going to go down in flames. Hope you find something better soon!

  40. Cassandra*

    Oh, LW. All this nonsense and the cherry on top is that The Founder thinks it’s okay to swear at you?

    Get out get out get out out out. If you don’t have our good host’s “how to get a job” guide, I think it would be a good investment for you. Don’t run down your self-taught skills — you have the skills as well as the ability to teach yourself new skills, and both of those are valuable. Consider remote work; it may help overcome your geographic limitations.

    Best of luck. You are in an awful situation and I hope you get out of it fast. Please update us, when you can (focus on the Getting the Hell Outta There Maneuver first).

  41. Daria Grace*

    I used to have a boss with social media access like this, although in their case their posts weren’t so much false info as incomprehensible ramblings that broke all rules of the English language. I think the mindset that was the problem was that social media is an informal medium where accuracy isn’t important and mistakes can be fixed later without consequence. I had to work with them to get them to understand that our social media posting needed to have the same standards as our print advertising and that in some ways it was more important we get our social media right as problem articles or posts there could spread faster and further than a print newsletter likely would

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