can I do anything about a senior-level colleague who doesn’t do any work?

A reader writes:

We have a new C-level employee at my small nonprofit, Andy, who has been here for six months. I do not work directly with Andy terribly often but my boss, Jane, who is also not C-level but also does not report directly to Andy, has a lot of meetings with Andy and relays information and tasks to me that I need to do for Andy. (Side note: the C-level staff member who Jane does report to is even newer here than Andy is. This may or may not be relevant.)

The problem is that Andy hasn’t done any meaningful work for the organization since they started. At least, no one I’ve spoken to has seen it. Andy has made big announcements about projects they want to work on, and they have been tasked with updating documents, but has not updated any of the documents they say they will update nor produced any concrete results from any of the projects they say they will work on. Andy is a talker and really loves to schedule meetings, but every meeting I’ve been in that Andy has been leading has consisted of Andy informing us how they’re going to change some procedure or other so we’ll be more streamline and get more results! (Andy gets very excited! about things.) And while it’s all well and good to talk about creating SOPs and things like that, there’s no need to create SOPs for projects and tasks that aren’t actually happening, is there?

I’ve been trying to see this as some kind of scientific experiment, where I am the observer and Andy is the test subject, because it’s been absolutely fascinating to watch.

But it’s starting to really affect me. I dropped the ball on a small task for Andy because I was not seeing it as a priority and I had a million other things I was juggling; I thought my other tasks were higher priority but apparently this task should have been higher on my list. Jane was frustrated that it took me longer than I said it would, but I also think she’s feeling pressure from Andy and taking it out on me. Andy apparently has been complaining that my team specifically doesn’t help them when they ask for help. (In this one case, yes, that is true, but they also have never asked for any specific help from me any other time so I have no idea what they’re talking about.)

Jane and I had a frank discussion about the situation today, where she and I both agreed that Andy isn’t doing any actual work, and I expressed my extreme concern over the situation. I’m not amused or annoyed by it anymore, I’m actively concerned that we have hired someone who is very obviously not doing any work and no one seems to be doing anything but complaining to their peers about it. Jane believes that Andy is actually in way over their head and will dig their own grave soon and everything will be fine after that, but I am not convinced. I told Jane that having Andy at our org affects everything else, that it’s coloring everything else that happens here. Jane has decided on taking a wait-and-see attitude and trying to kill Andy with kindness. Is this an approach that will work? I keep thinking of your advice to people writing in to complain about problem coworkers that management won’t deal with and how you say that the letter-writer doesn’t have a coworker problem, they have a management problem, and I can’t help but feel that’s the situation here.

But what do you do when it’s a manager who is the problem and no one will tell the higher-ups about it? I am very low in the hierarchy here; I never talk to Andy’s boss (the head of our org) and it certainly wouldn’t be my place to call that person up just to complain about Andy. I do have a decent relationship with some of the other C-level employees, but I don’t think it’d be very political of me to just call them up and tell them what I see. And also, what if I’m wrong and Andy actually is getting tons of stuff done and I’m just so low-level that I don’t see it? I don’t believe this to be the case; Andy was brought in to bring us money and so far I haven’t seen any big donations coming in that Andy has had anything to do with, but what if, because I don’t see the big picture, I’m completely wrong and I’m getting angry and upset for no reason? I do not want to take a wait-and-see approach here, but because I’m essentially powerless I have no choice but to let Jane deal with this however she sees fit.

Aside from sending out my resume for every job that interests me (which, yes, I’ve been doing), what else can I do?

You can’t really do anything.

You’re a low-level employee and Andy is very senior. Your boss is below Andy in the hierarchy and choosing to take a wait-and-see approach. You’re stuck with the situation.

I deeply understand that feeling of “this is obviously wrong so there must be something I can do about it” — especially in a nonprofit, where the stakes for your work can be very high — but you don’t have the positioning, authority, or standing to act here.

Is it possible Andy is doing more than you’re seeing? Sure. Bringing in big donations takes time, and high-level fundraising is often a matter of relationship-cultivating, so who knows what Andy might be doing that could pay off down the road. On the other hand, the pieces that you can see and assess don’t look good.

So: what do you know about the management of your organization in general? Are they normally competent? Do they set clear and measurable goals and manage people to those? Do they hold a high bar for performance and address problems forthrightly? Or would it, in fact, be perfectly plausible for someone to come into a high-level and crucial position and do little to nothing for six months? (Also, does your organization’s leadership focus on actual results or do they get distracted by exciting-sounding words?) If the overall picture isn’t good, then Andy isn’t the problem — just a symptom of the problem.

You asked, “What do you do when it’s a manager who is the problem and no one will tell the higher-ups about it?” If the problem is what it looks like to you, your higher-ups should already know. If they don’t know or aren’t concerned, the problems go higher than Andy.

So, where does that leave you? Well, it might leave you working for an ineffective organization! In a for-profit business, that might be irritating but not soul-crushing (although if you’re conscientious, it can be pretty bad for the spirit there too). In a nonprofit, if you’re working on an issue you care about, it can be a decisive sign to just focus on leaving so you can put your energy and talents to work somewhere where they’ll have a greater pay-off.

Read an update to this letter

{ 203 comments… read them below }

  1. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I could see this letter being written almost verbatim about my organization, and in that scenario I would be Jane.

    And to be clear, as Jane I do not actually think everything is okay and I am very frustrated. But fighting uphill is incredibly difficult, and in all fairness there IS a lot going on behind the scenes that people more junior to me aren’t and really can’t be privy to. I do my best to make sure their concerns are heard, and I promise I’m escalating them and having the conversations I need to be having, but unless Andy gets fired they won’t accept that. And I’m telling my bosses that it’s hurting morale and that it’s not sustainable, and they agree, and then they do nothing. It’s like a chain of ineffectualness and I’m stuck in the middle (as perhaps is the person complaining to me. More junior people are probably complaining to her).

    My only advice is to remind yourself that you can’t know everything that’s going on. There are multiple sides to a situation, and in a nonprofit there are many stakeholders who all feel like their concerns are the most valid, even if those concerns are in conflict with each other. And they may very well all be valid. But the tension can bring things to a standstill and sometimes, legitimately, all you can do is wait and see.

    I know I’m rambling because all my nerves are hit, but I very much feel your frustration, LW, and I hope you (and I) get a resolution soon.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Sometimes those stakeholders are people who pushed for an ineffective person to be hired, too, and everyone needs to put up with the employee to keep someone on the board happy. Not saying that’s the case here, necessarily, but it’s always in the back of the mind at a nonprofit.

      1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        As Alison so rightly deduced, our leadership is very ineffective as well. Since our head is the one who (supposedly) handpicked Andy (at least according to Andy), trying to get him to see reason and get rid of Andy will involve more than just showing him what’s going on, it will also involve the org head admitting that he was wrong. Which seems unlikely.

        1. Sherm*

          It may indeed be time to work on leaving, then. Even if Andy quits tomorrow, you still have ineffective leadership, who could pick another Andy, or derail projects in a number of maddening ways, and so on.

        2. Pretty as a Princess*

          I will advise you that Andy’s word on being handpicked isn’t worth much.

          I have a colleague who is a peer director, and I helped hire her. She’s top-notch. A far less-qualified man on her team who was upset that he was (correctly) not selected for the position, runs around telling people that she was hired “to do the things he didn’t have time for.”

          1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

            I don’t believe a dang word Andy says. This task I did was something for an outside consultant and part of why it was delayed was that I was (still am!) worried about the privacy of our donors and about sending that info to an outside consultant, so we had that person sign a confidentiality agreement. I still think it was shady, though, but I did it because I was told to do it.

            1. Been there…*

              I obviously don’t know the specifics, but sending donor info to an outside consultant is in itself not that unusual. I’ve sat on several nonprofit boards for the planning stages of capital campaigns, for example, and all have used outside consultants to figure out that our realistic dollar amount to raise is, a process that has included interviews with some of our major donors. So there’s nothing inherently shady about using an outside consultant in fundraising. (Which isn’t to say this consultant wasn’t shady for some reason.)

        3. Brain the Brian*

          Yeah, that’s definitely a red flag by itself. An organizational head who cannot admit their own errors is not going to be great for long-term stability.

    2. Smithy*

      I do wonder if the OP is newer in their professional life or at least professional nonprofit life – because as a career nonprofit staffer – I think there are a lot of pathways to get to Jane’s place. Where the issues are recognized but the urgency isn’t at the same level.

      Speaking just for myself, I’ve worked for organizations where I 100% supported the mission, found the organization well run and liked a number of my colleagues – but my supervisor made me miserable and I wasn’t making much. Next job, found my supervisor(s) ok, supported the mission, liked a lot of colleagues, but found the organization to be entirely run by toxic bees swarming a dumpster on fire. The job after that wasn’t amazing, but was a fine place to recover from the dumpster fire. And then after that I, in my current job – I’ve learned to find the Andy’s of the world more irritating than infuriating.

      I think many of us get into nonprofit work because it’s not just a job and we do care deeply. And over time, I’ve done a lot better as seeing this as a job where I do really care, but that I’m doing neither the mission nor myself any good when I’m that upset. Sometimes it has meant just leaving to get a new job. My last job changed happened from an organization around the George Floyd protests and while I joined some of the DEI groups – I realized fairly quickly how reticent leadership was to the messaging and how I was ready to leave for a variety of reasons. So getting very upset in endless Teams/text chats was doing me no favors. I didn’t stop caring about DEI, but I wasn’t going to care so much about it in a place that saw it that differently.

      So those Jane-positions of “I hear you and I know its frustrating, if we give it more time….” can easily settle in from a place of people who’ve done their own personal math about the pluses outweighing the costs. Because the nonprofit jobs that pay well (relatively), are with missions we care about, and are nice places to work at aren’t in nearly the abundance they could be.

      1. portsmouthliz*

        This is very wise. As a 20+ year nonprofit veteran who sees my younger self in the OP, I think this observation is spot-on.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Boy that last sentence is the truth. I’ve been at my nonprofit forever and there’s a good possibility I’ll stay here until I retire (which is still forever away). I’m paid well, the hours are flexible and reasonable, I believe the organization is effective on issues I care about, and my immediate few levels of managers above me are good people who support me. It’s not a perfect organization or a perfect working environment, gods know some days are harder than others. I do my share of eye rolling and grumbling from time to time, and there are a few things the organization has done over the many years that I still don’t agree with. But none of my irritations are bad enough to drive me away from a nonprofit job with a good salary, flexible hours, reasonable expectations and supportive bosses. That’s not a bad place to be at all.

    3. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Sometimes that lower level employee just needs to know discussions are being had. Otherwise you are going to lose good employees who see the problem, brought up the problem, and (to them) have seen management ignore the problem. All the lower level employee knows is the situation is continuing without any resolution and decides to get out while the gettin’ is good.

      As a lower level employee, I didn’t need to be in the discussion or know what exactly was being done (although that would have been nice and I’m nosy enough to want to know), but I needed to know that management was taking it seriously and something was going to be done.

    4. Artemesia*

      the Andy I worked for — we joked he had the ‘PanAmerican Chair’ which tells you how long ago it was, because all he did was jet around to various foundations and convene discussions — without every obviously doing anything. He was not a huge rain maker, but enough of one that this was considered acceptable. But besides making a little rain we saw very little productivity expected for someone in his role.

    5. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      Oh, Eldritch, I’m so sorry, that’s really rough. I know Jane is having a really rough time of it too.

  2. Richard Hershberger*

    Andy thinks he is working. Just look at all those meetings! This is doing stuff: just not doing useful stuff. What is unclear to me is, if he was brought in to make rain, why is he putzing around setting up meetings with junior staff? He should be out on the golf course schmoozing! Does he have a history of successful fundraising elsewhere? Because it looks to me like he hasn’t a clue how to do this (in fairness, neither do I, apart from a vague sense that golf is involved) and is setting up those meetings with junior staff because that is something he knows how to do.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      There are definitely people who think schmoozing is a senior level job, assuming they hold it, even if that schmoozing doesn’t lead to anything.

      I do not enjoy such people.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Back when I was in paralegal school one of my instructors told the story of when she was a senior paralegal at a white shoe firm. Her job officially was to be the assistant to one of the senior partners. The thing is, this guy was utterly incompetent at the practice of law. His value to the firm was that he came from old money and knew all the right people. Schmoozing really was his job, and well worth his slice of equity. My instructor’s real job was to watch him in case he tried to actually practice law, intercepting his work product before it went out the door so that another partner could review it first.

      2. ferrina*

        Schmoozing absolutely is a real job…..if you get real results from it.

        For example, sales people that bring in new clients and strong revenue from repeat clients. Fund raising. Communications and media. I knew one guy that knew everyone in his industry, and all you had to do is say “I’m trying to make a new penguin tuxedo” and he would introduce you to the editor of the lead penguin fashion magazine and a celebrity penguin who would wear your tux on the red carpet. His job was shmoozing, and because of that he would significantly impact the success of the penguin tux launch.

      3. Phlox*

        My Andy of a boss definitely thought that – good news is that he “left for other opportunities” within the year. But how long it took to make it to clear to the board of the destruction happening and reality of staffer context was really hard and at significant personal cost to many.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In fairness, if he’s doing the job well, he *would* be generating a lot of tasks for junior staff: prospect research, database updates, etc.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Fair point, but not what the LW describes: modifying existing procedures and creating procedures for vaporware projects. Yes, it makes sense to have procedures for new projects in place to hit the ground running. But only if those projects actually happen.

      2. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        Andy has not given me any database updates. (Yes, I’m outing myself; I’m our database admin.) Nor has Andy met with me to learn the ins and outs of our database. At all. I offered several times and was never taken up on the offer.

        Now Andy has scheduled a mtg for next week about database stuff and it’ll be truly fascinating to see how it plays out. Will Andy prove once and for all that they’re actually a DB whiz and of course they never scheduled a mtg with me, because they didn’t need it? (Seems unlikely; when we met with another c-level exec about something else after they’d been here for four months Andy asked us if (IF, not where!) we record the dates of our donations in the DB. But hey, maybe that’s what Andy’s been doing the last two months, learning the DB.) Or will Andy listen to my expertise re: the DB and ask me what the DB’s capabilities are and what we can change to help Andy do their job? (This is a possibility and I’m open to it.) Or will Andy spend the mtg asking me specific questions about the DB that they should already have learned and waste everyone else’s time who Andy invited to the mtg? (Guess which one of these I suspect will happen?)

        1. ABC*

          Please try to go into this meeting with a positive attitude, OP. It could really blow up in your face if you are already stuck in an adversarial mindset.

          1. yeah*

            Yes, this. I get that you’re frustrated but reading this makes me think you’re way too emotionally invested in your perception of Andy’s poor performance, and you may need to get some distance.

            Beyond feeling ambiently demotivated, how much is Andy’s effectiveness or lack thereof really affecting your day-to-day? In your shoes I’d take the approach of focusing on doing your job well (which you now know includes prioritizing tasks from Andy, or at least being very proactive about communicating early if something is going to take longer than expected). Let the board and the rest of the C-suite worry about Andy.

            1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

              Well, if you read my update below you’ll notice that Andy has suddenly, as of two hours ago, decided that they are Jane’s and my boss (they’re not) and that I shouldn’t make any changes whatsoever unless they have signed off on said changes. So yeah, they’ve now moved to actively barring me from doing my job. (But I can still plan on the changes I will make, Andy can’t stop me from planning stuff even if they think they can block the execution.)

              1. yeah*

                I’m a little confused here. It sounds like you administer the fundraising database and Andy is a C-suite employee who is at least partly responsible for fundraising. You feel they don’t have latitude to make decisions about the fundraising workflow? Andy may not actually be your boss but as a member of the C-suite I’d be surprised that they wouldn’t have the authority to request that your department runs changes by them. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding the scenario here.

                1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

                  The changes I’ve been making that they are requesting I run by them are 1) extremely minor, 2) do not affect them at all, and 3) were requested by a different c-level exec/dept. If I hadn’t rolled them out in staff meeting today, Andy most certainly would not have even noticed them.

                  We’re a small NP and I support everyone here. But it is absolutely not in Andy’s purview to dictate everything that I’m doing in the DB. If they have specific requests of me and want me to change stuff, I absolutely would do it. I’m sure there are plenty of things I can do to improve the DB and make it work for Andy the way Andy wants. When Andy tells me what they want I will absolutely do it. When other c-levels request that I change or add stuff, I do that too.

                  And now that I think about it, Andy has requested I make a couple of changes in the DB and I did make them (they were also, btw, very minor changes, which is why I’m only now remembering them). So whatever notion Andy has in their head about my not doing the things they’ve asked me to do is utter nonsense.

          2. Conscientious OP who does the things*

            Yes, Jane and I plan to listen to what Andy has to say and not be adversarial, though it’ll be very difficult. It’s all just fascinating and I’m beyond caring what Andy thinks of me.

            However, if Andy thinks they can take away all my autonomy…well, I’m not sure what I can do about that. I have a lot of autonomy, with Jane’s blessing. My job, as it has been defined since I started here, is to work with all the departments, listen to what they need, make suggestions, and implement those suggestions. And that’s what I do. If Andy wants to meet with me to tell me what they need and ask me for suggestions on how to get them what they need, great. But it sure appears that Andy thinks I’m some unpaid intern who has been here for a week and needs them to tell me how to do my job. Which…no. Just no.

            I have not mentioned in any of the comments yet how Andy is exceptionally condescending to everyone, including board members, so I’m not taking this personally at all. Any time Andy acts condescending in a meeting that I’m in, I just inwardly roll my eyes.

            1. Non non non all the way home*

              OP I really feel for you. I’ve been in your shoes in two other organizations, having to watch while the senior person who’d been hired to raise money for the organization instead spent all their time in meetings and then ‘analyzing’ piles of paper, barking instructions at underlings to work on irrelevant minutia, buying themselves time without actually working on what the organization desperately needed.

              Both organizations went out of business, thanks to both the inept person hired to bring in the money and the inept executives who allowed them to waste the time of everyone in the organization while not actually bringing in money. In both cases the “Andy” had been brought on with the hopes they would save the organization.

              I recommend you invest your free time in job-searching in case your non-profit doesn’t survive.

            2. Lia*

              OP, I was in your shoes a decade ago (almost identical job at a nonprofit). I wound up leaving because after a year, it became very clear the organization would support Andy and not actually their mission.

              What happened after I left? Well, minus the support I (and the SEVEN OTHERS who left within 6 months of my departure) provided, Andy and the leader who’d handpicked him had their incompetence exposed and both left. Andy wound up getting ANOTHER position at a local nonprofit and rather spectacularly failed that as well.

              I myself left for the for-profit world and have doubled my salary, and am seen as a leader in my role.

              I strongly suggest leaving.

            3. Churu*

              “so I’m not taking this personally at all”

              The 30+ replies kind of say otherwise though.

              I don’t know, it kind of sounds like you might be signing your own termination papers

        2. MsM*

          I was about to say I feel like it’s rare for C-suite folks who aren’t in IT to be particularly well-versed in the details of the database, or for that to be a problem as long as other people know how to generate the reports, but…

          “Andy asked us if (IF, not where!) we record the dates of our donations in the DB.”

          I see your concern now, OP.

        3. My Useless 2 Cents*

          If your Andy is anything like the Andy’s I’ve worked with I’d bet money that Andy will propose the company switch to database program that was at his last job. It worked great!

          1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

            What’s your Venmo? Andy has, indeed, already made this proposal. It would be absolutely bananas (BANANAS, with a jaunty hat and scarf) for us to switch DB programs but I worry that our ineffective leadership might actually consider it.

        4. Middle Aged Lady*

          The ‘Andy’ at a non-profit I worked at outed himself as a non-worker when, nine months in, he asked my coworker to help him change his DB login. He had never used it!

    3. JSPA*

      The LW used “they” for Andy, whether because that’s Andy’s actual pronoun, or so as not to specify further. And Andy is now an all-genders name. I don’t feel like we should pick “he,” tempting though it may be to presume.

      1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        Thank you for noticing. I very specifically did use “they” for Andy.

          1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

            Because whether this person is a man or a woman is irrelevant.

            1. Insert Generic Screen Name Here*

              Man, woman, both, or neither. I really appreciated the usage of the ungendered language you and a few other letter writers have been using in their messages lately, as a they/them user myself is been nice to see it becoming more normalized (even if some commenters are ascribing pronouns not given in the original message)

              wishing you luck with your Andy though!

            1. Pseudo Anon*

              The seriousness over the question of pronouns depends on how seriously you take sexism. We all have gender biases and by trying to choose a gender neutral name and use gender neutral pronouns, LW is trying to avoid the stereotypes we all have.

    4. I'm just here for the cats!*

      not all fundraising is going to be golfing. There may be a lot going and ultimatly its not OP’s responsibility.

      If the OP is under pressure not from Andy, it’s their own fault. I got a feeling that the op was “If Andy isn’t going to be doing any work, I’m not going to do this task for him.” And that is why Andy now has a bad view of their team.

      1. Analyst*

        Exactly this. You’re (at least) 2 levels away from the c suite and one of them assigns you something and you don’t make it a high priority? Not a good plan., even if Andy is utterly incompetent or playing on their phone all day. OP needs to talk to Jane about priority level and be on the same page as her at least.

    5. Artemesia*

      I’d be the world’s worst rainmaker — and because I know that I didn’t get that kind of job. I interview well and could probably have gotten jobs where this was a major part of the role — and then I would be Andy because I have no clue on how to make that happen.

    6. DJ Hymnotic*

      Working in healthcare, “This administrator thinks they are working. Just look at all those meetings!” Is. An. Entire. Mood.

  3. Ellis Bell*

    Here for everyone’s wisdom, because my job also has a resident bigwig who has achieved nothing except creating a talking shop. At least they have the decency to make some of it an email rather than a meeting.

    1. ferrina*

      Yep. My current company oddly has none of those (which has been a welcome and confusing change), but the last one was comprised almost entirely of These Guys (and yes, at that company they were all men). The biggest culprit was constantly using big words and jargon to obfuscate that he actually had no strategy and no impact on the company. Any project he touched, failed. As soon as he was moved off the project and someone else took charge, it magically started working again. His department is hemorrhaging money with no results or worse than when he started.

      It’s been years and this guy still works there. As Alison said, it’s not just a This Guy problem- it’s emblematic of the entire leadership at the company.

    2. Artemesia*

      I had a role where I worked with many non-profits for awhile and I was astonished at the number of good old boys and sometimes girls who were pushed into ED roles by important board members and who essentially had a well paid retirement sinecure. They would be well paid, do nothing and the people making the organization function would be paid peanuts and be running themselves ragged.

      Why it is almost as if well paid sinecures are just the birthright of a certain class of people.

  4. AcadLibrarian*

    I would point out on Andy’s behalf that the higher one’s position is, the less concrete work one does. I manage a department that produces widgets. But I don’t produce widgets myself. So someone could ask quite honestly what it is that I do exactly.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, 1000% this. The higher you get the more you are reading reports and making decisions based on those reports and the less you are actually gathering information and writing those reports.

      In my organization, if I am doing my job effectively, and the people diagonal to me whose work I review are doing their jobs correctly, nobody hears a peep out of me. So it looks to some people like my department doesn’t do a whole lot. But without our authorizations on things, CoAs would never go out, so what we do is vital. It’s just mostly invisible.

      Not saying that’s what’s happening here, but it’s possible. Especially if he’s fundraising.

      1. MassMatt*

        I see the point, and as Alison said the LW is levels away from Andy so not in a position to know a lot about their day-to-day work. But in this case, Andy is supposed to be raising money; this is very measurable.

        Yes, it can take time to cultivate the donors in this particular field, and maybe it takes weeks to chase down that million-dollar gift, etc, but in the end it will be very apparent whether someone is raising money or not.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Million-dollar gifts take years, not weeks. I’ve closed multiple of them and unless there’s a big team with multiple principal gift fundraisers who can do a warm handoff to a prospect already tee-d up for a gift, there is just no way a new VP of development (or whatever) will be closing substantial gifts in less than 6-12 months.

        2. Advancement Llama*

          16 years in fundraising and I can assure you that it takes YEARS to cultivate and close a million-dollar gift except in very rare circumstances. And I’ve worked at some of the USA’s largest nonprofits where million-dollar gifts were common.

          Average time to close a major gift (6 fig+ depending on org) is around 18 months. So with any fundraising position, you shouldn’t expect to see any results until year 2. And it takes until year 3 to really get going.

          That said, there are a lot of blowhards in fundraising that come in with a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Totally possible that Andy is one of them.

    2. I am Emily's failing memory*

      The time it takes to come up to speed is also significantly longer. TBH, having seen many a new C-Suite person come on board in my long tenure where I currently work, I’ve preferred the ones who did seem not to be doing much for the first 6-12 months, because it meant they were learning why things are the way they are, so when they eventually did start introducing new and different ways of doing things, those new and different ways were much less likely to be a terrible disaster. Comparatively, the C-Suite people who come in and feel like they need to prove they’re doing something to earn their salary by making big changes right away have nearly always wandered into a hornet’s nest of unintended consequences because they just didn’t have the depth of institutional knowledge they needed to go improving stuff that wasn’t broken.

      1. Ready for a New Name*

        This was my first thought too! The higher you go the longer it takes you to acclimate to a new position because so much of your job involves you making decisions, understanding the players/projects/processes, evaluating those, and looking for improvements.

        Reading other comments from LW it does seem like this is also someone chaffing at a new exec coming in and wanting to change things (and I completely understand when you’ve been doing things well and don’t think you need the change, but that’s also just the nature of new leadership joining an organization.

    3. Generic Name*

      Yes. I’m a subject matter expert and a low level manager, and at least half my time is in project meetings where I’m sharing my thoughts on (very important, of course) stuff, and another good portion is spent in check in meetings with junior level staff directing them to do tasks and assessing progress of those tasks. The smallest portion of my time is what I consider doing actual “work”.

    4. AKchic*

      Right? Half of my job is intangibles. I document everything I do, daily, for my boss so he knows what I’ve done and when. Some of those days it literally reads: Read updated 147 page travel policy the assembly approved last night – new forms coming from Travel/Finance within the week; Sent IT ticket for X. Other days, I have 50 line items.

    5. Tiger Snake*

      Oh BOY do I relate to that.
      I’ve managed to build and grow myself to suddenly being in that weird liminal space between being the tech expert and being the manager of the tech experts. Trying to put my timecard against projects for payment like I’m meant to suddenly feels like an existential crisis.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      Sometimes it’s quite easy to compare because two high up people are in similar roles, or their impact is quite visibly a fuck up. I don’t look for “concrete” work when I look at higher ups, I look for a) common sense and clear communication, b) how they connect or affect people, or how they connect or affect ideas, and c) do they do what they say they’re going to do?

  5. Saturday*

    “And also, what if I’m wrong and Andy actually is getting tons of stuff done and I’m just so low-level that I don’t see it?”

    I mean, I do think it’s worth keeping this in mind. A lot of meaningful work isn’t something that you would immediately see evidence of. Andy may or may not be a problem, but I wouldn’t decide they’re useless yet. Either way, checking out opportunities at other organizations seems like it can’t go wrong.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, I suspect fundraising is a bit like sales of large solutions – and as a programmer working on the solution, I see what sales was doing about 3-12 months later when it turns into an actual booking and we’re supporting it. Well, if it does; not all leads pan out. I suspect trying to get donors is similar in terms of timeline to visibility.

    2. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Seems to me that if Andy really is accomplishing things, Jane should be able to explain that to the LW. So either Andy really is a nothingburger, or Jane is not doing a great job supporting the LW. Either way it makes sense to look.

          1. JSPA*

            And i’m wrong, as it was already used by Luella Parsons in the 50’s. But it was omnipresent in Cosmo.

    3. Abogado Avocado*

      Fundraisers or development officers (take your title pick) often have a much different culture than the folks who are doing the work that a non-profit is devoted to. I say this as the former head of a legal services non-profit and, as one who had to balance working with these two different cultures, even though my experience was in the non-profit’s subject matter.

      I found it really hard to understand the big talking, big idea, it’s-all-blue-sky ways of the development officers. I was used to determining where our legal work could be most effective in regard to the overall problem we were focused on and then targeting our efforts to achieve maximum effectiveness. We had significant foundation support, but they wanted us to engage individual donors and, the fact was, I wasn’t as good at was translating our work to develop an individual donor base. That’s where the development officers came in — and although I found working with them to be like entering another country with a whole other language, I finally learned that their culture is a big part of how think about and go about raising funds — and that it serves them well.

      The other thing I learned is that it is the rare organization that hires a development staff and, immediately, donations go through the roof. It takes time — and sometimes a couple years, depending on the subject matter of the organization.

      LW, Andy could be a gold-bricking blowhard and management is not effectively managing him. But it’s also possible that the job he’s been hired to do has a much longer rollout period and that his effectiveness can’t really be judged right now.

      1. BigLawEx*

        If it takes several years…that could be great or it could be moving deck chairs on the Titanic. I had a parent who did about 50% non-profit work in their career and the latter kind of work ended two relatively healthy organizations…

  6. LCH*

    if you aren’t planning to leave ASAP, i’d also focus on this a little: “I dropped the ball on a small task for Andy because I was not seeing it as a priority and I had a million other things I was juggling…”
    “Andy apparently has been complaining that my team specifically doesn’t help them when they ask for help.”
    i’d make sure to get clarification on future deadlines/find out what the heck on the second issue so i at least look like i’m doing good work while still at the org and not trying to undermine someone higher than me. just in case!

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I was going to say the same thing. If anything come up that’s for Andy, clarify with boss on the priorities. This way OP, you can cover yourself if something goes wrong.

      1. Sleeve McQueen*

        Joining this chorus – OP please CYA. Either Andy is doing nothing and will be willing to throw you under the bus when they are exposed or they are doing something and it will look like OP is being uncooperative.

        Document your requests in writing, respond to their requests in writing. Create an email papertrail so big it makes the Yellow Brick Road look like a dirt path

    2. JSPA*

      If they’re big enough to have an HR, I think there could be an avenue where the LW says that they fear they might be being set up as a scapegoat?

      Without dishing about Andy’s work ethic (or lack) they can say they only got one, not very emphatic task handed off to them by Andy (with no deadline attached?), and then got a barrage of complaints from Andy about not doing some larger unspecified “work,” despite no other work ever being given by Andy.

      The letter writer could emphasize that they are very conscientious, but can’t read minds as far as knowing which random tasks should get priority to bump their core tasks.

      There might even be the chance to say that Andy talks about everything they do (even small, routine stuff) as if it’s pressing, immediate, instantaneous, massive and important…which makes it hard to recognize when a task actually IS pressing. (If the answer to, “when do you need it” is always “yesterday,” that’s not guidance, it’s wordplay.)

    3. MigraineMonth*

      I think this is really important, OP. You admit that you aren’t in a position to see all of Andy’s work and you certainly aren’t in any position to hold him accountable to any goals.

      While you are working at this org, you still need to do tasks that Andy has assigned to you, regardless of your opinion of their work. It’s fine to go to Jane when you have too many competing priorities and ask which one you can drop, but you can’t just decide not to do Andy’s work.

      If you think that the organization is not able to manage, hold people accountable, and accomplish it’s mission, by all means find somewhere else to work. In the meantime, though, I think you’ll be a lot happier if you accept that this is an issue that you cannot fix (or even influence in any significant way).

    4. Ali Baba G*

      I’m wondering if they may be a clue to the larger problem – does Andy think they have assigned all this work? Do they expect that they come to the meeting with the big exciting ideas and plans, and then all the worker bees in the meeting will then go and implement them?

      I could see this if they come from a bigger company and/or for-profit background, as often the C-Level don’t do much except have the ideas and ask their staff to figure out how to implement them (usually with a bit more guidance than this, but still). If that is Andy’s expectation, however poorly they’re communicating it, it could explain both the lack of tangible results and change, and their assertion that LW hasn’t done the work they expected her to.

      1. BigLawEx*

        Could this happen? I feel like the organization would have had early meetings in ideas/implementation – like you need DB work? Go to Jane or LW. You need volunteers to fan out – go to X or Y. You need newsletter signups at the next event, go to A and B…

        If they’re just shouting ideas and everyone shrugs…OMG.

  7. Overit*

    IME, the do nothing senior staff will outlast the lower level staff who do all the work.

    Why? #1 Board Does. Not. Care. Enough to do anything about it or are blinded by smoke and mirrors.
    #2 Worker bees actually do care about mission and become demoralized and leave while the Do Nothings just want money for nothing.

    In my last NP, the Do Nothing Director has been there 16 years. The staff turns over in its entirety every 18–24 months. The board has never talked to an exiting staffmember. Most never talk to any staffmember ever. I was a significant hire, complete with press release and lots of media coverage of my work. Only 1 board member ever had any conversation with me and that was to tell me I should place an opening bid of $3k on a silent auction item (I assure you that my paltry pay did not run to such expenses as a Botox session).

  8. never mind who I am*

    Many years ago I worked in a hospital billing department–the file room, to be more specific. The manager usually came in late, complaining about how hung over he was from the night before. The only thing I saw him do on a regular basis was approve paychecks. He did help assemble some new cubicles once.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      He did help assemble some new cubicles once.

      That sounds like the last line of his obituary, lol!

      1. Elsewise*

        John Nothingburger departed from this earthly plain at some point last year, but no one noticed because he never did anything. During his life, he was an active member of many clubs and organizations, none of which choose to be named here, but he definitely was active. His favorite things were meetings, scheduling meetings, and follow-up meetings. He is survived by his junior staff, who will all fondly remember absolutely nothing about him because they never saw him. He did help assemble some new cubicles once, though.

        In lieu of flowers… I dunno, figure something out.

  9. Velomont*

    It may be that you need to be clearer with Jane on the specifics of what Andy does or does not seem to be doing, and how it’s impacting your work. What should result from that is Jane being better at dealing with and facilitating Andy’s output (or lack thereof) so that it doesn’t affect your work.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      honestly I think Jane’s view of Andy is clouding judgment for the OP.

      1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        It ain’t helping, but the fact that a lot of other ppl here feel the same way we do is telling.

  10. Queen Elizabeth I*

    As a person who has been in both high and low level roles in different organizations, I think it’s entirely possible he is getting things done – delegating and supervising, not data entry or report writing, because that’s what someone at his level does. I don’t see a way for you to “check his work” without looking pretty presumptuous, and you definitely should not assume you know more about his job than he does.

  11. FunkyMunky*

    can you talk to Jane about removing you from any future tasks requests that originate from Andy? I think that’s the least she can do.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      This is probably the best functional response. Or at least minimize exposure to him and increase exposure to a more reliable c-suite person.

      1. Thedude*

        In the before times, it was easier to sort of observe what was going on with peers and those above us in the chain. I’m afraid that it isn’t so easy now.

    2. witch*

      Work isn’t a choose your own adventure. In a perfect world OP could push back lightly by asking for more context around the task, “why does Andy need this? What is he expecting? What is his deadline?”

      But to refuse work from a senior-level colleague is just going to make OP seem incredibly obstinate and out of touch.

    3. JSPA*

      I think the letter writer could certainly say that they find it nearly impossible to gauge how pressing things are because of Andy’s phrasing and attitude…so it would help if any tasks from andy were routed through Jane, to aid with prioritizing.

      1. HonorBox*

        This is a reasonable way to approach the request. Depending on the size of the org and specifically what LW is doing, requesting that they not do projects for Andy might be impossible at best. But if LW can speak to Jane about getting things routed through her from Andy, it might help clarify the priority and deadline. Jane might be able to push back if Andy isn’t as clear as they need to be, where LW doesn’t have the same opportunity. I think it is especially helpful that LW note that the “dropped ball” was because there wasn’t clarity of deadline and priority, and they need to have a sense from Jane how Andy’s requests should fit into their other obligations.

    4. MsM*

      It’s probably not practical to take OP off Andy tasks, but I do wonder how much OP needs to be in all of these meetings.

      1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        OP does not need to be in all these meetings. But then, neither does anyone else because they are very wasteful of everyone’s time. One memorable meeting consisted of Andy telling us what their OKRs were and that we need to create SOPs. Sure, fine, great that we know what your OKRs are, except they were exactly the same as the OKRs Andy had presented to us two months previously. And sure, we can create SOPs for you, no problem. What SOPs do you want us to create? (Still waiting on that….)

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          It sounds like they’re definitely floundering or failing to communicate in some fashion. OKRs don’t typically belong to individuals – they’re department/team and organization-wide metrics for overall health and bottom-line outcomes, although individuals are sometimes appointed to track and monitor progress towards particular OKR(s) and raise the alarm when one is getting off-track. (That’s intended to prevent diffusion of responsibility, where because everyone is responsible for an outcome, everyone thinks someone else is taking care of it.)

          So if you came away from the meeting thinking Andy was talking about their own personal OKRs, then Andy is either using OKRs wrong or they’ve completely failed to convey that they’re outlining the ultimate objectives that the entire department/team is working towards, and instead given everyone the impression that they’re just sharing their own goals.

          1. yeah*

            It depends. Personal OKRs are definitely still a thing at many organizations (and were a part of the original framework of OKRs). They’re less popular now, but referring to individual or personal OKRs is not a sign of incompetence.

  12. Marcella*

    6 months is not very long. As someone who does freelance grant writing, it takes time to do research, build donor and funder relationships, study why previous efforts failed, look for supporters and partners, etc. – and that’s just to write a grant. Andy may have a strategic, relationship-driven role that looks easy from a few levels down. Driving value doesn’t always mean visible output.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I had similar thoughts. It’s been 6 months. And OP doesn’t know what Andy is stepping into. There could be a lot of making up to do if the previous person dropped the ball or if they haven’t had someone in the role for a while.

      And if Andy’s job is to get money for the organization, that takes time. Just finding, researching, and writing a grant could take months.

      I wonder what the OP’s thoughts were on the person who previously held Andy’s job and if the stress their manager is under is clouding OP’s judgement.

      Regardless, as long as OP does their job its not up to them.

    2. Smithy*

      This comes to mind strongly. I’m not C-Suite, but honestly the first 3-4 months on my current job I didn’t have much to do. I started end of September, still getting work/onboarding through October/November – and then Thanksgiving/End of Year hit and my work dropped to a snail’s pace until mid-January.

      Another possibility is that Andy was brought on to lead something that won’t really get money until the next fiscal year. And so they’re in a very slow start period and using this time to listen and learn. Andy may also be a blow hard, deeply irritating, and ultimately not amazing at the job – but this low level of work product may be more money oriented.

      I once had a VP brought on to lead a department team where she wanted to create a new team where she envisioned like 4-5 staff to start. She got money for 1.5 FTE’s. The full-time person quit after 3 months realizing they wouldn’t have the budget to hire the people he thought he’d be able to and it took the VP another year to both find a replacement AND get budget approval for more positions. Because she wasn’t going to struggle to hire another team lead who’d quit that soon due to having no real team. None of this was shared this directly with the .5 person in the role who got a lot of “be patient, help is coming” but was really confused about what their job was for that entire time.

    3. Phlox*

      That could also be true, but I’ve been in a similar position as director under a ED who strongly resembles Andy, all hot air and talk, absolutely nothing substantive and causing so much damage by saying/not doing things. And all the optimism talk I got from friends/family outside my agency didn’t make me feel great. OP – writing here to say, I’m sorry, I’ve been there as a Jane trying my best to shield staff, it could actually be even worse than you see, and Jane’s wait and see approach could be the right strategy right now. Getting corrective action on high level staffers, esp in a nonprofit structure, is slow and hard, and right now, that has a direct negative impact on day to day work for you.

  13. Varthema*

    We have had someone like that at our org – not doing NOTHING, I’m pretty sure, but def in over their head. We’re fully remote though and they’re super positive and upbeat, have enough conscientious (if unhappy) people under them and was able to wallpaper over things. then they went out on parental leave and since the CEO and other members of the leadership team have taken over their teams, it’s finally become as obvious to them as it has to us what a clusterduck things were. Barring that opportunity for insight, I’m not sure change would have happened.

  14. Specks*

    Is it just me, or is there just not enough detail in the letter to know if Andy is or isn’t doing anything? I really just can’t tell if OP is in the position to know. If Andy has been around for 6 months, that’s not enough time from my experience to both apply for funding and receive it, even if they started working on new grant applications the day they started. Now, maybe Andy is charged with small donors and making changes to that process and has had time to make a difference, but if OP isn’t in finance on that side, how would they know?

    This is all to say, when I was more junior, I sometimes thought some of my boss’s bosses were doing nothing. And sometimes I was right. But sometimes I just had no clue.

    OP, it really sounds like Andy maybe just gets on your nerves or operates differently than you’re used to or something? Is it possible that you’re seeing everything through that lens? And like Allison said, does it matter? Your only recourse to not working with Andy is to wait and hope they’re fired or leave yourself.

    1. HonorBox*

      I’ve worked for my present boss twice now. When he left the original place we worked together, I was promoted to his role. I called him one day and said, “you know, we often wondered where you were and what you were doing, and now that I’m being called into meetings all the time by various stakeholders, I totally get it and apologize for not understanding before.” It is hard to gauge exactly what coworkers are doing, especially if they’re above you on an org chart. While Andy may be getting under OP’s skin, it is really difficult to know if they’re not good at their job or getting stuff done. Letting things play out is the best approach, because if Andy isn’t doing something, there are others who are measuring success.

    2. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      You’re right, I may not have included enough detail in my letter to know if Andy is indeed just futzing around but I have just uncovered the fact that they have not (as I commented on below) been forwarding emails from recurring donors about changing and canceling their donations, to the person who is supposed to make the changes…me. And yes, I know they get the emails because I set up the email alerts for them months ago and ran a test and Andy confirmed that they got the test email.

      1. Specks*

        He could be doing nothing, or, hear me out, he could be too busy with important stuff to remember to forward emails. That is just such a weird, tiny thing to focus on to say someone is “doing nothing”. That’s just not what c-level work is like.

        Anyway, since this particular part of it sounds like it’s affecting your work, I suggest you focus there: Andy isn’t forwarding me the donor change requests and as a result we end up with X problems. What can we do to either bypass him (set up auto-forward of particular types of emails or direct them to you to begin with) or get him to understand the issues it’s causing? Focus on the effects his slackness is having on you and mitigating those. Leave evaluating his work and his effectiveness to his boss, since you’re not equipped to do it.

        1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

          Thanks, yes, I will be putting my head down and focusing on the tasks that need to be focused on and try to ignore the extra noise. As for the emails, though, Andy very specifically requested last fall that these donor alerts get sent to them rather than to the person who’d been handling them for the last few years. I made the change, sent Andy a test, and confirmed that Andy is receiving the emails. For Andy to then ignore said emails….I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

          Jane and I discovered this late yesterday and Jane is out today, but next week I do intend to ask at our one-on-one what I should do about them. Unless she brings it up first. :-)

          1. Nomic*

            An obvious solution is to CC or BCC the email to someone else (the previous person). It makes sense that Andy wants to see them — if a person is canceling their donation that is a good person to approach to see why. But the request needs to be met as well.

            You can meet Andy’s request *and* help the original person also deal with the donor’s request.

            1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

              Alas, that person is no longer here, but that would be a good solution. Although the other issue is that I’m not sure what I can really do with this newfound knowledge of slacking except sit on it…it seems likely that Jane has been sufficiently alarmed at this point that maybe she’ll say something to our CEO. Or not. I’m just going to wait and see.

              Because I could so very easily see that if I did mention it to someone (“Hey, it looks like Andy got some emails from donors asking us to change something for them and didn’t pass them on to OP who makes those changes”) it will 100% blow up in my face. Andy would be like, “Are you spying on me?” And of course the answer is yes, yes I am. Well, no, “I was just creating activity reports for everyone and happened to notice a couple of emails from donors that need to be address.” It’s a good excuse, but really I am also spying on Andy. And I need to just stop that already and get back to work. :-)

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                Okay, look, I’ve read all your comments about this and I understand that there’s an element of venting in writing into AAM, but it sounds like you are taking a lot of things very personally here and dwelling on them to a strange degree. I presume that you don’t talk like this at work, but in your comments your dislike/contempt for Andy is absolutely crystal clear and if even a small proportion of that comes through IRL you are not going to come out of it looking good. You’ve described a bunch of, honestly, pretty minor annoyances, and maybe they add up to an incompetent blowhard or maybe they don’t, but at the end of the day you do not have any standing to do anything about it. As many others have said, you should focus on your own work and any actual effects Andy has on it.

              2. I am Emily's failing memory*

                “Although the other issue is that I’m not sure what I can really do with this newfound knowledge of slacking except sit on it…it seems likely that Jane has been sufficiently alarmed at this point that maybe she’ll say something to our CEO. Or not. I’m just going to wait and see.”

                Specks wasn’t advising you to focus on the missing emails issue because it might be a smoking gun that will finally spur your manager to take a stand against Andy or speak to the CEO about him.

                They were advising you to focus on the missing emails because that legitimately impacts your ability to do your job and your manager is legitimately positioned to help you implement a solution for making sure you get those emails in the future without relying on Andy to forward them to you.

                Ultimately whatever happens to Andy is going to be up to Andy and their managers. Your measure of success can’t be, “Andy gets taken down a peg or whipped into shape,” it needs to be, “I get what I need to do my job and provide our donors the level of service they expect and deserve.”

  15. soontoberetired*

    Senior staff who do nothing will be discovered eventually. Sometimes it takes longer than you would like – two years for the last persoon I know who did nothing. That person was eventually organized out and keeps failing upwards. Great at appearances but doesn’t last longer than 2 years . We were the exception but this person was also related to someone at my company so things had to get really bad before something was done.

    1. Anonymous For This One*

      Sometimes it happens fast:
      In my NP org, there was a VP brought in to manage fundraising. This person was into “disruptive innovation” in the sense that they put everything on hold in service to a new fundraising scheme/paradigm, talked a great game about how it was going to increase yield by having people do things differently than before (which, fair enough, could be true), promised the staff that he had approval for all this, spent 80% of the department annual operating budget in four months, and then abruptly quit when the CEO essentially said, “what the hell is all this?”

      Sometimes, those people just burrow in forEVER.

  16. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

    No offense, but a great many low-level staff have zero clue about what C-level folks do. I have seen this at multiple organizations. There is a REASON (in the large majority of cases) that C-levels are C-level, and low-level staffers are low-level. There is often a lack of understanding about what senior managers are doing by those who are tasked to “do” things. In general, if you are that senior? Your job isn’t to “produce” things yourself. It is to coordinate teams, set objectives, create strategy, and manage others.

    I’m not trying to attack the writer. I was the same way when I was lower-experienced. I came to better understand the realities as I rose in the ranks.

    I actually saw this once when an AP clerk sent an email to the CEO saying that the CFO (three levels up from him) “wasn’t doing anything”. That was the clerk’s last day.

    I would suggest that the writer “stick to their knitting”. If they are having problems with accomplishing the tasks that are THEIR job? Then speak to their direct manager about how to accomplish those goals *given the environment they are working in*. But complaining about that senior a leader when your job actually IS to be “doing stuff”? That might tend to be a career-limiting (and shortening) move.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I agree with a lot of this. I saw it play out in an internship I had in college at a historic site. Basically, the employees were divided between people who worked primarily inside sitting at computers and those who were out on the site most of the day. My boss was an inside worker and I would watcher her sending emails, putting together schedules and programs, etc all day. Then I would here the outdoor part-time staff grumble about how she didn’t do any work and I was floored.

      1. Parakeet*

        But in your situation, the issue was a blue-collar vs white-collar dynamic, with (if I’m understanding you correctly) nobody further up the hierarchy than line supervisor. That’s not the case here, where all the people involved are white-collar and there’s no opportunity for “clerical work isn’t real” snobbery.

    2. anon't*

      C-level folks hire and cover for like-minded C-level folks, kinda like bad police chiefs hire bad cops. Just like household servants of yore, lower-level staff see this and can tell the diff between functional C-level employees and ones who suck up resources while doing nothing (or worse, doing harm).

      We’re not stupid.

    3. juliebulie*

      “stick to their knitting?”
      That’s almost as rude and dismissive as “go play with your dolls.”

        1. linger*

          Compare the proverb “a cobbler should stick to his [sic] last”.
          In both cases the meaning is simply “stick to the task you’ve been trained for”.
          And in both cases, if you look at real-life occurrences, they’re often used to dismiss concerns that the speaker wants to present as unfounded, irrelevant, or ignorant.
          They’re gendered, but not sexist per se; but that does not stop them being as dismissive as the gender-neutral equivalent “stay in your lane”.

    4. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      Hi Not My Circus, I did not write in my letter but I am a very conscientious employee who gets my work done and receives high praise from my boss and most of the c-levels here, and this is the only thing I’ve dropped the ball on. I even asked Jane for more examples of my dropping the ball and she didn’t have any for me. In addition, I was effectively out of the office for three days last week, one of which was for a big exam, so I was focusing on getting my very high priority (financial) tasks done and the task for Andy fell through the cracks. It’s weird that Jane reacted so strongly to this but I’m pretty sure it’s because she’s feeling a lot of pressure from Andy and is frustrated, like the rest of us, that Andy isn’t doing anything.

      Also, by “drop the ball” what really happened is that I ended up getting it done a couple of days later than they’d requested it be done, which happened to fall during a week when I had a lot of other personal and professional things occurring. This is 100% the kind of situation that Jane would say NBD, just get it done next week plz; her reacting so strongly is really out of character.

      1. Random Dice*

        That’s not really the point, though.

        You’re so wrapped up in your perceptions about someone whose role you don’t have visibility into, that your reaction to this is way out of scale.

        Jane also doesn’t have visibility, though maybe is hearing manager gossip you’re not privy to, but she’s reacting out of scale.

        Could he be a useless do-nothing? Maybe. Could you be too junior to assess? Maybe.

        Focus on cooling down your reactivity to Andy and doing your job effectively. You can’t and really shouldn’t be trying to get rid of Andy.

      2. Saturday*

        Could Jane have just been concerned about not meeting a deadline with someone who is still pretty new? I know when new people come on board in my organization, there’s a push to be very responsive because first impressions can matter a lot. Just a thought.

        1. yeah*

          This stuck out to me too. My manager also would be upset with me in this situation, even if they might extend grace if it happened with a stakeholder we already have a long track record with. If this is one of the only interactions Andy has had with your department, his current impression — based on a very small sample size — is that you complete tasks late. It may be hard to overcome this bad first impression.

          1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

            Nah, Andy’s been here six months and in that time I’ve done all the things they’ve asked of me. Of which I just remembered a couple of other ones that I did right away (it’s only this one that I was a couple of days late on). Still waiting on Andy to update the documents that should have been updated in January and to write, print, and send the donor letter that should have gone out in mid-Feb….Mind you, I don’t actually care if they get updated or sent or any of that, nor have I said a word about it to Andy, but someone should probably care, right?

            1. Sam*

              I’m wondering if your frustration isn’t that they’re not working but that they’re making work harder and gumming up the works. They’re a loud presence you have to manage around that is making doing your job worse…I had this with a volunteer position where I had a two hour meeting because they were threatening to destroy a project everyone wanted because a random person that did not need to be involved had objections, so we had a 2 hour meeting for it to stay the same. Also for putting this project together, I had the “reward” of six disconnected bosses telling me what to do. It was like nails on a chalkboard, like every meeting that we’d been forced to deal with. Had to quit to stop the torment.

    5. Fred*

      On the other hand, I worked for a place where the CEO spent their first 6 months writing a report that no one saw, then used it to get millions out of the board, hired a bunch of consultants, stacked the C suite with his buddies, made a lot of international trips, and drove the company bankrupt a year later. No one was able to make the board see that the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes.

    6. Parakeet*

      Frontline workers/individual contributors are not necessarily inexperienced, and definitely don’t need to be condescended to like this. It’s not as though plenty of us don’t have experience with bad “leaders” and some ability to spot them.

      1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        Thank you, Parakeet. I may be low-level here but I have worked directly with executives before and I have some idea what the job entails. I worked for several years for a consultant who did project management and business development training for attorneys. He wrote the books on those subjects and I edited them, so I do know a thing or two about how development works. (Not specifically NP development, I will admit, but development nonetheless.) But Andy talks to me like I know nothing, when they do talk to me (which is actually blessedly rare, thank goodness). They seemed annoyed when they tried to explain to me what a donor pipeline is and I said, “Oh, yes, I know what a donor pipeline is.” (I thought maybe I could save us both some time and prevent them from going into a long-winded explanation that I didn’t need.)

        Andy’s absolutely the most condescending person I’ve had the pleasure of working with and acts like, because they’re the development expert, nobody else could possibly know anything about the subject. Or any other subject. Another coworker told me that at a dinner I wasn’t at, Andy went on and on to our CEO about how they’re the DB expert and they were going to get us to start using the DB the correct way. This was in Dec and to date I haven’t heard a thing from Andy about the myriad of ways we’re going to start using the DB the correct way. Andy did schedule a data management meeting for next week and I’m actually excited to see what ideas they have to improve our DB. Well, excited might be too strong a word, but I can’t wait to hear what they have to say and be able to answer their questions about the capabilities of our DB. (I know my stuff; I will be able to answer anything Andy throws at me.)

  17. MuseumChick*

    Many things could be going on here. I do think it is very possible Andy is doing things that you might not be seeing. I have a job where the results are often not apparent to those outside my department and even the things I work on that are public facing, the amount of work that does into them is not apparent if you don’t know the ins and outs of the details. There are definitely people here who (I believe) feel I must just spend my whole day doing nothing but fun things. And they don’t understand that what can sound like a very simple project (inventory the history collection) is a HUGE undertaking that takes a lot of planning and by its nature is very slow moving. My public facing work often does have to have an air of fun/ease but in the background I’ve been working like crazy.

    1. ferrina*

      Yep, it’s possible that Andy is getting a lot done that OP doesn’t see.
      Or possible that Andy is talking a big game and not doing much else.

      Really, OP isn’t in a position to necessarily know. And either way, OP isn’t in a role where they could influence what happens with Andy. Wait and see is the only pragmatic approach, and try to not feel affected by Andy.
      1. Andy is doing things and OP may or may not eventually see the impacts
      2. Andy is not doing things and leadership will let them go.
      3. Andy is not doing things and leadership will not catch on, and OP will gradually become of other issues at the organization

  18. Dust Bunny*

    I work for a nonprofit: We had this guy. He thought the position was as more of a figurehead and didn’t put any real work into it.

    Our upper-level staff went to the board of directors and made a stink. They fired him and hired someone who cared.

  19. Yup*

    Welcome to the business world, where so many senior staff coast and get by on narcissism and ego and everyone else picks up the slack.

    1. A Manager for Now*

      I kind of read this and kind of went “Yup, this sounds like every C-Suite ever”

  20. moo moo*

    As someone who works in non-profit fundraising, he could be getting work done that you are not privy to. Andy is likely requesting updates to systems and tracking mechanisms to report your impact more effectively. Building relationships with major donors takes time, skill, and resources. You have a limited amount of time to make a good impression, and if your materials and metrics are not up to speed, I can understand him waiting. A junior program staff member would have no idea what I do all day.

    1. anon't*

      Andy might want to start considering fellow employees as people he needs to build relationships with. Or not, and find an org full of lackeys who enjoy making his life hell.

    2. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      Funny thing, though, is that my job is updating systems and tracking mechanisms, so I happen to know that Andy has requested zero updates to any of them.

      1. WellRed*

        I don’t know why so many comments are defending Andy. Sure, maybe he’s doing more than you know, but I think think it’s unlikely he’s doing a lot or effectively.

        1. MuseumChick*

          For me at least is because I have personally worked for higher level staff that are doing a lot and heard lower level staff who don’t have visibility into what they are doing complain about how those higher level people “don’t do anything”. I am also in a role right now when what I accomplish is not often obvious to those who don’t know the ins and outs of everything I am doing. And I’ve had a lot of people make assumption about what it is I do day to day and how quickly my project “should be” done when they are wildly off base.

          That being said, is absolutly possible Andy is a classic example of someone who has failed upward and is not doing any actual work. But its also possible the OP (as she readily admits in her letter) simple isn’t see the things he is doing.

          1. Pescadero*

            The thing is – part of effective management is making sure staff have an understanding and visibility into business operations and management top to bottom.

            Lower level staff not understanding what upper level staff are doing – is a failure of upper level staff.

        2. I am Emily's failing memory*

          I think the point is that Andy’s job performance is just a distraction because LW is neither in a position to really know how well they’re performing, nor to do anything about it if they’re not performing well. All this fixation is wasted energy and the most likely things that will come from stewing in resentment are not things LW wants.

          I can say from experience that even when the person you’re suffering under is in fact a lazy do-nothing with stupid ideas, engaging in bashing sessions with coworkers feels good in the moment, but in the long run it starts to poison your own ability to have anything resembling job satisfaction because you start to give this thing you can’t control loom larger than everything else about your job in your mind, and it starts to poison your relationships with colleagues as you both come to feel like having anything good to say would be a betrayal of the solidarity you share, while having a complaint to contribute reinforces the solidarity, so your relationship devolves into one where all you do is fixate together on the stuff that’s ticking you both off, and it’s never as fun trading annoyances with a coworker/friend as it is to do/discuss something with a coworker/friend that makes you forget about your annoyances.

          And that’s to say nothing of the reputational risk associated with getting careless about exactly what you say, and to whom. It can be a career-limiting move if the wrong people see or overhear a conversation and peg you as someone without enough discretion to maintain a professionally detached attitude, or someone more interested in assigning blame for problems than finding solutions for problems.

          Maybe they’re doing more than LW knows, maybe they’re not. Regardless of which it is, LW would be best served by giving themselves permission to stop caring about the justice of the situation and focus on continuing to excel in their own corner. Gods know I wish I had just kept my head down and done my work and not gotten wrapped up in all the drama when I was in a similar position.

      2. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        Wait! I just remembered a couple of small system updates Andy requested back in the fall, which I made right away. Apologies for not remembering until now.

    3. Generic Username*

      Yes relationship building with major donors and with corporate and foundation donors does take time, but those interactions should be documented in the fundraising CRM. Let’s pretend Andy is visiting regularly with board members and other major prospects and interacting with program officers for foundations and community affairs directors for corporations – it is in his personal interest along with his non-profit’s benefit that he records his contact reports!

  21. Olive*

    I sympathize with the LW, but this stuck out to me negatively:
    “I dropped the ball on a small task for Andy because I was not seeing it as a priority and I had a million other things I was juggling.”

    It’s fair that the LW didn’t have the capacity to take on more work, but it’s at least interesting that Andy was delegating work and the LW apparently unilaterally decided that a C-level exec’s assignment wasn’t a priority.

    1. ferrina*

      Nah, I’ve been in OP’s shoes and it’s an easy mistake to make. When the VIP is constantly pushing back timelines and seems to focus on talking rather than results, it’s easy to think “well, they never use anything else, so they won’t miss this if it’s a day late”. Especially when you are also working on stuff that will be missed.

      Obviously (hopefully) OP knows better now- that’s not a decision you can unilaterally make. But you can go to your boss who can tell you to deprioritize this person’s work.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      It read to me like the other things they were working on were potentially also C-level exec’s assignments? Just different C-level humans than Andy.

      1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        Yup, end of month financial stuff for my actual c-level person. Unfortunate that I mistook that for a higher priority than this task. Shame on me.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        Still, the solution to conflicting priorities and limited bandwidth is to communicate before the deadline that the deliverable is going to be late because of a higher priority, and give a new date by which it can be expected. Either directly to Andy, or to Jane to run interference with Andy, depending on how things are usually done at the organization. It’s not great to just quietly ignore or change the deadline in your own mind until Andy follows up to see why it’s late. And if LW did alert Jane before the deadline and they both agreed that she should prioritize the other tasks above Andy’s, then Jane shouldn’t be turning around and expressing frustration with how long it took. If the manager approved the plan to push back the deadline, it’s inappropriate to then hold it against the LW just because Andy gets mad about it. Jane would need to own the decision she made and shield LW from Andy’s foot stamping and teeth gnashing about it.

  22. NotARealManager*

    Is Andy the same C-level employee that left our business about six months ago? They sound like they have similar (frustrating) working styles. They were not well-liked. Unfortunately there wasn’t much anyone could do. We just all understood we were in the same boat and kept doing our best until they left. I also put feelers out to try and leave myself.

  23. Frankie D.*

    I agree with the above commenters that a lot could be going on here. It’s good you acknowledge the possibility that Andy could be doing work that you’re not seeing.

    However, as a mid-level NP fundraiser who has worked with plenty of Andys, and seeing the experience of the above commenters, I think it’s fair to say that your Andy could quite possibly be flying under the radar. I think Andys are a problem for NPOs in particular. I have several theories as to why – the low pay doesn’t always attract the best talent, NP boards are typically made up of bankers and lawyers who have NO CLUE what goes into fundraising work, etc. It all creates a scenario where an Andy can go unnoticed for a very long time!

    All this to say, my experience jibes with Alison’s advice – there’s not really anything you alone can do about larger systemic/cultural issues like this.

  24. Ell*

    I am a mid-level np fundraiser. Changing procedures and streamlining stuff can actually take a lot longer than it should, especially in organizations with people stuck in their own ways. It’s possible Andy is trying to do stuff and proposing stuff but getting pushback. It’s also possible Andy is a huge procrastinator who talks a big game but will take a year to do one substantial thing or will never end up doing the things they claim to be doing.

    The fact that Jane, who presumably has more insight into what Andy is doing than OP does agrees with OP lends credence to the latter reading of what’s going on. There are almost always Andys in mid and large-size organizations, unfortunately, and it’s going to be up to senior leadership and/or the board to both recognize and take action on those things. My last org had a couple Andys and they are never going to get handled appropriately there. They will sit there until they retire or find another job on their own.

    Unless OP wants to leave, the wait-and-see approach is probably the best one. Do what he asks when he asks, work with your manager to prioritize his tasks with the rest of your workload, and just keep an eye on what’s going on.

    What helps me, OP, is to remember that they are literally not paying me enough to worry about high-level crap like this. That is someone else’s problem. As long as I do my job, I am justifying my salary and outside of that I try to let things I actually like take up my brain space. Lower-level nonprofit salaries aren’t high enough to get frustrated with stuff you can’t control, it will take you over if you let it.

    1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      What helps me, OP, is to remember that they are literally not paying me enough to worry about high-level crap like this. That is someone else’s problem. As long as I do my job, I am justifying my salary and outside of that I try to let things I actually like take up my brain space. Lower-level nonprofit salaries aren’t high enough to get frustrated with stuff you can’t control, it will take you over if you let it.

      Thanks, Ell, this is really helpful. But it’s frustrating too, because I really have been thinking this lately (“they don’t pay me enough to deal with this”) and the reason I’m particularly frustrated is that I am being paid extremely undermarket (another reason I’m absolutely job hunting right now), as are many of my coworkers, and Andy is undoubtedly making a nice chunk of change and producing little to nothing. If I got a nice big raise, would I still be thinking this? I don’t know.

      1. Specks*

        Ah! Bingo. I was wondering why Andy was getting so under your skin, and it’s the underpayment for your work frustration. It’s hard to see someone as making more and doing nothing when you are not being paid market rate. Especially when this person is in charge of fundraising and could ostensibly locate the money to pay you fairly. Really, really focus there and throw your energy into finding a new job that pays you market rate or above. Don’t fixate on someone you can do nothing about. Good luck!

  25. Buffalo*

    A nonprofit with multiple C-level employees, and then another layer of management beneath them, and then another layer of employees beneath that, is actually not that small by the standards of nonprofits! It’s a relatively large, relatively complex organization. And it’s not impossible that someone in an organization like that is taking some time to get up to speed, build relationships, and lay groundwork.

    I’m a nonprofit ED. When I got here, my staff started asking me to do frontline work drawing on my subject matter expertise—but the place had serious problems in terms of its governance structure, finances, processes, use of technology, etc. I politely demurred and delegated the frontline work back to them. For months, they all thought, “Hey, this new ED does nothing!”, because I wasn’t doing what they thought I should be doing. Then, once I’d developed the credibility I needed with my funders and board, I started solving the actual problems that are an ED’s to solve.

    I don’t know if this situation is necessarily the same, but I don’t know that it’s not, either.

    1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      Our org has less than 20 staff members. We are tiny. It’s actually really weird that there is a level between me and the c-level because almost everyone else here reports directly to their c-level, but that’s an issue for another letter.

      1. Buffalo*

        I didn’t mean any disrespect. I’m also (likely) in a different country from you, so maybe things are different here, but where I’m from, many nonprofits have just a handful of staff. ~20 staff seems big enough to me that there could easily be someone at C-level whose job involves taking a year to lay groundwork and get up to speed while it appears to others that they aren’t doing any work. Again, not saying that’s necessarily what’s going on in your situation, and if what I’m saying isn’t useful to you, please pay it no mind.

  26. AKchic*

    Honestly? I can’t tell if Andy is a problem or not. Do I think OP is too low-level to make a determination? Possibly. But, Jane, being higher-level should be able to see *something*, even if she can’t actually *say* something to OP.

    Andy could very well be reviewing a lot of previous documentation and updating P&Ps and attempting to rewrite things to follow laws, legislation, and best practices while trying to fight an uphill battle with stakeholders to implement change (oh the joys of trying to implement change within non-profits, especially when there isn’t much money allocated to making changes or when stakeholders aren’t sold on the idea of change even when the change is necessary to the stability or growth of the agency). Or, Andy could be in over their head and not know what they’re doing and doing busywork by holding meetings and claiming to be reviewing documentation. Six months in, as an upper level person, it’s still a bit iffy when the deliverables may not be tangible.

    OP not knowing that Andy’s task was supposed to be a higher priority – that definitely is a communication issue coming from Andy’s side.
    Hang in there, OP. Absolutely keep putting feelers out for another job if that’s what you feel is best for you. I would never tell someone not to job hunt in this market. I just can’t tell (for myself) whether or not this is an Andy issue, a management issue, a stakeholder issue, a combination issue, or if there isn’t really much of an issue in general.

  27. AndersonDarling*

    Was Andy hired as a favor? To build relationships with a donor or a community bigwig?
    This happened routinely when I worked for a non-profit. The CEO had to return a favor to a big donor and would hire the donor’s son to sit at a desk and look important.
    It’s frustrating as all heck, but once I found out why such incompetent individuals were being praised by the CEO, I was able to compartmentalize their existence.
    You work with some staff, and you play the game of pretend work with the other staff.
    Once my non-profit had 10% of roles filled with ‘favor’ employees, I left.

  28. Still*

    I might be missing something but I don’t think the LW has specified any way in which Andy not doing stuff is affecting her and her work?

    He was annoyed about her dropping the ball that one time, but that doesn’t seem unreasonable (even if it’s frustrating to have to prioritise something that doesn’t seem important). Is it about having to take part in unnecessary meetings?

    I think Jane might not be able to do anything about Andy directly but she might be able to help with the stuff directly affecting LW’s work?

  29. Angrytreespirit*

    There is a manager in my department (government) who is an Andy. Actually, worse than an Andy – he makes no effort to hide the fact that he doesn’t do anything. We are all required to be in office 3 days a week, and he blatantly joins meetings from what is clearly his living room. He just doesn’t care. Everyone knows, and is annoyed, but our Chief won’t do anything. Am I annoyed that he collects $150k a year for 12 hours of work a week? Yes. Would I rather report to him than my chaotic, micromanaging, anti remote work manager? Also yes.

  30. Moths*

    I feel you, OP. I could have written this letter myself five years ago when my company hired a very senior level person who, it quickly became clear to all of us at lower levels who dealt with him, had zero clue what he was doing but was a good talker. He would hold lots of meetings where he would talk a lot and use lots of MBA language. But it became an internal joke that he could talk for 30 minutes and literally never say anything. The only thing he ever did was create work for people lower than him. Occasionally, he would piece that work apart into presentations to show his bosses so they could see how much work he was doing. The couple of times he actually had pressure put on him, he would honestly have a breakdown and be out for a couple of weeks, then come back and his bosses would have redirected and he’d be in the clear again. After several years, they finally realized that he wasn’t getting anything done in his role and was terrible at managing the few people who reported to him. So they moved him laterally to another role :) He still can’t produce anything and can’t make a decision and, unfortunately, my team still has a lot of direct interaction with him and wastes a lot of time because of him. I wish I had better advice about how things could get better and what you could do, but sometimes people literally do nothing of value and for whatever reason (not wanting to admit to a bad hire, relationships/connections, poor management above them), it is never addressed and never resolved. But I do agree with others here that despite the frustration, you should continue to deliver the work Andy asks for in a timely manner and, if you can’t, talk with your boss about where that work should be prioritized. It is much harder to get rid of a C-suite level person than someone below that and at the end of the day, your job is to deliver on the work you’re assigned. Don’t risk your own job out of frustration with Andy.

  31. a clockwork lemon*

    I used to be in the camp of “what do these people even do all day” and now I’m one of “these people” and the answer, it turns out, is meetings and reports. Some weeks I don’t even get to start the substantive work I was hired to do until 6 or 7pm.

  32. NotHannah*

    I’ve been a nonprofit fundraiser for over 20 years and have never played golf! I am currently a director at a small ($2.5 million budget) org and I manage a team of 5.

    It’s fairly common for a fundraiser — which is a role akin to sales — to have a very extroverted personality that wins over the hiring crew but adds up to not much in the “getting things done” department. It takes AT LEAST a year to see if they are truly effective. I was hired to replace this type of person.

    I happen to be an introvert fundraiser with significant experience in database administration (I was assigned a data migration role with a large university even though I was a front-line fundraiser at the time). I can see where the writer’s frustration is coming from. If Andy is indeed all show, it’s a dispiriting position. I’ve worked with many Andys!

    I will echo the advice that this is a wait and see situation. I’ve tried to do something about the folks like this I’ve worked with over the years and all it’s ever done is hurt me. Now I abide by the Chinese proverb “If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.” ― Sun Tzu

    Fun fact: The average tenure for a fundraiser is about 18 months. Some say that’s because it takes that long to realize they’re not doing the job. Others attribute it to unrealistic expectations.

    1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      Fun fact: The average tenure for a fundraiser is about 18 months. Some say that’s because it takes that long to realize they’re not doing the job. Others attribute it to unrealistic expectations.

      Seems like the first reason is what’s happening here. Also: can you come work for us or can I come work for you?

    2. MissBliss*

      Fellow fundraiser here, and I am always surprised by the team sizes at orgs of varying budgets! My org with a $5m budget has 3 full-time fundraisers. Does your team include communications people as well? If so, our teams are equally sized.

  33. Awkwardness*

    You asked, “What do you do when it’s a manager who is the problem and no one will tell the higher-ups about it?” If the problem is what it looks like to you, your higher-ups should already know. If they don’t know or aren’t concerned, the problems go higher than Andy.

    Can I get a framed copy of this?
    This is such an important reminder that in good organisations bosses should know what their staff is doing because they have suitable KPIs in place. It is their job to know. And if they do not know, they are the problem.

    1. Lexi Vipond*

      It’s not untrue, but given someone skilled in kissing up and kicking down it can take an amazingly long time for generally competent, generally well-meaning higher-ups to see what was clear to the people lower down after the first week.

      1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

        Alas, I believe this is exactly what is happening here. Andy is awfully good at spin and our org head eats that stuff for breakfast.

      2. Anon Academic*

        I see you’ve met the academic dean who spent seven years at my workplace kissing a** upwards and kicking s*** downwards, until she retired – with a fat consulting bonus as she left. She was a bully, struggled to articulate even the simplest concepts (so people were always left wondering what it is that they were being screamed at about having done or not done or done wrong), and yet managed to get hairpats from our basically competent president.

        My favorite feature: she did not use email. She retired less than two years ago.

      3. Awkwardness*

        But “kissing up and kicking down” is different from “not doing any work”.
        The first is terrible behaviour, the latter laziness/desinterest/incompetence. A person could be a hard worker and still terribly two-faced. And another person could be overall charming and pleasant and still get nothing done.

  34. Anne Elliot*

    I think the OP’er is way too invested in Andy, based not only on the OP but also on their comments. Let’s just take it as a given for hypothetical purposes that Andy is as useful and valuable to the organization as a bag of wet socks: So what? I get why it bugs the OP’er, in the sense that it’s aggravating to be working away to earn your bread while watching someone else (apparently) get their bread for free. But in terms of the professional realm, as opposed to the emotional realm, it’s none of your business unless it directly and significantly impacts your ability to do YOUR job. But rather than avoid the missing stair, you’ll burn the staircase down. Which is your choice, of course, I just hope that’s really in your your best interest. A lot of people would just privately call a useless git a useless git, and move on with their life.

  35. Conscientious OP who does the things*

    I have an update on this already! Andy told Jane that I was not to make any more updates in our system unless Andy knows about them first. This is in response to a couple of changes I rolled out at staff meeting today that were requested by other departments.

    Andy is not (I repeat, NOT) our manager and is not in charge of the system nor the updates I make in it. Nor should Andy be dictating what changes I do or do not make on request of other departments. Jane is adamant about this.

    Jane called me, furious that Andy has made this pronouncement. Then, just for fun, we looked in the system to see what tasks Andy has been recording (nothing since last Nov, in case you’re wondering) and noticed that Andy received two emails from both members of a couple asking us to cancel their monthly donation. One was received in mid-Jan and the other last week. SOP is for Andy to forward me these requests and I have heard nothing about them.

    I did not get into this in my letter because it was too long already, but in early Feb Andy said they’d received an email from a monthly donor asking to lower the amount of their donation. The saddest thing, though, was that another staff member had informed me just the day before that the donor had passed away the previous week. Turns out, Andy had gotten the email from the donor three weeks prior and had sat on it all that time.

    1. Brevity*

      Oh, dear. Definitely keep polishing and sending out resumes — and don’t be too surprised when Jane announces she’s leaving.

      I can say from experience that it’s not worth the effort to figure out why Andy was hired, what they do, or really anything else. It’s much better to spend that effort supporting your own take-it-as-it-comes approach.

      FWIW, you may find out what’s going on in the future. When I worked in nonprofit, we hired an Andy. Lord, the stories I could tell….. anyway, we wasted hours talking, wondering how in the hell she could keep the job she had. Two years later, after we had all left, we finally got our answer: one of the VPs had applied for a very, very high federal government position, which would have cemented the nonprofit’s contract relationship with it. Security check for such a position would take eighteen months minimum, often longer. As soon as his shiny new federal job was announced, we figured it all out. The NP’s administration didn’t care who had Andy’s job while the security check was going on, as long as it pleased the regional board so they wouldn’t make any noise and eff up the security check. Well, what the regional board wanted was a sexy long-legged blue-eyed Andy, so that’s who they hired while VP’s security check piddled along. Worked like a charm, except for Andy’s total lack of ability. Again, though, all us plebeians had no way of knowing any of this (until the federal job announcement).

      Anyway, what I’m saying is, keep interviewing, but you may never figure out what’s actually going on.

    2. Devo Forevo*

      I was going to add to the comments saying to give him a chance, but access to that paper trail is one of the great things about being a database admin! He’s actively hurting donor relationships by ignoring emails – and apparently his fiduciary duty as well. The Andy I worked with also refused to give us information, so I would pull a list of all his prospects and the statuses and go through it with him face to face: “what about this person? how about this person?” then enter it in the system. Until you or he leaves, I suggest aggressively following up or else you’re gonna be the one fielding the auditors while he bounces off to another gig.

  36. Generic Name*

    I’m glad you acknowledge that you might not have the context/full view of what Andy is/is not doing. I do also want to point out that I’ve seen people in past jobs who spent a lot of time worrying about/criticizing what upper management does/does not do, and all I can say is that it’s not a path to happiness or career fulfilment. I say this because, as Alison pointed out, you are not in a position to enact meaningful change above your level. I suggest deciding if this is a deal breaker for this job or not. As I alluded, at a previous job, I watched many people have philosophical disagreements with upper management, and it made them miserable for years. I decided that as soon as I disagreed with how the company was run, it was time for me to leave, which eventually happened, and I found a different job.

  37. nonprofit worker*

    I feel for you, nonprofit friend! I have been there. We had a C-level guy (it’s usually a dude, let’s be honest) who did absolutely nothing and made exponentially more than anyone else because he had “private sector experience” and “connections” or something. What people outside the NGO world don’t understand is the sense of injustice; useless execs are always frustrating and pretty par for the course, but it’s especially annoying when they are being paid with donations and the rest of the staff is probably underpaid.

    Unfortunately, there’s very little you can do except work on controlling your own reactions. Meditate, do yoga, whatever you need to do to get this person out of your head and just focus on doing your best work for now. I ended up going to a trusted Board member about our useless exec, and he basically said, I know, but it takes time to make these types of changes and you have to be patient. The exec eventually left on bad terms with the organization, and I think the whole staff was very relieved.

  38. learnedthehardway*

    I would keep an open mind, in the OP’s shoes, and I would funnel any concerns through my own manager. I get that it is a real frustration and affecting your work, because the priorities were not correctly communicated. However, is that Andy’s fault or your own manager’s fault for not prioritizing and communicating? Should not your own manager be providing direction about the priorities?

    You don’t report directly to Andy, although he is several levels above you. However, you can loop in your manager every time Andy makes a suggestion or asks you do to something. Even if he announces that he wants to work on X project, if you see that there could be a contribution from your role, then I would flag that to your manager.

    I used to have a client group where one of the senior partners would ask me to work on initiatives on an ad hoc basis. I learned rapidly that writing an email to “confirm” the ask and CC’ing the practice director and my own manager was a sure fire way to find out whether or not the initiative was a real priority or not. (It generally wasn’t. When it was, then I would ask for more specifics about what I was supposed to do. After a bit, the practice director and I had a discussion in which he told me that no matter what, if the other senior partner told me to do something, I was to bring it to him before doing anything).

  39. Jade*

    To be fair, you really have no idea how much work Andy is or isn’t doing. You aren’t privy to that information. I think just doing your own work is the best thing to do in this situation.

  40. Your Government at Work*

    lmao sounds like my job but replace 6 months with 6 years. nonprofit means no incentive to make a profit.

  41. Ann O'Nemity*

    Andy might be deep in the J-curve of onboarding and getting to the point of adding value. (If you’re interested in this phenomenon, do an internet search for j-curve and sales, or j-curve and fundraising. It shows that after hiring someone in these roles, your perception of their performance usually gets worse before it gets better.) Assume Andy is going to struggle for a while longer, and that senior leadership expects this!

    In the meantime, CYA where Andy is concerned. Don’t think that their lack of productivity is an excuse for you to do poor or late work on Andy’s tasks. And even if Andy sucks, it’s still your responsibility to support them. Highroad all the way. Don’t let yourself become Andy’s excuse for lack of performance.

    1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      Thanks, I needed this. High road, I shall take it and get to Scotland before ye.

  42. Invincible worker*

    I am seriously wondering if I know Andy personally. We had an Andy at my org for 5 years, and I’m a database admin. She didn’t do anything of note for 3 years. She did eventually manage to bring some money in but it was small potatoes for all the time it took. After 5 years, she left, and she started a new job 6 months ago.

    I agree that you should cover your butt, align with your boss to make sure you’re doing the important tasks and ignoring the rest. The Andys of the world love to point fingers at the powerless when things go sideways, so don’t get pulled down with that ship!

    1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      Hahahaha, Andy has only ever been at their previous jobs for 2-3 years, so I guess not. Rats, there’s more than one Andy out there? (We all know there is, sigh.)

  43. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Our organization once had a top tier “leader” who also did no real work at all. They got paid a huge salary and all they ever did was send all-staff emails with corny motivational quotes and post pictures of themselves mid-marathon, again as some sort of motivational tool. It was really weird. Then they left and no one missed them because they didn’t do any work or make any real impact. High paid slackers seem to be one of the tenets of Life Isn’t Fair.

  44. Sybil Writes*

    The only thing I would focus on (because it seems to be the only thing you can control here) is to be fastidious in documenting requests to support Andy and to get specific direction on how each requests affects your current priorities. Do not let yourself be set up to be scapegoated.
    Of course, also keep observing and calibrating whether it is time for you to move to a new organization.

  45. Tiger Snake*

    Here’s the thing though: At the end of the day, from a “what happened” perspective: you don’t like Andy, don’t respect his place on the hierarchy, and you deprioritised work that was assigned to you because of how you feel about Andy personally.

    That is a problem. And yes, that does mean Andy is being reasonable in raising it as an issue, because it IS an issue. Fortunately, it’s a problem that is in your control and that you can fix!

    And we do it just like any other scenario where you have conflicting priorities. Whenever Andy asks for something, get the timeline he needs. Lay out what’s being asked, what else is already on your plate, and put it to your manager to choose what to take off you to get it done.

    It sounds easier than it is, but it’s time to separate the work from the person its coming from, and focus on the work as though it had come from someone else and Andy didn’t actually exist.

  46. Coyote River*

    The reality is for good or ill, Andy’s impact (or lack thereof) on the organisation won’t be felt until more time has passed, and there’s very little you can do to influence it one way or the other at a junior level. My advice is to just focus on your role, and let your chain of command (i.e. Jane and higher) worry about Andy. That may sound dismissive, but having been in both positions sometimes it’s just easier to accept the things outside your control, or to seek employment elsewhere if it’s too egregious.

  47. Fruit Bat*

    If not for the timings I’d think this was about my boss. I know a lot of people in our organisation think she does nothing, but they’re mostly people who don’t understand the level of buy-in and engagement our team needs to make decisions. What could be one internal meeting in most teams will require government consultation, a board meeting and possibly executive central gov approval because of the regulatory environment we work in. Might not be the case here, but worth thinking about.

  48. MomofBoys*

    OP, I feel like I could have written this letter. NP work is something else! Currently dealing with the same issues, but my biggest question with this is why Andy is directly delegating to you, and not Jane? I think you could remove a lot of your frustration by using her as your buffer between Andy. At my org, hierarchy is *sUpeR sEriOus* and C-level doesn’t generally communicate directly with staff if there’s a manager level in between them. Plus, Jane *should* be privy to the higher level decision-making that’s going on in order to help you understand why Andy is making certain decisions/asking you to complete certain tasks and what the priority of those tasks are. If she’s not, then it sounds like this may be a communication issue between supervisors.

    1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      Oh, sorry if it’s not clear, but I am getting everything from Jane and nothing directly from Andy. Andy does keep inviting me to a lot of meetings, but so far these meetings have resulted in very little task delegation and that what has has also been given to me by Jane. And now Andy has appointed themselves Jane’s supervisor, I guess? Not sure who told Andy that’s what was happening now, but that’s what they think is happening. (Jane already has her own c-level supervisor; it’s unfortunate that that person is so new here that they have no political capital to spend pushing back on Andy’s…pushiness. Our previous c-level would absolutely not have let this happen.)

  49. NonprofitAF*

    As a lifelong nonprofit drone, I really feel for you, OP. I have been in your shoes so many times. One thing you can learn from the situation is, what is Andy doing to get and keep a C-level job even if (especially if) their work output isn’t good? I once worked for a spectacularly useless ED who was nonetheless a master of spin. I definitely don’t want to be that kind of leader, but I did learn a thing or two about ways to manage messaging and navigate politics. It helped my perspective and sanity a little to turn it into a case study this way.

    1. Conscientious OP who does the things*

      Are you the person who blogs under the website with your screenname? Because if so, I love your website! And if not, I still love that website and your screenname!

  50. Michelle Smith*

    I think the best thing you can do when you get new assignments from Jane for Andy is clarify. Don’t just reprioritize things on your own without asking. When I get new assignments from my boss that aren’t long term projects, I specifically ask her when they are due and how she’d like me to prioritize them. In fact, just yesterday she gave me two new assignments and I thought she would want me to do A first, then B but when I asked, she told me to prioritize B over A. Never assume, just ask.

  51. The Riddlee*

    In my own case, my direct manager *is* the problem. He doesn’t do any real work as far as I can tell. But yet unlike the mediocre bosses I’ve had in the past, he doesn’t stay out of the team’s way, either. He constantly tries to stay engaged in and managing what everyone is doing but is unable or unwilling to understand why they’re doing it that way (and in many cases have been for years after much iteration on previous practices).

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