Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Living With Bad Managerial Decisions

It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to (with apologies to Leslie Gore).

I spent my week-end at my employer's Board of Directors meeting trying to head off impending lay-offs. Although the majority of union members showed up and offered to take wage freezes, furlough days and pension contribution cuts in order to save jobs and continue client service through the end of 2012 at no increased cost to the organization, our Board, in its infinite wisdom decided that lay-offs were the way to go.

Why? Because that's easier for a Board that meets only four times a year to handle. Never mind that they are laying off folks in the middle of an economic downturn. Never mind that the needs of our poverty-level clientele has never been greater.

I am just so saddened by these actions which strike me as short-sighted. Having worked in my field for the past 38 years, and having weathered four serious financial crises before this one, I know that predicting our organizations's finances three to five years down the road is a fool's errand.

So here's the kicker! On a personal level, the Board's decision works well for me. I am not one of those in danger of being laid off. Now, my wages won't be frozen, I won't have to take any furlough days (resulting in a 4% pay reduction) and all the current employer contributions to my 401(k) will continue to be made.

I should be happy, right?

Then why am I feeling so darn frustrated?

And depressed?


Anonymous said...

You could always quit and give your job to three other, lowered paid employees, if you feel so badly, you know.

Haven't you saved enough money? You got two houses, a retirement fund, are eligible for Social Security. Move down and give some younger person a chance.

Just saying.

Rita said...

Because the future of our people matter to you. Because it hurts to know that those who already get by on shoe string won't make it. It's hard to see the sons or daughters have to sell the house that grandma left them and move in order to find some kind of work. Your mind thinks in reality here. This is so sad.

Florence said...

Why are you frustrated? Because you are a loving, caring person who treats others like human beings not just numbers on a spread sheet. At least you know that you did all you could do to save the jobs. I'm sorry too.

Nicole or Maggie said...

Anon: False economy-- the search costs and training costs would hurt the company.

Grace: :(

And... write to your representatives in the federal government. They need to hear the pain of real people who care about jobs. If we each lift our small voice, maybe we can be heard over the loud minority of the Hooverism chorus.


Terry said...

Wow! What a mean spirited comment from Anonymous ! I'm shocked! As for you Grace, of course you feel badly for your coworkers. It seems like the Board could use more people with your sense and compassion. But....I'm still upset about Anonymous and to realize such hateful people are out there (sigh)

Anonymous said...

Hi Grace,

I don’t understand why people are so mean. That Anonymous comment was uncalled for. What makes them think you make the salary of three people? Maybe they should leave their job so an unemployed person can be hired with their company.
Of course you feel sad when you did all that you thought you could do. It’s frustrating when people are so shortsighted. It’s especially sad that your clients will suffer. I get so sick and tired of people thinking that union employees are the scum of the earth. As a retired BellSouth/ATT employee and a former president of my local I had to go through several heart breaking layoffs. Our contract did have a provision that a senior person could voluntarily leave the company so a junior employee’s job could be saved. A lot did leave to save a job for someone but a lot can’t afford to. And that’s nobody’s business to question. We also made concessions when we had to. It was in our best interest to have a healthy company. I also don’t know why people think that union folks make a ton of money and take and take. After 35 years my ending salary was the same as my nieces’ husband’s beginning salary at the job he accepted in May.
I guess it’s the same people who think teachers make too much. Go figure.


Bob Lowry said...

You are probably frustrated because short-sighted decisions that fly in the face of reason are not your style.

The more I read about boards, the more I wonder about their viability in a changing world economy. Most are composed of older men (with a few women) who believe the way to solve a problem is they way they solved a problem a few decades ago.

The landscape has changed but not the way they see see it. And that is why you would like to kick them down the road.

Am I close?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there was a management presentation to the Board explaining why this was the most sensible alternative. Would you please share their reasoning with your readers?

The reality is that there is little expectation of any significant recovery in the next few years. An agency like yours must downsize, given the loss of funding. Why keep extra people employed if there are fewer cases that can be handled because of the lack of money?

Shed the extra jobs and use the savings to provide more service to your target population.

No one is guaranteed a job for life. The losers here need to pick themselves up and move on. They should use that unemployment time and money to find something they can do successfully in today's economy.

Anonymous said...

You're in a tough spot, Grace. Everyone is being affected lately, with no end in sight.
I hope the people losing their jobs have some sort of support system in place.

All I can say is 'ugh'. I've been saying that a lot lately.

Grace. said...

Hmm--how to respond?

First anon--my $75,000 salary would cover THREE employees? Three not-very-well paid employees, maybe. But no, I haven't saved enough. And I have accumulated too much debt to safely retire quite yet.

Bob, you nailed it! Our non-profit board is composed of white men & women, mostly lawyers, who work in the private sector and feel that their experiences are transferable.

Second anon--you are correct as to the board reasoning. They do expect a continued financial crisis. But our caseloads are maintainable only with personnel on the ground--so long as we have the bodies, we can keep clients served, even if we're taking reduced hours or reduced wages. My point was that the union offered to buy jobs and client service for one more year. Why not accept that, even if the feeling is we'll be in the same place a year from now?

Anonymous said...

Grace, if I were on the board, with no financial recovery in sight, I would have reluctantly and sadly come to the same conclusion as your trustees. It would be fiscally irresponsible for fiduciaries to continue to kick the can down the road for one more year, knowing that the same constraints or worse would be facing the organization and the union a year later.

Having said that, I admire your compassion and generosity to your fellow employees and your steadfast dedication to your clients. I'm sure you provide far more value to your organization than can be measured by your salary and benefits.

Anonymous said...


Please share the reasoning management presented to the Board and the stated basis of the Board's decision. Blaming what you think is a bad decision on white men and women that are lawyers is insulting and racist. Let us see the reasoning for ourselves.

Louise said...

oh grace, it's awful isn't it. Seems to be happening everywhere at the moment.

as for the anonymous comment at the start, well what a coward!

Grace. said...

In terms of reasoning, our board seems to agree with the 4th anon. Personally, I don't get it--if we can save jobs for one more year and serve more clients during that year, at costs that the employer can make (via our wage freezes, furlough days, etc.) who wouldn't want to do it? It may turn out to be a temporary fix, but it's an income for a year for the employees and it's a lot of clients helped who otherwise wouldn't be. Sorry--I don't get the reasoning.

Super Saver said...

@ Grace,

Here's the real failure of your organization's board and executive director: They haven't done their number one job of getting funding for the organization. In my days as a non-profit board member, I always knew that soliciting funds was job one. As in government, maybe it's time to elect new board members to do their job.

In my current non-profit organization, we are growing revenues and hiring, so we can better serve our constituency. Our board consists of business people who know importance of identifying revenue sources and growing the corporation. The organization's goal is to quadruple revenues in the next four years. (For reference, the organization will double revenues this year.)

Of course, since I don't know exactly what your non profit does, I can't make a direct comparison. Also, I'm guessing my organization is much smaller than yours.

lita1857 said...

I am just guessing that the board chose to "tear off the bandaid" now and get back to business.I know seems cold, cruel,heartless and alot of other things but really this year or next the same thing will happen.And we all know those people even with a years notice would not change behavior save more get job retraining etc etc.The storm is on the horizon, weall see it some of us acknowledge it others live in denial.Right now alot of people have felt the storm, they are unemployed or loosing their homes or both.The rest of us feel it slightly by gas prices,food prices or health care costs all rising and at the end of the month it seems the check went faster and not as far.Heck I bet even those comfortable notice something!There will be no quick solution.I appreciate Grace that this hurt your moral compass but you are unable to save anyone's job.If anyone does not think it could happen to them and is not preparing then they may live to tell about it.Regardless this will be challenging and a sad time in our history.Some people will survive, thru history we always have had survivors.Ask yourself will you be one?

Living Almost Large said...

I think the same as the other Anon, the board is tearing off the bandaid. There is no easy fix. But a year of wage freezes and furloughs could buy more time to get funding? What is the likelyhood of getting more contributions with the economy the way it is now?

If more people are in need of handouts, I wonder what percentage of giving is down? Do you know? How much less are people giving because they don't have to give?

Personally I admit to donating more before, but now I have less time and money. I wonder if more people are in that boat which makes it harder to justify keeping people employed because donations are way down?