Category Archives: Office Culture

Our default organizational decision-making model is flawed. Here’s an awesome alternative!

[Image description: A tired orange-striped cat with their eyes closed, on a black background. This kitty is probably tired making decisions in our flawed, top-down decision-making model. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, before we launch into today’s post, my friend Oz recorded my Guided Meditation for Nonprofit Professionals. Check out Oz’s soothing voice as he guides you to the Land of Sustainability in this free 12-minute relaxation exercise. “Breathe in and out […] Your desk is completely clutter-free and not a coffee-stained dumpster fire of chaos and broken promises.” (Original written meditation here)

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One of the things EDs and CEOs have noticed is that we get “decision fatigue,” and one way it manifests is in our frustration at having to make even small decisions when we’re at home. The other day, for example, my partner (who also directs a nonprofit) was hungry and asked which of two packages of ramen I recommended she eat. I was unable to answer. “I’m torn!” she said, “Just make the decision for me!” I stared at her for several more seconds before hissing like a cat and scampering into the living room to hide behind the couch.

Decision fatigue is real, y’all, and it has sometimes led to fights and arguments in our household over the most ridiculous things. (“Which movie should we see?” “Hisssss!”) It is also symptomatic of the weakness in our society’s default decision-making philosophy. This philosophy is basically top-down and hierarchical, where the people who have the most power have the most decision-making authority, even in areas where they have the least amount of knowledge and experience. The ED/CEO makes the final decisions on everything. Staff who challenge the decisions get into trouble. And the board sometimes vetoes the staff’s decisions. Continue reading

Being thankful is not enough. Here are 21 tips to help you do a better job thanking people

[Image description: A little rottweiler puppy, lying on the ground, resting on its paws, looking to our left. This puppy is clearly just click-bait for this post. Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, before we get into this week’s post, please take a moment to help people affected by the wildfires in California. Your donations and support in other ways make a difference.

Thanksgiving is coming up this week, and all of us in the US will likely be reflecting on things for which we are each thankful. That’s great. Gratitude has been scientifically proven to lead to all sorts of benefits, from reducing stress, to improving sleep, to making people around us less likely to poison our hummus.

What we kind of suck at is expressing gratitude to other people. Heck, 33% of workers have not been recognized in the past six months, and 21% have never ever been recognized ever, which is really sad. If I had a nickel for every time I learn that someone feels underappreciated—an ED by their board, staff by the leadership, volunteers by the staff, grantees by their funders, etc.—I would have…approximately 65 cents. That’s still a lot in nonprofit. Continue reading

The Wheel of Disillusionment: What it is and how it destroys relationships and creates toxic cultures

[Image description: Three cute fluffy yellow ducklings. One is on the ground, while the two other ducklings are standing looking at the duckling on the ground. They all seem to be friends. Image from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone. This week’s post is long and a little serious (despite the picture of ducklings). But before that, a couple of quick announcements. First, PLEASE VOTE!!!

Second, I’m doing a Facebook Live this Tuesday, November 6th, 12:30 to 1:30pm PST, to update you all on what’s been going on with my organization, Rainier Valley Corps, and to answer any questions you may have. I think people sometimes forget that I am an executive director of a capacity-building-focused social justice organization, so I’m going to try to host these conversations quarterly. They might even inspire me to comb my hair more often.

A few years ago, an ED colleague called me up, upset and frustrated. Her team had started mobilizing against her. What had started as a misalignment in priorities spiraled out of control, and now staff were having clandestine meetings. The once-friendly office was cold, to the point where staff would no longer say hi when she entered. When she tried to ask for feedback, the attempts were rebuffed, leaving her hurt and confused. Morale was at an all-time low, and she thought about quitting daily.

Another leader, in another city, was in a similar situation, but with a particular member of his team. A firing of a problematic staff member who had been close to this team member started a chain of events. Now all his actions and motives were suspect. Even the simplest thing—closing the office door to accept a phone call—was interpreted as a sign of malice. Other staff who had no issues with him were now being pulled into the drama, and a narrative was building that he was prejudiced against certain ethnic groups, which was deeply unsettling to a leader of color at a social justice organization. A faction that agreed with him on the firing formed to support him, and the tension between the two groups threatened the mission.

Continue reading

20 tips to help you dress for nonprofit success

[Image description: A brown poodle, looking very well dressed, wearing a red button-down shirt with a grayish collar. It’s also wearing a black neck collar bedazzled with colorful rhinestones. Image by The Poodle Gang at unsplash.com]

Like other nonprofit professionals, I wear clothing. So every morning I wake up and immediately have to make an important decision: what to wear for the rest of the day. Now, this does not sound like a very big decision, but I have learned that how we dress in this field is critical to our work, determining how we and thus our organizations are perceived. Although I am not a style guru, I have worn clothing, so here are some tips I have picked up over the years that may be helpful for you. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comment section.  Continue reading

Nonprofits, we need to talk about mental health and suicide

[Image description: A bunch of flowers with yellow centers and white petals, likely daisies, resting on a metal railing of some sort. Blurry brown and beige background depicting land and a small patch of light blue sky. Image obtained from Pixabay.com]

Hi everyone, this post is going to be a little serious, but I hope you will read it and discuss with your team. The recent suicides in the news have made me think about our sector and our responsibility to one another.

Ten years ago, a friend of mine took her life a day after calling me asking to hang out. I would learn later from her mom that she had been dealing with bipolar disorder for a long time, and hid it from her friends and coworkers. I wished that I had been a better friend, that I had known what she was going through, that I had supported her more.

My friend’s suicide made me realize that we have a long way to go when it comes to mental health awareness, even among those of us who are in the nonprofit sector and thus are supposed to be more attuned to the people around us. Because mental health conditions are mostly invisible, our colleagues, friends, and family members may be going through challenges, and we may not be aware of it. Or we may be unintentionally creating an environment where mental illness is stigmatized, leading to further isolation. Continue reading