Sometimes, It’s Best to Walk Away

Because I have a number of clients in the nonprofit sector, I was excited to read Liane Davey’s article, “Managing a Team That’s Been Asked to Do Too Much.” I was hoping that Davey had a “magic silver bullet” that would alleviate the stress of working in an environment where the expectations are high, the salary is rarely what it should be, and everyone is stretched beyond their capacity.

But I was disappointed.

Davey didn’t offer any realistic solutions, in my opinion. Yes, as Davey shares, you can use data to make the case to the “higher-ups” that their targets/goals are unrealistic. You can ask for more resources (which, literally, really did make me laugh out loud!). You can engage your team in creative brainstorming about how to be successful (which I have tried and, more often than not, feels demoralizing). And then Davey underscores the importance of ensuring that your team knows what not to do: don’t make up data or info, or do anything illegal. Really? Is this what we have become as a society? We need to be reminded not to turn our entities into the next Enron or Wounded Warriors? Surely, there must be another answer.

It makes me cringe as I type this, because I tend to be relentlessly stubborn. But maybe the solution is to recognize that your company is unrealistic and that no matter how hard you try (and beat your head against the wall), you will never meet their expectations. At that time, it may be best to just walk away.

Maybe I’m too cynical, or jaded. In my experience, there is often a reason why those high target goals have been set: the Board of Directors is pushing the organization to do more, faster and with less resources; a funder may be asking your organization to accomplish the unachievable; or the company leadership is so out of touch with the everyday work of the organization that they set goals without bothering to understand the feasibility. There are dozens of other reasons, too. But regardless of the reasons, those are hard battles to fight. And while we’re all doing good work to improve our communities, it’s not always worth the stress of trying to change the opinions of people who set those goals. Sometimes, it’s best to find another company or organization whose values and culture are supportive of everyone, and they eagerly listen to what you have to say. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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