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Fix It or Forget It?

June 25th, 2010

This week’s Fix It or Forget It? situations are related to directors who fixate on certain aspects of your position, seemingly to the exclusion of all else.  Can you get them to focus elsewhere?  Well, sometimes.

Nadine* was one of those who came into the fund raising game from a different profession, but realized that she not only had an aptitude for it, she enjoyed the field.  She was initially hired as a temporary worker during a busy time for a non profit, to help with year-end gift processing, then to assist with an event, and was eventually hired permanently, when the director saw her skills in both areas, as well as her initiative and desire to learn, etc.  Others in the department noticed and remarked on it, too, and were happy to have her on board.

What Nadine slowly realized, though, was that, regardless of her time on the job, or increased duties, the greatest compliment the director would give her had to do with how tidy she kept her desk, or how organized she was at managing an event, the files, etc.  Her innovation, people skills and other talents were never mentioned.  He really overflowed with compliments on office clean-up day, for example.

When Nadine started as a temp, she also worked nights at another job, to make ends meet – cleaning offices.  The director knew this, and it became all too obvious that he was never going to view her as more than a glorified custodian.

When Nadine’s annual review came up, she had her suspicions confirmed, and he complimented her in writing not for new ideas about raising money, but about being organized, tidy, and so forth.  At that point, Nadine decided to Forget It! and we worked on finding her another job.

Oscar* was frustrated after several months at his new position, because he felt overly-supervised.  He had been hired to write and design a variety of press releases, brochures, e-mails, letters, etc., and although he felt he had been with the organization long enough now to know the culture, history and desired writing style, his director insisted on reviewing each and every piece before it went out – and regardless of what it was, she had edits each time.

When Oscar approached me, he felt that perhaps he should look elsewhere, thinking that this director felt he could do nothing right.  Before we took that step, I suggested that he start tracking the patterns of what types of words and phrases were most frequently changed by the director.  I suspected that Oscar was correct in one aspect – this person would never let documentation leave without her edits on it first; however, we might be able to semi-circumvent it, and still give the director what she wanted.

Oscar did notice a repeating pattern of several words and phrases the director consistently removed from copy, so I suggested that he start adding three or four of them into his finished copy.  This would give her what she wanted:  something to “fix.”  It would also give Oscar what he wanted – validation that his writing was getting better and reflecting what the organization needed.

It worked!  Oscar’s “original” copy ended up going out as intended when his “sacrificial copy” was planted and promptly edited out by his director.  He was even complimented on his improved writing.  This successful Fix It! allowed Oscar to stay at his position for several years before he relocated to another city.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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