Fix It Or Forget It?February 9th, 2011
The 3 basic types of nonprofit workers: Mission Driven – actually hopes to be put out of work, since a cure will be discovered. Transitory – a new grad or changing jobs. He won’t stay long, but wants experience, so he’ll work hard while there.
Then there’s the Fixture. Fixtures are those who either can’t or won’t step up to the plate and perform. In fact, they barely maintain, so they spend a great deal of time disguising their lack of skill and/or enthusiasm by becoming bottlenecks to progress. These are the people who love to cite rules, policies and procedure as reasons why something hasn’t gotten done yet.
Many organizations have Fixtures, and sometimes more than one. They can be at any level in the organization, unfortunately. The higher up the ladder the Fixture is, the more debilitated the organization becomes at ever accomplishing anything more than “what we’ve done in the past” – if that. It can also become a demonstrated management style for others to follow.
If the Fixtures take control, most Mission Driven people will leave and go to other organizations that are interested in action and change, the Transitory employees will continue to come and go, and the organization will become so heavily weighted with Fixtures it guarantees that progress will drop to a slow crawl.
When people ask for my career counseling – either with their current job, or with assessing a potential employer during interviewing (“Will I like it there?”) – I ask them to first assess themselves and what motivates them at the office. What gets you through the day? In other words, who do you work for?
• Your boss?
• The organization/mission?
• Your family, simply to pay the bills?
Depending on the answer, your reaction to an organization filled with Mission Driven people will vary. (“Yes, I know this is great news, but I’d really like to see my family this week . . . “) If you’re comfortable earning a paycheck and working 9 to 5 regardless, then the fact that Fixtures have delayed delivery for the third time this month might not bother you too much – as long as you don’t get the blame. On the other hand, if you really have a need to make a difference or an impact, you don’t want to accept a position at a place that reeks of micromanagement.
Tess* considered herself to be several years away from retirement age when her organization was forced to downsize, due to the economy, and she found herself laid off. She definitely wanted to keep earning a full time living using her very marketable skills, but still wanted time to spend with her grandchildren after hours and on weekends. She no longer considered her career to be her “life’s work” and wasn’t interested in doing it night and day.
We were able to Fix It! by focusing Tess’ job search on positions that stayed to a regular schedule, rather than working erratic hours, such as events, and found her a job working on gift entry and database analysis. She could produce reports according to a fixed calendar, and emergencies were rare. This gave her time with her family, and she is hopeful it will see her through to retirement. Although there are certainly bottlenecks within her organization, Tess has clearly laid out her schedule and what she requires from various departments and staff members, so that if someone fails to deliver, the paper trail is obvious about who dropped the ball.
Vern* is a worker who is passionate about what he does, and had been working at his organization for over a year without much success at getting increased responsibilities. Neither during the monthly staff meetings nor at his semi-annual review did he feel that any of his ideas were seriously considered.
At first, he had been hopeful, because he was always assured that they would be “passed on,” or told, “We’ll think about it,” but now that he was into his second year, he was beginning to understand that the organization lingo simply didn’t have a word for “no,” and this was their way of saying, “It’s going to die in committee and you’ll never hear from us again.”
Vern was dismayed to think that he’d wasted a year simply figuring out this odd way of communicating in a strange land, and decided to Forget It! and start looking for a new job . . . but, he told me, he didn’t want to make the same mistake again and fail to pick up on signals wherever he landed.
We searched for the jobs he wanted and rehearsed with mock interviews. That way, he could not only better assess the types of people he desired as supervisors and co-workers, but also how he could best project himself, so that the organizations would clearly understand who and what he was as a worker. With this approach, neither party would be unpleasantly surprised.
Vern’s job search was lengthy, but in the end, we found him a much better fit, and he is a great deal happier where he is now.
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown
Tags: career, career counseling, career goals, career skills, career strategy, Dave Coverly, Dilbert, fix it or forget it, job, job search, jobs, management, Marketoonist, micromanager, micromanaging, mission, Noise to Signal, non profit, non profits, nonprofit, nonprofits, personal branding, Rob Cottingham, Speed Bump, Tom Fishburne, workplace