“You really don’t need to be eating that,” a volunteer admonished Opal* at her desk. “You’re too fat already.”
Opal works at a very busy nonprofit for the mentally handicapped, and it’s common for staff to work through lunch, eating at their desks.
“The first few times, I simply ignored it,” Opal recounted, “But it didn’t go away. I simply could not eat my lunch – or anything – without this woman lecturing me on my diet, weight, etc. – and very loudly, for all to hear, since everyone’s workspace is in cubicles in our office.”
“Finally,” Opal recalls, “I had had it. I declared to her firmly that what I ate was my business, not hers, and I didn’t want to hear another word about it, period. This angered her, and she began writing me notes and leaving them on my desk, in broken spelling and grammar, explaining how my bad diet and weight would eventually kill me, and so forth.”
With documentation now in hand, and feeling she had no other recourse, Opal took the notes to her supervisor . . . and was gravely disappointed at the response.
Her supervisor, also a woman, appeared to empathize, yet encouraged Opal to see that this woman was mentally handicapped, after all. (Then, she reminded Opal that this particular volunteer was also related to a major donor.) Opal was encouraged to take longer lunch hours . . . out of the office instead, and nothing was ever said to the volunteer on the topic.
A couple of weeks later, as Opal was departing for the Thanksgiving holiday and simultaneously waved goodbye to the volunteer and her supervisor, the volunteer yelled out her parting words for all to hear: Don’t eat too much!
That led Opal to decide to Forget It! and she contacted me to begin her job search immediately after the holiday weekend. It was clear that her workplace would never be interested in providing a harassment free environment for her.
Peter* worked in fundraising and was relatively new to his organization. He made it clear upon being hired a couple of years ago that he wanted to get experience in major gifts, and his director had told him that she would mentor him in that area, taking him on occasional calls, since she needed help boosting that segment – and couldn’t possibly visit all the prospects, anyway.
What he realized after his first year review, however, was that this particular goal had gone nowhere. There were always other details that kept him busy, in the office, or otherwise occupied. His director had made plenty of calls, yet she had never managed to take him along. In fact, he noticed that there was no mentoring of any kind happening between them. They only met for status reports, or for him to receive assignments from her.
Peter consulted with me on whether or not he should look for another position so he could get the major gifts experience he sought.
As we weighed the pros and cons of his current position, Peter realized that there really were more prospects in the database than his director could possibly visit, but he would most likely have to approach the less important ones, so as not to step on his director’s toes. He would also have to reevaluate how he was currently spending his time on his other duties: Which tasks would take a back seat, or could be delegated?
When Peter looked at it from this perspective, he decided that he could Fix It! and make the time in his schedule to add a few major donor calls and visits each week. He was still disappointed that he would have to learn it all on his own, rather than be coached, as promised, but there would be no guarantee that a new supervisor would be any better a mentor, either. I also recommended that he sign up for the mentoring program through his local AFP chapter, which has helped many people. It’s also a good source of general networking.
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown