I was laid off on Monday. I was laid off with zero warning after pouring some good old fashion nonprofit heart and soul into a job I’d been hired for four months prior, which followed a grueling 20-month job search. So, we’re gonna talk about that for a moment.
First, let’s talk about honesty. I believe I’m a person of integrity, or at the least one who tries to be honest in my motivations, communications and decision-making. After 12 years in the nonprofit sector, I believe this is something that a lot of organizations are lacking. Nonprofits, in my experience, have no lack of intention. There’s a lot of intention to do good, to save one thing or another, to provide service, inspiration, advocacy and well being for a lot of people. Nonprofits are truly the backbone of our communities. But having good intention doesn’t always translate to being able to manage our most critical resource – our human resources. I’m aware that it’s really hard to be truly honest with oneself, and nonprofits are made up of people, and a lot of times it’s hard to see what’s really happening. That’s a symptom of humanity. I get it. I get that running organizations is unbelievably complex. I get that to do so well, you have to have an eye on details, yet have vision and ambition, while managing often conflicting interests given the volunteer board structure, a constraining and challenging funding model for nonprofits, and staff who all have their own versions of what should happen. I totally understand. Disclaimer made.
When I was hired, I was told that my position was ‘the most strategic position this organization has created in a long time.’ I was told that my position had growth potential to be at a director level, with increased pay and responsibilities. I was told that I was intended to be a content expert (those were the words that were used); that I would be in a position to grow and develop resources that would guide the nonprofit sector to be more effective. That’s an attractive proposition for someone who likes to dive in, roll up their sleeves and get to work, but who also digs strategy and vision. I was invested in, sent to a conference right out of the gate, given multiple professional development opportunities right away, and integrated into the staff warmly.
And then, with no warning, I find myself in a position where, due to budget issues you weren’t fully made aware of, five staff positions are eliminated. This shows a real lack of transparency. That to me does a disservice to the people who pour in that heart and soul, and the people who are leaving an organization feeling hurt, disrespected and wondering what to do next. The five of us have a cumulative 37 years of experience at this organization. We deserve better.
And there in lies the answer. We deserve better. It’s ironic (or maybe not) that I was in the process of reading Vu Le’s most recent post about Ending the Nonprofit Talent Hunger Games when I got pulled into the office and was told my position was eliminated.
For all their good intentions, nonprofit organizations burn people; and I completely agree with Vu that those bad experiences are carried with people and hurt the sector overall. As a professional with over a decade of nonprofit experience and a master’s degree, I’m prepared to leave the sector and put my energies elsewhere. Intention isn’t enough anymore.
In that regard, I feel powerful. I feel clear that this isn’t happening to me, but it’s happening for me. I’m a spiritual person and feel strongly that my higher power is protecting me from some crazy making that may be in store for my now former employer. It knows I don’t need dysfunction in my life, and that there will be a place where my talents are appreciated. Or, I’ll find the path to creating my own stream of income that supports my lifestyle and values. So, onward to new ventures. I don’t like what’s happening, and I sure as hell don’t want to be back in that awful place I was in during my stupidly long job search. But what that experience taught me is that I’ll be fine no matter what. I’ve got the skills, the resiliency, and I offer 100% genuine badassery that has hard-fought and hard-earned self-love built into it and the work I do. I’m looking for truth-tellers, vision-lovers and fearless make-shit-happen fellow travelers.
Who wants to join me?