I ran across a nonprofit reference in the November 11 Wall Street Journal in an article about protecting yourself from bosses and colleagues trying to undermine your reputation.
Readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that this sort of behavior goes on even in the charity industry. The example comes from higher education. ("Defending against career saboteurs," Sarah E. Needleman, possibly available without subscription here or here.)
Denise Moorehead says she once scored justice by chance. She was working in public relations at a college when a colleague told Ms. Moorehead's boss she'd refused to help out on an assignment and it later went afoul because of her lack of participation. In reality, Ms. Moorehead says the colleague didn't approach her for support until after the problem occurred. At that point, she says, there was nothing she could do. Ms. Moorehead says she explained this to her boss, who nonetheless questioned her ability to be a team player.
A few weeks later, the finger-pointing colleague invited a close friend of Ms. Moorehead to lunch in hopes of recruiting her to head the school's endowment committee. The friend, who was aware of Ms. Moorehead's troubles with the colleague, invited Ms. Moorehead along. When Ms. Moorehead showed up at the lunch, the saboteur "looked like she was going to swallow her tongue," she says.
The personal connection with someone her colleague was looking to win over immediately raised Ms. Moorehead's clout. After that, their working relationship changed dramatically. "It was amazing," says Ms. Moorehead, now a communications director at Third Sector New England, a nonprofit in Boston. "Suddenly I could do no wrong."
But, we note, Ms. Moorehead no longer works at that college, having moved on to Third Sector New England (EIN 04-2261109 Form 990), the organization that publishes The Nonprofit Quarterly and provides other management support and advice to nonprofit organizations.
I wonder whether this isn't the real solution when one finds that colleagues are undermining them: find a different gig where people actually work together and managers work at maintaining a cooperative environment. It may be difficult to find organizations like this in the charity industry, for the reasons given by Jim Britell in his classic essay on management problems in nonprofit organizations.