A reader writes:

I work for a small (12 person) agency that has exploded over the past few years. Most employees have been there for between 1-2 years, including our executive director.

Eleven of us get along famously, but our executive director has stopped speaking to anyone. He has always been an odd duck, but about a month ago one of the managers questioned something he had written in an all-staff memo. She handled her concern very professionally (at first) but when his response was “my teenage daughter doesn’t like it when I tell her what to do either, you need to just get over it,” she became very brusque and asked him not to think of her the way he thinks of his daughter. When it was apparent that she had support for her complaint (she questioned the condescending tone and rude comments made in the memo, not the subject of the memo itself) he disconnected from the call and hasn’t spoken to anyone since.

Now that we are all starting to come back to the office, his disdain is palpable. When you see him in the hall and say hello, he just keeps walking. When invited to lunch “with the gang,” he just refuses to respond. When in the office we are trying to conduct meetings in person, but he will stay in his office with the door closed and join by Zoom, usually with his camera off and muted until someone calls him out and asks a direct question. Then he will turn on his camera to answer the question and then turn it off again. He’s popped in to several meetings without announcing himself, trying to “lurk” without turning on his camera. When he is greeted, he immediately disconnects.

While all of this is odd, none of it is my direct problem. I was promised a promotion and a sizable raise in June. Since he is not talking to anyone or signing anything that he doesn’t have to sign, my raise and promotion are bottlenecked at his desk. The CFO is off for another month with a family emergency and can’t intervene, and my manager is bringing it up at every manager’s meeting (most of which he refuses to attend now). Right now, the plan is that I will get the promotion and raise next month when the CFO returns, but it will be effective June 30, as planned, so I will receive the additional pay at that time. In the meantime, I am doing the work of the promotion without the pay or title.

I don’t want to get pulled into the growing wave of disgust with our executive director, because I really do love my job and don’t want this to sour the experience. Other than being patient, refusing to pile on when people are making fun of him, and doing my job, what can I do to ensure that the promotion and raise go through as planned next month?

What.

The head of your organization — who needs to speak to other people as part of his job — is refusing to speak to anyone, freezes people out in the hall, hides in his office to the point that he joins meetings by Zoom when everyone else is in person down the hall, and sneaks onto video calls but hangs up immediately if anyone greets him? And this is because someone asked him not to compare her to his daughter?

Is everything … okay with your director?

Because this is seriously bizarre behavior, and it’s almost as bizarre that everyone seems to just be going along as if this isn’t incredibly strange and concerning. Which makes me think this isn’t the first time there have been issues with this guy?

As for ensuring that your promotion and raise go through next month … there might not be anything you can do beyond what’s already happened. It sounds like your manager doesn’t have the authority to make it happen herself but is on it to the extent she can be, and the CFO is coming back soon. You could ask your boss if she can put the plan in writing, but it sounds like she doesn’t have the authority to commit to it. Personally, if I were in your manager’s shoes, I’d just walk into the executive director’s office in person and say, “I need to finalize the raise and promotion for Lucinda, effective June 30 when she took over the role. What are the next steps to make that happen?” If you think she might be up for doing that, you could suggest it … but otherwise I think you’re stuck waiting until the CFO is back.

If I were your manager, I’d also organize the rest of the managers to confront the ED directly or to go to the board, but apparently for some reason no one is doing that.

It’s worth giving serious thought to whether you should build a career long-term at a place that’s run this way. I respect your “I’ll just keep my head down and not get involved” stance, but when an organization this small has this kind of kookiness going on, it’s going to affect you whether you want it to or not.



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