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December 16, 2018

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Firing Bad Employees Before They
Destroy Your Nonprofit Organization

by Delores Williams

Employees and volunteers that work in direct opposition to the mission of a nonprofit organization need to be counseled and/or fired. The reason is obvious, clients will believe that the behavior and attitude reflect the organization.

Bad employees and volunteers can affect funding, clients coming for assistance, and overall morale in the office.

Employee One

Cindy works at a shelter. She works in a security capacity, usually the graveyard shift. Her problem is disrespecting clients, bossing around younger workers, and generally a bad attitude. Her attitude is that she is the boss and knows better than the management. She purposely does the opposite of what is asked of her by her employers, speak against the employers and clients, and make life miserable. Several times she has been caught cursing and yelling at clients, throwing clients out for matters she started, and withholding items that the shelter could be closed down for, such as toilet paper.

What is a manager to do with someone who does not share the vision of their organization?

  • Option A. Bosses can ignore the problem and blame it on the clients. Clients will see this as a reflection that they deserve to be disrespected and treated as worthless. They will then go to other agencies and tell them of the treatment. Competitors will use it as ammunition and attempt to take clients away from that site. The less clients, the less funding.

  • Option B. Counsel Cindy on expectations and follow-up. If change has not occurred at the level that was agreed upon, then she needs to be released.

Most jobs in the nonprofit sector are at-will, so there is no need for a bunch of notices, warnings, etc. However, if the management does not make it clear verbally and in writing what is expected of an employee, the employee may take issue with the firing.

How to Make Expectations Clear:

The easiest way is a job description. Attached to it needs to be termination policy. No one likes the idea of having to fire an employee, but if you are to protect the organization that you started or are involved in, you have to do what is right with the organization.

Employee Two

Shana was a young girl that attends school and works full-time. Sometimes she had a way of zoning out the clients and would be on the phone for hours. At a meeting the whole staff was advised that being on the phone was not acceptable and anyone caught on personal calls during non-break times would be fired.

Shana did the right thing in regards to the calls, but did take it out on the clients for a season. When she got over the fact that her own colleagues had gone to the boss, she buckled down and started doing her job.

Employee Three

Mary is a Case Manager. She is known for having favorites that she will help obtain services. She is never unkind to the other clients, but does not provide the same level of service for those she does not want to. It has been discovered that she has bogged people down with getting proof of claims from doctors, employers, etc, just to delay giving a service. At times she has even been caught sleeping at her desk. What should happen to Mary?

  1. Counsel her. Go through her job description thoroughly, and have her sign it, along with the terms of termination.

  2. Train that discrimination against clients makes the organization look bad, and has a potential for a lawsuit.

  3. Give a deadline for progress. This does not mean you give her two weeks and she can wait until the last night to do the last thing.

  4. Evaluate where she is at the deadline. If she has done what is necessary, then set another date for evaluation. The reason for that is because some people tend to do the right thing only when they know they are going to be held accountable for it. By backing off too soon, Mary might have an inclination to go back to the way things were.

  5. If her efforts were unsatisfactory, then termination or moving to a department that does not require client involvement might be required.

The bottom line is to do what is right for the nonprofit organization. Employees in direct contact with the clients set the tone of it. If they are peaceful and hardworking, even if tough, the clients will respect them. However, if they are insensitive, rude, mean, and uncaring, the clients will know that as well.

Clients who are recipients of nonprofit programs will tell other potential clients. Just like the corporate world, word will get around. What they say could determine if you stay in business.

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About the Author:

Delores Williams is a freelance writer located in Los Angeles. She has over 20 years experience in both the nonprofit and business sector. She is the author of Journey to Life.

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