Office Conflict 101

nonprofit strategy staff retention

It’s no secret that many nonprofits are run by extremely passionate individuals.

Because of this, when a professional, office conflict occurs, the situation can get heated quickly.

Add to the mix scarce resources and potential lack of sleep, and tensions can mount even more. Tempers can flare and, without the right kind of management, even explode.

Why is this the case? You see, nonprofit leaders and staff members are not simply fighting for themselves. They are fighting to provide the best programs and services for their constituents and surrounding communities.

In these types of situations, nonprofits risk a lot more scrutiny than their for-profit counterparts. And while the IRS may not care about misconstrued communication, the public – including donors – certainly do.

So to keep the peace (and hold onto your precious donors), follow these rules to navigate challenging office situations without sacrificing your nonprofit’s reputation:

  • Your Mother Was Right: ‘Watch Your Mouth.’ Most people have the common sense not to blurt out expletives at their colleagues when they’re upset, but unfortunately it can happen. And swearing isn’t the only issue. Let’s say you are working to smooth over a controversial work issue. Always be careful about the language you use to communicate your frustrations to your co-workers. For instance, nothing frustrates me more than when an office mate uses a word like “alarming” or “shocking” to refer to a benign issue. I always wonder: Is it really alarming or shocking? Or is the situation, in fact, just aggravating? By using hyperbolic language, you can easily intensify a situation, instantly transforming what could have been a simple misunderstanding into an argumentative confrontation.
  • It’s True, Loose Lips Definitely Do Sink Ships. In any office conflict, there are going to be angry staff members, but complaining to colleagues isn’t going to help anyone. For example, disclosing all of the sordid details about a budget crisis is going to easily distract everyone from their jobs and cause unnecessary office-wide stress. So, keep the complaining quiet, and if you must, vent to family members and friends who aren’t in the industry. And most importantly, stay away from social media.

How you conduct yourself in times of organizational stress can prove what type of person you truly are. And don’t let a negative experience allow others to judge you and your nonprofit at your worst.


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