Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => All In A Day's Work => Topic started by: mmswm on April 13, 2013, 05:10:10 PM

Title: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: mmswm on April 13, 2013, 05:10:10 PM
I am posting this for my mother.

My mother is heavily involved with organizations and political lobbying for a particular cause (Don't worry, this post is not about the politics or the cause).  Her primary involvement is two chapters of one advocacy/support group (city and county chapters of a state wide organization), and one of the actual entities that delivers the services for the cause in this county.  Her primary involvement with the first two groups is in a support capacity.  Her primary involvement in the third group is as a lobbyist. Sometimes the roles overlap and she acts as a lobbyist on behalf of the first two groups and acts as a support person on behalf of the third.

There is a person in a position of power in the county advocacy group that has become an issue. She is the type of person who needs to have the spotlight all to herself and lashes out if she thinks that somebody else is stealing her thunder. Here are some recent examples of her behavior:

-The state wide by-lays for this organization dictate that a person can only hold any given officer's position for x years in a row. After x years, the person must step down, but may run for a different officer's position. This person has held the position for y years, where y > x.  She intends on running for the same position again, and freezes out any person who attempts to run against her, so they wind up quitting the group.  When it is mentioned that she is afoul of the state by-laws, her response is "fine, kick me out, but I'm taking all of my resources with me."  Thus far, everybody has backed down and let her steamroll over them.


-Recently my parents had opportunities to meet with high ranking government officials for lobbying and "good press" events. They went as a representative of group 3.  Pictures of my parents' minor children wound up in news articles across the state. This woman lashed out at my mother for daring to go to any event that wasn't sponsored by group 1.  It didn't matter that group 1 didn't send any representatives to either of the two functions involved. Both trips were sponsored, and paid for entirely, including rental car, gas, hotel and meals, by group 3. She made the statement that she "made" my mother and how dare she flaunt around without her by her side.  Point of fact: My mother has been involved with group 3 for nearly 15 years.  She's only been involved with groups 1 and 2 for about three years.

-Group three is sponsoring my parents, me, and all of our children for a particular event.  This is one of the few events that overlap my areas of interest with the cause my mother supports. Group 3 thinks this is a fabulous opportunity to get their message out in a way that's slightly different than normal.  I agree. This woman doesn't.  She made the same comment about "flaunting" again.

Now, this woman does a lot of good.  She's very passionate about this cause.  She makes a difference.  Unfortunately, she's also tearing this organization apart from the inside. Eventually somebody is going to report the shenanigans to the state organization.  The current issues would be enough to get the chapter's charter revoked.  That would be a very bad thing for an awful lot of people.  More than one person has threatened to go to the state of the lack of financial accounting.  Enough money is involved that the consequences could go beyond the sinking of the group.

My mother has two questions.

1) What can she say to this woman when she makes these nasty comments?  She doesn't want to be rude, but she does feel the need to defend herself.

2) How can she let this person know that while she thinks that the woman does an amazing job and does a whole lot of good, if this behavior continues, the consequences to the entire group would be dire.
 
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: bluegreenblue on April 13, 2013, 05:28:34 PM
Concerning the monetary/violation of by-laws issues, if these organizations are registered nonprofits (501c(3) or 501c(4)) then they can get into serious legal issues if they don't step up and do something about it. This goes beyond etiquette.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: LeveeWoman on April 13, 2013, 05:29:38 PM
I'd report her to the state level because there is no way I could countenance someone stealing. The spotlight hog is counting on the fact that people are afraid of the effects reporting could have on the organization. It's time to call her bluff.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: mmswm on April 13, 2013, 05:38:36 PM
My mother would prefer to get this woman to see the light before reporting to the state organization. This particular cause isn't one that needs bad press, so she wants to try to avoid that. I should have clarified, I don't think that any actual stealing is going on, but there is no accounting of funds received or spent.

My mother would also really appreciate any suggestions for phrasing when (not if) this woman attacks her for being a part of the media events with the other group.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: mmswm on April 13, 2013, 06:11:03 PM
I decided to remove the parts about the financial accountability.  I don't want this thread locked because my mother really is at a loss about how to deal with the spotlight hogging issues, and I was really hoping that the members of this board that are far wiser than I am could help come up with some ways of diffusing those situations.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: *inviteseller on April 13, 2013, 06:51:52 PM
mmswm- your mother is obviously well connected and respected in the organization,  is there someone at the state level she can talk off the record with?  Not specifically, but just ask what can be done with spotlight hugger due to her not always following by laws.  If she does it with concern for the chapter and also highlighting the good this woman does, instead of blowing up and saying "this woman has to get it together!" would be like she is just checking to make sure she is clear as to the bylaws.    The state chapter is going to find out when this woman keeps holding the same office all the time instead of the by law set time.  Every organization has one of these type people and my encounter with one of these people caused me to turn her into the state chapter because of blatant illegal activity that I was not about to get caught up in.  PM me if you want to know what and how it was handled if that info may help your mom (it was also a non profit).
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: doodlemor on April 13, 2013, 08:26:35 PM
mmswm- your mother is obviously well connected and respected in the organization,  is there someone at the state level she can talk off the record with?  Not specifically, but just ask what can be done with spotlight hugger due to her not always following by laws.  If she does it with concern for the chapter and also highlighting the good this woman does, instead of blowing up and saying "this woman has to get it together!" would be like she is just checking to make sure she is clear as to the bylaws.    The state chapter is going to find out when this woman keeps holding the same office all the time instead of the by law set time.  Every organization has one of these type people and my encounter with one of these people caused me to turn her into the state chapter because of blatant illegal activity that I was not about to get caught up in.  PM me if you want to know what and how it was handled if that info may help your mom (it was also a non profit).

Wise advice. 

If your mother doesn't have connections at the state level, could she get advice from those in Group 3, the group that she has been in for 15 years?

If the position that this person refuses to relinquish is that of treasurer, something needs to be done ASAP.  In my area large amounts of $$$$ have been stolen from nonprofits by volunteer treasurers.

Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: ------ on April 13, 2013, 08:34:53 PM
I'm so sorry your mom is going through this; she sounds like a wonderful, generous person and dedicated to helping people.

With that in mind, I have two things to suggest:

1. When it comes to the nasty things the woman says about "flaunting", perhaps your mom could come back with something to the effect that "isn't it more important to help the people the organization serves? Isn't it much better to do all we can for the good of X organization? I'm sorry you feel this way, but this isn't about you." or something like that?

2. I think your mom should report it anyway, regardless of how it will affect the woman. If she is aware of something that could affect the well-being of the organization, she should report before it goes too far. Right now it might just be lack of proper financial accounting procedures being followed, or some by-laws that are being ignored. However, if it goes on too long, the headquarters are likely to find out anyway and the consequences to the organization and the people it serves could be dire. It needs to be nipped in the bud BEFORE it turns into a real PR disaster. I say this with total sincerity and  compassion - it's a difficult position to be in, definitely. But, your mother is in the position of being a whistle blower, and that's not easy. However, no matter how much "good" this lady has/is doing for the organization will be outweighed by the damage her ego and other behaviors are wreaking.

Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: kherbert05 on April 13, 2013, 08:43:54 PM
Your mom needs to report this woman ASAP if she doesn't she is guilty of helping her do things that are unethical. It could blow up in your mom's face and hurt her efforts to help the cause if she is associated with the unethical behavior.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: LeveeWoman on April 13, 2013, 08:59:38 PM
Your mom needs to report this woman ASAP if she doesn't she is guilty of helping her do things that are unethical. It could blow up in your mom's face and hurt her efforts to help the cause if she is associated with the unethical behavior.

Ditto.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: mmswm on April 13, 2013, 09:16:32 PM
Thank you everybody for your replies.  My first instinct when my mother was talking to me was to tell her to report up the chain.  She's a bit hesitant to do so.  She's at a church event right now, but I plan on showing her this thread when she gets home.  Maybe she'll listen to me if she sees that others have made the same comment.

Inviteseller, I like your ideas to play up the good things.  Mom is far more connected with the upper management of group 3, but she does have some connections with the state level organization of group 1.  I'm thinking it's probably better to go through a third party than to confront SH directly in order to help avoid any fallout.  Mom is definitely not the only one who's unhappy.  Thankfully, the people who work with this particular cause are really, really good at maintaining confidentiality, so there's no fear of a whistle blower being ratted out.

mrkitty, I really like the way you phrased things for when she actually does have to talk to SH.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: sammycat on April 13, 2013, 09:24:22 PM
Your mom needs to report this woman ASAP if she doesn't she is guilty of helping her do things that are unethical. It could blow up in your mom's face and hurt her efforts to help the cause if she is associated with the unethical behavior.

Good point.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: Lynda_34 on April 13, 2013, 09:58:21 PM
This woman's stealing the spotlight is the least of your mother's worries.  Questionable practices always cause trouble and are found out during random audits and such.

Your mother should be able to alert someone higher up anonymously and trigger a random investigation.  Also if there is a limit to the amount of time one can hold an office unless she's Mayor Bloomberg's sister and can change the rules at the highest levels she can't do what she is trying to do.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: blarg314 on April 13, 2013, 09:58:59 PM
One way to look at things

This woman is going to destroy the organization in one way or another. It may be by outside intervention, where the upper levels find out about her rule breaking and forcibly take her down.  It may be from the inside, either as she alienates and drives away anyone else who is dedicated or competent, leaving only herself and sheep, or through vicious feuding with anyone who tries to take a stand.

I agree with others - it's better for your Mom to report it *now*, to the upper levels, and let them deal with it. If it's a large organization, they'll have had experience with this. And, from my own experience, it would be better to have the group lose its charter and a new, better group rise from the ashes than to have it slowly limp along, consumed by internal feuding, losing all its competent, dedicated people, unable to do anything constructive, but still keeping anything healthier from forming.

And your mom is lucky that she can do this and have an official way of handling things.  If this were an independent organization, her options would be to 1) try to form alliances with other competent members, in order to stage a coup and force SH out. 2) to ignore it and do what she plans to in the first place, accepting that the group will eventually self-destruct and 3) Quit the group, accepting that the group will eventually self-destruct.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: jellyjar on April 14, 2013, 07:19:59 AM
I am not sure if this is applicable or not, but usually when organizations (or people for that matter) get bad press it is because of a lack of transparency.  The cover up is always what gets people in trouble.  If everyone cover ups for this lady on the issue of her breaking rules, lack of reporting finances correctly, and her power trips, then that will bring the group down.  The state level will not want bad press either.  So they can probably take care of this quickly and with less exposure than if something happens and the whole situation blows up.  Even if something were to go public, it would look like the state level and the group level were handling things and being honest and transparent vs. someone losing it and all the dirty laundry is aired publicly.  If no one is going to call whistle blower on your mom, then I am thinking she doesn't have much to lose if she reports the violations.  If she holds her tongue, then if and when the situation is aired out, her reputation can be tarnished as she will appear to have gone along with the violations.  Hope that makes sense. 

Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: Sara Crewe on April 14, 2013, 08:19:16 AM
I agree that your mother should speak to someone at the state level.  If she doesn't, she is implicated in these shenanigans (please note, I don't necessarily mean legally implicated, although that may be the case as well).  If I heard that something like this was going on, I'd assume a member of staff who knew and did nothing was part of the problem.

I think having a quiet word off the record to start with is a good idea.  Of course, if the first thought of the state level people is also 'cover up, cover up', there's a bigger problem.  As a PP says, it isn't the problem that usually brings someone down, it's the cover up.

Your mother appears to have at least a semi-public role in regard to other organisations.  Is apparently colluding with something like this what she wants her reputation with those organisations to be based on?

Also, just because I'm curious, what 'resources' is ProblemPerson talking about?  If she's a Vanderbilt and single handedly funding the organisation, I suppose I can see why people are letting her get away with so much.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: Hmmmmm on April 14, 2013, 09:12:12 AM
Your mom has two options.
1) report the issues to the State level and give them the opportunity to manage and control the fall out of the woman's actions.
2) keep knuckling under to this woman's threats and allow the State level to be blind sided when someone complains outside the organization and the State level has to go into reactive damage control.

There are good reasons organizations put in term limits and this woman is demonstrating a very  strong  case for them. Just because she gets good results for the organization doesn't mean some one else wouldn't be as or more effective.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: mmswm on April 14, 2013, 10:42:19 AM
Tiamet, I can't really say what the resources are without giving away what the cause is.  I hope you can forgive me for that.

My mother has read this thread and is coming around to the fact that she's going to have to be a whistle blower.  She likes the idea of bean dipping and redirecting the conversation to "the cause" if the issue of the spotlight comes up.  Ironically, my mother doesn't give a rodent's behind about the spotlight.  She's quite happy working behind the scenes.  Group 3 has put her in a more visible role recently and while she doesn't refuse the role, she would have been perfectly happy without it.  She's the kind of person who likes to do her work and then sit in the wings and watch.  Thank you everybody for your input. :)
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: Sara Crewe on April 14, 2013, 01:37:15 PM
Tiamet, I can't really say what the resources are without giving away what the cause is.  I hope you can forgive me for that.

My mother has read this thread and is coming around to the fact that she's going to have to be a whistle blower.  She likes the idea of bean dipping and redirecting the conversation to "the cause" if the issue of the spotlight comes up.  Ironically, my mother doesn't give a rodent's behind about the spotlight.  She's quite happy working behind the scenes.  Group 3 has put her in a more visible role recently and while she doesn't refuse the role, she would have been perfectly happy without it.  She's the kind of person who likes to do her work and then sit in the wings and watch.  Thank you everybody for your input. :)

Fair enough - whatever it is, it appears from the details that you have given that there is some public exposure.  Also, any cause that requires lobbyists generally has people on the other side which (depending on how nasty they may get), means a representative has to be seen to be squeaky clean (not just be that way as I'm sure your mother is) as anything else will be used against them by their opponents.

I'm glad your mother is intending to report this person - I think it does sound necessary, sadly.  I hope she'll be able to do so without any comeback on her.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: amandaelizabeth on April 14, 2013, 06:04:37 PM
Hi

One thing I have learnt from working with voluntary groups is that politicians and those who have influence, run a mile when ever there is any hint of impropriety.

In other words all your mothers's and the rest of the group's hard work can be lost by this Lady not sticking to the rules. 

We had an example where a local branch of a large National Advocacy group did something foolish 15 odd years ago.  My Mother, who is not a person to bear a grudge, still mentions this whenever she encounters them fundraising.  Mud sticks, and foolish mud seems to stick longer.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: camlan on April 15, 2013, 07:31:07 AM
My experience has been that someone who rides roughshod over the rules, alienates volunteers enough to make them quit and indulges in financial irregularities does not do the organization any good over the long run.

You know she is lying about your mother and how she is "stealing the spotlight." What's to keep her from lying about her resources and abilities? While this woman may be getting some things done, it is possible that a different leader could accomplish more or do better.

When organizations I've belonged to finally oust people like this, two things are discovered. One, no one is irreplaceable. Two, the organization, after a short period of getting used to the new way things are being done, becomes better and stronger.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: rain on April 15, 2013, 09:42:03 AM
keep us updated

I was worried when you said your mom wanted PITA lady to "see the light" - someone would have to hit her with a Mac truck, and that probally wouldn't work anyway

I'm glad your mom is going to follow thru -
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: mmswm on April 15, 2013, 09:44:11 AM
keep us updated

I was worried when you said your mom wanted PITA lady to "see the light" - someone would have to hit her with a Mac truck, and that probally wouldn't work anyway

I'm glad your mom is going to follow thru -

Tempting though...
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: bopper on April 16, 2013, 07:58:55 AM
My experience has been that someone who rides roughshod over the rules, alienates volunteers enough to make them quit and indulges in financial irregularities does not do the organization any good over the long run.


My experience is someone like this has Narcissistic Traits.  It can be quite difficult to get them removed but you have to have many people that adhere to the rules to do it.  Narcissists crave the spotlight...they get their "supply" of attention from it.  Oh, and rules don't apply to them!  And they would be happy to cause havoc because they get attention from that too. Good attention or bad they still need the attention. 

Here is another example of a person you described:

http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=123303
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: helixa on April 19, 2013, 10:02:54 PM
Another point is that you are losing existing and potential members due to her actions, this can diminish everyone's efforts as well.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: lady_disdain on April 20, 2013, 07:29:17 AM
In your mother's place, I would talk to the other officers and convince them that it is better for them to lose this woman's resource than to lose their reputation, their charter and possibly face legal consequences. With their support, I would formally ask for the woman's resignation, citing the charter. If the officers present a united front on this, she will have very few options other than leaving.

Second, I would get a very good accountant and a lawyer to sort the legal mess. Make a full report to the state chapter, outlining the situation, complications and how you mean to move forward to solve this.
Title: Re: Dealing with a spotlight hog
Post by: TootsNYC on April 20, 2013, 04:47:30 PM
The other option is for your mom and the other folks to simply decide that her "I'll take my ball and go home" threats are the SMALLER risk and to vote her out.

They can--there's absolutely no reason why they can't. Oh, if they don't want to confront her, they might need to wait for the next election and then claim "new blood for the good of the organization, to give other volunteers much needed leadership experience." And "giving her a much needed break."

She might end up hanging around, with her resources and everything, just because she'd lose so much face if she waltzed off in a snit.

How soon are elections?


But they need to get together and stick together.

Your mom can start this sort of campaign behind the scenes.

I agree w/ Camlan:

My experience has been that someone who rides roughshod over the rules, alienates volunteers enough to make them quit and indulges in financial irregularities does not do the organization any good over the long run.

You know she is lying about your mother and how she is "stealing the spotlight." What's to keep her from lying about her resources and abilities? While this woman may be getting some things done, it is possible that a different leader could accomplish more or do better.

When organizations I've belonged to finally oust people like this, two things are discovered. One, no one is irreplaceable. Two, the organization, after a short period of getting used to the new way things are being done, becomes better and stronger.

My co-op president is a bit like this--she has alienated a lot of us or discouraged us from stepping up to do more. We *can't* ask her to 'resign' (well we could ask her to resign as president, but she'll still be a resident), and there's a lot we don't do simply because it means dealing with her.

And, she likes to brag to us about how she saves us money by bargaining so hard, but I know of three specific instances in which she specifically, personally, has either cost us money or has driven away a contractor who would accomplish  a tough job or give us a decent price. I oversaw a $2,200 electrical job that I originally had a bid for $800 on--the first electrician told me he didn't want it after all because she was nickel-and-diming us to death.

A friend of ours who did marble work stopped working for the building because he *wanted* to charge the co-op a "PITA" cost but knew it would backfire in the neighborhood. So he just won't work for us because he doesn't want to deal with her.

So she thinks she's so great--and don't get me wrong, she does a lot, tons more than she should have to--but she doesn't see (and so won't report) the ways she COSTS us. Financial and in terms of other people's not being willing to step up to the plate.

In our case, it *would* be true that our organization really needs other people to be willing to lead. And we could really benefit from the expansion of expertise, and from simply having a break from her. And she does deserve a break. But nobody wants to do it because they don't want to continue to deal with her as a building resident. And we also don't believe she's really willing to step down.

(We don't have any irregularities, etc., to deal with.)