General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

Dealing with a spotlight hog

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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