Reaching Out for Support

I work for a HRM based non-profit that provides programs for persons with disabilities. As of late, our office has become a very toxic and unhealthy workplace... quite ironic, due to our mandate to model proper business behavior, management and comportment. As with most non-profits, we work under a boss who has hand-picked their Board of Directors. Sometimes that works, as in ensuring that the people on the Board support the work the nonprofit does. However, we are in the most negative of situations caused by a 'handpicked' Board: they fear our boss and do nothing to monitor what goes on at our office. We recently brought our concerns over harassment and the fact that three members of our small staff are out on stress-related sick leave, one staff member was summarily fired without just cause, and two senior staff members have quit, all due to direct interaction with said boss. The President of our Board, and our Executive Director on paper, told us in no uncertain terms that we were 'on our own' in this situation. In fact, he went so far as to suggest that we were making a big deal out of 'quirky' behavior and that we just need to suck it up or quit. The quirky behavior he referred to included: foul, inappropriate and sexist language, harassment (including sexual harassment), bullying and threatening behavior, threats of reprisal, inappropriate interaction with our clients (most of whom are quite vulnerable), inappropriate and illegal disclosure of personal information about employees to other employees, inappropriate and possibly slanderous comments about our funders and referral agencies, demanding that staff misrepresent the truth when dealing with our funders, and possible financial mismanagement of funding from Federal and Provincial sources. The listed items are certainly not what a rational person would call 'trivial'.

Our Board of Directors have been totally silent this whole time. In fact, other than one or two BoD meetings in-house (after work hours), they have not been in to our offices. In fact, our boss routinely states that they control the board in the same way they control things around our office.

I know I could quit and I know my fellow staff members could quit, but we fear for the quality of programming for our clients and that their success is being compromised by an unhealthy environment. As well, even though quitting is always an option, in the Province of Nova Scotia we have laws in place to protect the employees right to a healthy and harassment free workplace. Other than going to the Labour Board, what can be done about a publicly funded non-profit that is behaving so irresponsibly and perhaps contravening the legal reason that registered non-profits must have a Board of Directors? We are desperate and fear for our health, our livelihood, and our awesome clients who deserve much better. —Target

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