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Can anyone help with this?

(14 Posts)
higgle Mon 03-Feb-14 15:15:21

I've mentioned this elsewhere but things have moved on a bit.
What do you think?

I'm trustee of a small charity. We have two employees. One had a couple of grievances with the chair relating to his dictatorial management style and constant put downs. She was also dissatisfied with her pay but didn't raise any of these matters with me or the other trustees as she felt we would be powerless to assist and would not challenge the chair. She resigned saying some comments about her mental state were "the last straw"

She is a very accomplished and diligent person who has achieved a lot in the last 7 years she has worked for the charity. She is very eminent in our specialist area.

We had a board meeting this weekend and I proposed the motion that we should ask her to reconsider her resignation. The chair opposed this motion. Of the other two trustees one who has been with us for years agreed with me. The other who joined the board on the day of the meeting and has only met the employee in question once previously opposed the motion. As the chair had casting vote the employee will not now be invited to reconsider.

We have one other member of staff, a much younger woman who is moving into the lady who has resigned job. She was invited to remain in the room for all the discussion on her colleagues employment history and the chair then asked her if she had a vote how she would vote. She said she would vote against the motion. The chair indicated that he was voting against the motion and would cast his vote in the way he did because the employee taking over the job did not have a vote.

Over the last 7 years there has been a history of unpleasant confrontation, which the chair has a reputation for in other organisations. Any ideas?

flowery Mon 03-Feb-14 19:37:47

Did you actually have any reason to think she would reconsider? Sounds unlikely to me.

And to be honest, if I had been subjected to 7 years of unpleasant confrontation and dictatorial management, and the reaction to my final straw resignation wasn't "goodness, that's terrible, is there anything we could do to make you reconsider" but was instead a meeting at which people discussed me, voted on whether they even wanted me to stay or not (as though it were their choice not mine), and I found out that my junior was not only present at the meeting (hugely inappropriate and undermining) but was also actually asked for a view, you'd have to come on bended knee and offer me 3x salary and I still would tell you where to go.

In terms of what you should do, well it really depends what you want to achieve? What are you looking for out of this situation?

notthegruffalo Mon 03-Feb-14 19:44:30

Have you asked the employee for her side of the story?

If the chair is as bad as he sounds then your only option is to go to the charities commission. You may be able to call tj up for some advice

higgle Mon 03-Feb-14 20:04:30

I think I might call the charities commission. Part of the problem is that if he likes someone, like the new employee, he gets on OK with them ( well for ahile) If he doesn't like someone he is vile to them and so they go - he has seen off 4 treasurers since we founded the charity 7 years ago.

Flowery - if we could get rid of the chair she would certainly be invited back - she is a leading expert in what the charity does and was its CEO, she built it up from literally nothing to a national force and I suppose the problem is that she is far better at what we do than the chair is, but he likes all the glory. One idea is to get her back as a trustee and then she could either be chair or CEO again.

DameDeepRedBetty Mon 03-Feb-14 20:09:15

I'm wondering how on earth you've ended up with such an incompetent Chair...

agree, talk to Charity Commission.

higgle Mon 03-Feb-14 21:44:46

He was there when I joined the board.

KnackeredCow Mon 03-Feb-14 22:36:10

Awful - this sounds like the charity I used to work for. I was forced to resign (from a very senior position) for refusal of my flexible working application following mat leave amongst other things. Can't go in to too many details (there was MUCH more to it) but one of the trustees had said, and I quote, "women who have babies and have a year off should not have the right to return to their jobs" (he heard my appeal). My experience of small charities (I joined from a Bluechip) is they are often run by under qualified trustees (no offence to you - more a reflection on your Chair) who have little experience or knowledge of HR strategy. Be careful, an employee making an ET claim can take one against both the company (or charity) and associated individuals. Given the history you state I'd be concerned about a claim for constructive dismissal. It certainly sounds like she's being forced.

higgle Tue 04-Feb-14 07:57:17

A group of trustees ( including me) have suggested she gets legal advice. if there was a claim for constructive dismissal we would be giving evidence on her behalf. As it is entirely through her efforts that we have secured funding ( not small amounts from members of public, but substantial donations from other organisations) on one level it would not be unjust for the charity to have to pay compensation.

flowery Tue 04-Feb-14 08:38:18

As a trustee you have an obligation to the charity and to the donors, and I don't see encouraging employees to bring tribunal claims against the charity as being consistent with those obligations.

Your efforts should be focused on finding out how to get rid of the chair, not on encouraging expensive legal claims against the charity.

I can't imagine your funding will last if donors find out trustees are not only managing staff poorly but also encouraging legal claims against the charity and spending their money on legal fees rather than whatever your charitable objectives are.

higgle Tue 04-Feb-14 12:27:39

Without saying too much flowery plans are a foot. I don't really want to give up on the charity but the easiest option would just be to resign and complain to the charities commission. I had to endure a lengthy character assassination at the recent board meeting, basically being told I was stupid and knew nothing. When you give up a lot of time and make lots of effort to support a cause this is very dispiriting. So far as the tribunal goes if I was called I'd just have to tell the truth. I've moved that the employee be reinstated and been defeated and will now have to tackle the chair issue.

KnackeredCow Tue 11-Feb-14 08:39:10

Agree with flowery. Sorry, I wasn't suggesting you should encourage her to claim, but more the issue is at board level.

But you are right, if you agreed to be a witness you'd have to tell the truth. However, you can refuse to give a witness statement and as you have to do this for either the employer or employee, assuming you acted for the employer, you might struggle to defend any claim anyway.

She may not claim. She may simply draw a line and move on, and that is probably the most likely outcome. I was just warning you it's something you might need to consider.

Is your charity insured? My ex-employer (having been taken to tribunal before, for sexual harassment, and lost) has tribunals insurance. It made it an easier decision (ethically) to make the claim.

What do your articles of association about how long board members can serve? The problem at the charity I was with was most of them were very under qualified but had been appointed thirty years prior. And few had kept up to date with any sort of training. Are your members required to resign in rotation? The only way we ever got new board members was when one died. I kid you not.

It does sound as if your issues lie with proper training of the Board of Trustees. You wouldn't need to resign,necessarily to approach the Charities Commission with your concerns.

higgle Fri 21-Feb-14 07:52:46

Just a final update. I am now chair of the charity. The former chair went so far in his bullying of the other trustees that eventually we went to the Charity Commission and they confirmed he was acting outside his powers. That night he resigned. We now have a new trustee, lots of enthusiasm for our new projects and are feeling far more positive. The employee I mentioned has accepted our invitation to return to her old job, so no constructive dismissal claim. Thank you all for your help.

Ellypoo Fri 21-Feb-14 10:09:24

That's great Higgle, well done and good luck in your new role.

KnackeredCow Fri 21-Feb-14 10:54:57

What a fantastic outcome for everyone!

Thanks for updating us and best of luck in your new role.

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