A Small Dance

Over the last few weeks I have been watching a small community run organisation
try not to tear itself apart.

It all started when one of the closeknit and well established group of four
staff members went on maternity leave. ‘Trish’, the replacement person did not
immediately fit in and started to make some errors of judgement. Complicating
the situation, the existing director had taken over from Trish around ten years
ago when she left to have a family. Only one of the assistants remained from
Trish’s previous tenure and no-one from the previous committee of management
remained.

From the outside and hearing everything second hand it seemed like the new
person had become incompetent in the situation.

Also from my perspective hearing how everyone reacted, it seemed like the anxiety
in the organisation rose to extreme levels when Trish started.

  • The existing director had never had such an experienced person in the more
    junior position
  • The existing director had known Trish in a previous environment and appreciated
    her professionalism
  • The one person who had previously worked with Trish had reservations about
    working with her again. Mainly because of this, the appointment committee
    more would have appointed someone else if there had been a suitable candidate.
  • The existing director is very close to the one person who worked with Trish
    when Trish was the director
  • The preferred candidate for the position declined to accept the appointment
    (she could not negotiate special employment conditions.)
  • The personality difference between Trish and ‘Nadia’, the person she replaced,
    was extreme. Nadia was highly organised and efficient but lacked people skills.
    Trish treated the clients extremely well but lacked confidence and could sometimes
    put her co-workers off by appearing to be aloof.

I am not there, but from what I hear, Trish is making a lot of mistakes. She
is not exercising appropriate duty of care, she seems to forget to do elementary
things that everyone expects would be second nature to someone of her experience
and does not seem to be able to manage her time appropriately. Is Trish being
scapegoated? Does Trish want to be scapegoated.

When Trish first started making errors, everyone else retreated and hoped that
she would just get better with time. But she didn’t. I encouraged the director
to take Trish aside and say something like "Look Trish we know you are
better than this. What IS happening for you." But she didn’t.

The management committee considered terminating Trish’s probationary period
but felt they had not worked openly enough with her and given her sufficient
opportunity to respond to their concerns.

After a lot of heartache, Trish is still there and has responded significantly
to the concerns raised by the management committee.

However, there is precious little generosity and a lot of mistrust around.
I keep thinking that generosity would go a long way to improving the situation.
But the anxiety still seems to high.

I wonder what comes next.