Peter Cardy: When post-Brexit banter goes too far

The sector veteran offers answers to workplace dilemmas

Q Our executive team includes a Scot, a Welshman and two Irish people, one from each side of the border - and then there is me, an Englishwoman. Since the Brexit vote the usual cheerful national banter that goes on has turned just that little bit edgy and is occasionally snappy. How can I stop it going further and spoiling a good team?

A Your chief executive must have noticed this too. It's a delicate decision whether to bring it into the open and risk crystallising positions, or to wait until the immediate emotions after the vote have died down and it becomes a bit clearer what Brexit will actually entail. Perhaps you could talk to another member of the team who you think takes the same view as you, then raise it with the chief executive.

Q Our policy has always been to collaborate with other charities that share our goals and we have a reputation as a good partner. I'm shocked that one of our closest collaborators is making a big splash with a new project virtually identical to our main offer. I have been invited to the launch, but that was the first I heard of it. Is this not treachery?

A I don't know which duvet your head has been under, but you obviously haven't noticed that charities respond to need or demand just like other markets. And there is competition in markets even if it is often tempered with a bit of gentility among charities. If the trustees of the other charity believe they can achieve their charitable goals and serve their beneficiaries better ... well, they should, shouldn't they? If that's treachery, they're guilty. But you have also been naive.

Q I have been on a successful charity board for a couple of years and it seems to work well. But I'm noticing a pattern in the behaviour of the chair, who cultivates the impression of an open, egalitarian person. Over time she has given special encouragement to the women trustees, while undermining the men. As a result, the board's deliberations are heavily skewed towards what you might call female priorities and the men are sidelined. What can I do about this?

A Well, that's a new one! For the 50 years that I've been conscious of gender politics, the boot has usually been on the other foot. Redressing the balance is long overdue, but that doesn't make it right to tilt in the other direction. Can you have a conversation with the chair that would enable her to describe how she sees it?

Q Our former finance manager has been jailed for embezzling hundreds of thousands from the charity. As the chief executive I feel responsibility for having failed to prevent or spot the theft: how can we stop it happening again?

A The general assumption is that everyone who works for charities is motivated by charitable aims and totally honest. Putting checks in place, like a commercial enterprise, seems almost insulting to staff and volunteers. But people on charity sector pay handle eye-watering sums: why wouldn't they be tempted? You need rigorous checks and security systems.

Q I have been invited to yet another networking event. It's always good to meet new people and old mates, and I always feel a bit of a party pooper if I don't go. And privately I feel I might miss something. What's your view?

A Ask yourself: what's the payback? Your time is not only precious, but expensive, so there is a simple calculation. When networking was a rare novelty, opportunities arose that wouldn't happen any other way. Now it's routine and all-pervading, the value is dropping. There are so many other ways to communicate.

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