Peter Cardy advises on treachery and doomed bids

The sector veteran offers answers to your workplace dilemmas

Peter Cardy
Peter Cardy

Q. We have several major contracts with local authorities for which we have to re-tender at intervals. I sense that we have fallen out of favour with our oldest contracting body and that we're going to lose the contract in 18 months' time, however hard we try.

A. In spite of transparency in European contracting, it seems that if a public body has set its sights on change, it always seems to happen. Spooky, eh? You could try a partnership with the competitor whom you think is the favourite, or you could decide not to compete and instead put the effort into winning new contracts. It's tough to explain to your teams why you would not bid, but in the worst case most of your staff will be protected by the Tupe regulations.

Q. A new chief executive has been appointed to our medium-sized cooperative. In her first public statement she announced a radical overhaul, including a staff restructure, apparently because she thinks our methods are out of date. This was a shock, because the recruitment papers said nothing about major change – quite the reverse, really. What's your view?

A. Some people just can't resist marking their territory, but it is insulting to their predecessors and their new colleagues. Radical change is expensive in terms of time, money and the skills that are discarded. With no clear goals, change for the sake of change is also doomed to be reversed at some future date at even greater cost. What on earth is wrong with taking the time to learn what works, and how?

Q. I left my job as finance director of a large charity a couple of years ago after repeated disagreements with the honorary treasurer and trustees. I felt very bitter at the time, but I signed a compromise agreement. After carrying out some interim roles I have obtained another job at a similar level to my previous one. Now I hear that the chair of my old charity has been casting doubt on my capabilities. What can I do about this?

A. Compromise agreements are contracts binding on both parties. If you bad-mouth your previous employer, you'll find a letter on your doormat from their lawyer demanding you repay your compensation. But contracts work both ways. Look at your domestic insurance and you'll probably find that it includes legal expenses. If you have evidence that you are being denigrated by your former chairman, ask your insurer's lawyer to demand compensation for breaching the contract and damage to your reputation.

Q. My head of department is a great believer in teamwork and we often go off-site together. When we're working on campaigns, it's fine, but when we get onto the team-building exercises, I just can't stand his management nonsense. I've let my impatience show a couple of times and I get the feeling I'm seen as disruptive. Have I done the wrong thing?

A. Are you sure you aren't misinterpreting the signals? If he is worth his corn as a department head, he will appreciate a constructive challenge. You might be just the foil the group needs.

Q. For the past two years we have been working towards a merger with a similar social enterprise. I was inadvertently included in an email in which the other chairman and the chief executive were discussing their roles when "the takeover is complete". What would you do?

A. Loose talk or treachery? Treachery, without a doubt. A make-or-break showdown looms. You can't make a partnership work with people you can't trust.

Sector veteran Peter Cardy offers answers to your workplace dilemmas. Contact him at

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