Peter Cardy: Take care before you delve into personal issues

Sector veteran Peter Cardy offers answers to your workplace dilemmas

Peter Cardy

Q We appointed a new chief executive last year. He was known to some members of our board through their Methodist church. He seems to have been doing well, but one of the trustees told me he has been cheating on his wife for many years and information has started to appear on social media. What should I do?

A In general, it’s not your business how he conducts his private life. However, it doesn’t look good for a charity with Methodist roots and an upright moral stance if his reputation is being publicly questioned. There are many ways of making a bad situation far, far worse. Take expert legal advice before you do anything at all, including an informal conversation with him.

Q I started as director of a big department at a charity last year, taking over from the deputy, an older man, who had been acting for a long time. We were getting on well, but have had a bit of friction because he wants to be copied into and comment on everything. He also invites himself to meetings. It’s starting to get to me. What should I do?

A If he was accustomed to shadowing his previous boss, being left out can seem like a slap in the face. Or he might think you’re not yet on top of the details and feels the need to chaperone you. Maybe he wants to push his own profile. In any case, I can’t see an argument for not sharing most of your business with him (except this). The better informed he is, the easier it is for you to delegate routinely, or hand over tasks when you’re under pressure. Your conversation with him should be about making the best use of your respective time, ensuring that colleagues know who does what, and that there’s no confusion about who’s boss – it can’t be both of you.

Q The Daily Mail recently published a story about overheads and staff pay in charities. The latest Wellcome Trust accounts show that someone in its investment team was paid over £3m. How can that ever be justified?

A Oh dear. I’m tired of hearing this sort of nonsense and I thought the responses to the farrago produced by Gina Miller’s True and Fair Foundation had put it to bed, but I suppose every generation of journalists has to learn it again. That is not to deny that pay for some top managers in the third sector is absurd, but charities have to exist in several different markets. It’s an unpalatable truth that workers in some parts of our sector are paid high amounts of money, but why would they work for peanuts if their roles are incredibly demanding?

Q I have a background in the private sector and have been offered a job running a large charity. I haven’t worked in the sector before: what do you think I should be aware of?

A How long have you got? Charities typically have five or six main regulators to comply with. The Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator are not like the Health and Safety Executive, but you’ve got to deal with them and Companies House. Charities are under the public spotlight and it’s easy to find yourself in the news for something you wouldn’t have even noticed before. Charities are expected to be beyond reproach, morally and procedurally, and if you cross the line social media will make life hard. Your managers are there mostly because they believe in the cause, not because they want to make money, and they will be opinionated. Your trustees are not executive directors and rarely are they paid. Keeping them informed, educated and on board is a big task in itself. Still want the job?

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