Non-profit organizations can get stuck. Their employees and management tend to be bright, motivated, and dedicated. And issues related to leadership, morale, program development, mission/vision, community connection can arise. I provide a potent combination of management experience, assessment skills, analytical insight, empathy, and humor that helps the organization in the direction of growth and progress.
Sometimes I write about problems and solving them. Here are some of my articles. Hopefully they help you solve your problem. If not, contact me. I’m sure we can find the solution together.
Peter Getoff’s Consulting / Problem Solving Articles:
“Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”
Do any of you remember this song? I bet you do if you exceed a certain age threshold. It is an iconic question that is interwoven in the fabric of intimate human relationships.
It is also a question that you may recognize accompanies the fabric of entrepreneur/client relationships too that can be very challenging.
How do you know when it is time to fire a client, whether you run an NFP, are an attorney, a CPA, a life coach, a realtor, or a investment advisor – everyone in business has had to face this question at one time or another.
Continue reading, but also here is a Toxic Client Checklist I prepared for you to print out. Please respect copyrights, thank you.
“The Challenge of Managing the Toxic Client”
I recently delivered a presentation on “The Challenge of Managing the Toxic Client” to a local business-networking group. I have noticed and experienced that this is one of the most common questions asked of me when I speak to business people: “If the person is a toxic client, how do I know if and when it is time to sever my ties with them?”
In a sense, you are conducting a rigorous cost/benefit analysis that incorporates objective and subjective elements of the impact of the relationship with the toxic client on your work life and your overall well-being. This analysis includes your willingness to examine your own “ego investment” in the relationship and an honest confrontation of your fears and apprehensions.
For example, these fears are often expressed in the following internal narrative:
- “If I terminate with this client I will lose a lot of money. How will l replace it?”
- “This is a VIP client that burnishes my professional image and brand. Do I wish to relinquish those benefits?”
- “If things go south with this client, that could negatively effect my image.” How do I feel about that?
- “If I wait too long to fire this client, I may have legal exposure.”
- “This client, due to their toxicity, is going to be very labor-intensive. Will that take away from the time and energy I have available for other clients?”
Toxic Client Checklist
Below is a toxic client checklist that I have created. Would you like to use it? It can be a valuable aid in the decision-making process involved in firing a toxic client.
- What is your stress level when interacting with them? On a 1 to 10 scale is it an 8, 9, or a 10? (high-end)
- Do your interactions with them emotionally and physically drain you to the extent that you have significantly less energy to bring to your less non-toxic clients?
- Have you attempted to get support, insight by bouncing your feelings and thoughts off a colleague, trusted family member, or coach/consultant? (If you have not, please call me – I’m here to help!)
- Could keeping them as a client expose you to litigious action by them or other clients?
- If you so choose and you assess the client may be “workable” you can do a “litmus test” to measure their capacity for insight and willingness and ability to modify their behavior. Are they able to demonstrate any/all of the following?
- Insight into their emotions, thoughts, motivations
- Insight into their contribution to the problematic work environment
- Ability to verbalize behavioral and attitudinal changes they will make to facilitate the establishment of a collaborative and supportive mutual problem-solving setting.
A “yes” answer to just about any one or more of the checklist questions above can be critical signal that it is time to terminate your relationship with the client.
In summary, I wish to reiterate that making a decision about a toxic client is best done on a case-by-case basis. Consult with others to get input on the pros and cons of canceling the work relationship with the client. Sorting out what to do can be obvious or it can be murky.
You might wish to consult a professional coach/consultant. It is worth the time and expense-you will save yourself stress and heartache in the long run.
Peter R. Getoff, MA, LCSW
West Los Angeles Offices
Remote services available nation-wide
“Partnering with you to solve challenging strategy, personnel, and program business issues for thirty-five years.”
My business is Human Equation. I solve organizational development problems that others have not been able to solve. My focus is on management consulting in strategic planning, program development, and team-building. My office is in West Los Angeles but I provide consultation all over the country.
Business phone number: 310 729-6460
Email address: email@example.com
Non-profit agencies have constituted my world of work for the past forty years. Whether my role was clinical consultant, program director, or manager, I have had a prime vantage point to view the recruitment and retention process in organizations.
My non-profit clients always want to know:
Why do some recruits stay?
Why do many leave?
For now, I am going to confine my analysis and recommendations to the employee side of the equation. If requested, I will discuss all the different organizational dynamics that contribute to and effect the new employee bonding process with the organization.
Yes, salary is part of these dynamics. To dust-off the old cliché, new employees do not join non-profit organizations for the money. (Money may influence their choice when offered positions by more than one organization.)
And now we have an emerging work culture that is completely novel. Now, we have this hybrid work environment, with many many employees working a combination of remote and in-person work hours. So this may factor in, depending on how the employee uses their non-work time.
But it boils down to: what are the not-for-profit employees seeking when they go to work for a non-profit organization?
I have supervised over 150 new employees and been part of many hiring panels in the four decades my career spans. An obvious answer and one which new hires espouse with virtual unanimity is some variation of feeling like they’re helping. Some common answers I’ve heard include:
“I want to make a difference in the world,” or,
“I want to help change peoples’ lives,” or,
“I want to be of service,” or,
“I want to help change a person’s life in the same way somebody helped me change mine.“
If the altruistic motive is a given, what are the key factors for new employee satisfaction with the non-profit organization? What powerfully influences their desire to stay with the organization? There are several and here I will highlight two of them.
The two key factors influencing non-profit employee satisfaction are:
1) a sense of value, and
2) a sense of influence.
Sense of Value
I bet most of us with experience studying the world of work agree on the critical importance of sense of value. The problem is, often it is a chief complaint of employees that they do not feel valued enough. In the non-profit sector this takes on particular importance, since salary and benefit perks do not equal those in the for-profit world.
In the future, I may explore in-depth how I’ve helped non-profit agency’s management teams concretize and operationalize the sense of value. Suffice it to say that the highest priority is communicating to all employees, especially the new ones, the value of their work. I have formally or informally interviewed so many not-for-profit employees at the time of their departure who have shared that they felt, “taken for granted.” They felt, “never appreciated”, or “like a cog in a machine.”
Management should communicate the value of employees’ contributions to the agency regularly, in many permutations.
Sense of Influence
My experience as an administrator has given me a profound understanding of the importance of agency policies and procedures, and structure and function. These are integral to creating an organized, efficient, ethical, and resilient work environment. And I have experienced often from within these systems of control how meaningful and rewarding it is for employees, especially new ones, to feel like their voices are being heard. Non-profit employees want to be heard when addressing problems in the work environment and changing it for the better.
I know there are common mechanisms for feedback in many non-profit businesses staff meetings. It is crucial that management not just pay lip-service to input received. Rather, not-for-profit management must do everything in its power to reflect to employee that their suggestions are valuable and will always be considered seriously. The non-profit employee needs to feel they can influence how the non-profit does business.
If you want to address and assess how the work culture at your non-profit is effecting employee retention, let’s create a plan. You and I will focus on these issues and ensure they’re brought up in future management team planning meetings. I am here at the Human Equation to assist management teams in tackling these issues.
I solve problems that no one else can.
My name is Peter Getoff and my business is Human Equation. I offer my wisdom to you, derived from over 35 years of non-profit and government agency management expertise. I bring unique and powerful experience in clinical social work, clinical and community psychology, and business development.
In July, Ryan Delane of Interfanatic talked with me about bringing important causes into your life and into your work. Watch the video here, or you can find it on our Human Equation YouTube Video Channel. Please go and subscribe so you see every video we post.
In my last blog I promised I would begin to address facts and myths about the homeless population. There are a multitude of myths about people who live on the streets, in their cars, on the beach, in abandoned buildings, by the Los Angeles River.
Myth #1: People are homeless because they are too lazy to work. They don’t want to work. They would rather get free government money.
People who work with the homeless know that only a very small percentage of the homeless population fit this category. People who come in contact with the homeless on a daily basis, who have read the research and studies done over the last fifty years know this isn’t true for most homeless. 85% of homeless individuals have some type of mental illness and/or untreated substance abuse problem. Another 10 % are vulnerable individuals who due to life circumstances are not able to afford independent living.
So why does this myth persist?
It has proven impossible to extinguish. This myth about homelessness has been prevalent in this country since the first settlers came to our shores over three hundred years ago. A number of explanations exist for the persistence of this myth. They are psychological, sociological, cultural, religious.
Let’s just take on one – one from the psychological perspective. A quick and dirty interpretation: As human beings we all have belief systems about how to cope with the world. We using these coping mechanisms to reduce our own fears and anxieties related to the unknown and that which can’t control. So…
Stay with me here… If we believe that sheer willpower and devotion to “doing the right thing” has kept us safe and sane, how do we let in the notion that there are a whole bunch of people in the world for whom those beliefs don’t apply? Until the homeless get help – the right kind of help – they are at the mercy of their weaknesses and their demons. No amount of self-wellness and he right-thinking and proper values are going to save them. If we allow the idea that maybe self-determination and drive is not always enough, that sometimes we need help to right the ship, we find that idea can be disconcerting – if not downright scary. We prefer to think of ourselves as successful and independent – not needing help.
Please remember this next time you see a homeless person. Think of what I have shared with you as a person who has spent much of my life helping and learning to understand the homeless problem. It’s not up to you individually to help them, but we as a society need to come together to find effective ways to help. How can you best be a part of that?
One great thing you can do is to help me dispel these false myths about homelessness!
Myth#2 next blog.
Peter Getoff, MA, LCSW has been working over thirty-five years as a consultant and in upper-level management in non-profit organizations across Southern California. Specifically , he has accumulated over twenty years experience working with homeless populations and most recently was a clinical director at the Weingart Center on Skid Row.
I hope the title of this blog intrigues and invites you to join me. I’m not intending to resolve the homeless crisis on my own. I’m not that grandiose. However, with the advent of the New Year, yes I am one of those people that embraces the opportunity to make New Year’s resolutions. If you are reading, hopefully you are inspired to help with the issue of homelessness, too.
I realize that new year’s resolutions are not for everybody. But they work for me. Goal-setting helps galvanize me to review how I navigated 2020 and what I would like to do the same and differently in 2021.
I have noticed that for the last two or three months I have been increasingly preoccupied with the homeless crisis and what kind of role I would like to play in contributing to ameliorating it. And I don’t expect that we’ll resolve it together immediately. But the more we educate ourselves and the more we work together, the greater impact we can have on this large, long-term problem. We can help the homeless.
I am not new to the problem of homelessness, nor is it new to me. As a professional clinical social worker it has been in my awareness for my entire career. I have had a number of management positions where I worked in organizations that specialized in serving the homeless population.
The increasing, encroaching proximity of the homeless to my neighborhood is probably a major factor in my re-dedication to addressing the problem. I have worked on Skid Row. I worked in community mental health services who were inundated with mentally ill and substance-abusing homeless clamoring for services.
The question I have for myself now is the following: In 2021 what role do I wish to take in picking up the gauntlet to solve – at least in LA and its environs – this most vexing and endemic of community social problems?
In future blogs I will discuss many of the different parameters of the problem.
In my next blog I will discuss myths v. facts about the demographics of the homeless, including answers to questions such as, “Are homeless people dangerous? How can you tell if a homeless person is dangerous? Why are they homeless – are they all mentally ill and/or substance abusers?”
If you are interested – if you care – I encourage you to read my blog for my experience with the difficult issue of homelessness in greater Los Angeles. If you have questions, I encourage you to ask me. I will do my best to address your concerns and help us navigate this growing problem. And I thank you for your interest. Together, we can make a difference.
For those of you who joined us, thank you! It was an incredibly successful and productive event.
THURSDAY, OCT 22, 9:00-12:00
Through the Center for Nonprofit Management, I’m holding a seminar about how to more effectively build remote teams inclusively, with diversity. Please join us!
Learning to manage teams remotely is challenging enough. But how do you do that well, while also working to address issues of inclusivity and diversity? This training will combine two models – the Emotional Intelligence model and the ECHO model – to provide nonprofit leaders with support, clarity, and concrete interventions you’ll be able to employ in team-building and leadership development while building an inclusive organizational culture. Participants will also learn how these goals and objectives can be achieved virtually.
Peter Getoff was recently invited to write for This Month with Bruin Professionals. His article is reprinted here, with permission.
By this time, I imagine just about all of you have had your fill and been exposed to-pardon the term-dozens of articles, podcasts, and newscasts about the negative effects of Covid.
As Bruin Professionals, you fall within a cohort characterized by high IQ, intellectual curiosity, and a certain degree of motivation for self-improvement, expanding your awareness and mindfulness about how your “psychological insides” inform your external behavior and reactions to the world.
That being said, it is my desire to provide you with a brief positive learning experience related to the subject of the pandemic, its effect upon us and our loved ones, and our reactions to it.
In preparation for writing this piece, my research introduced me to a term that I surmised might exist, but I found empirical proof that it did – epidemic psychology. The conceptual framework of epidemic psychology is instructive and useful because it reminds us that the first natural human response is fear. The model also reminds us that another natural response is wanting to reduce our fear, which can translate into taking action. The trick is engaging in effective action.
It’s been seven months since the “official” identification of the pandemic and there’s no end in sight. How can we continue to manage our fears and take effective action to cope with the change in routine, the uncertainty, and the disruption caused by the pandemic?
Since March 2020, I have had dozens of opportunities to converse with family, friends, clients, and colleagues about coping mechanisms that are effective for them, especially in reducing fear and taking concerted action to combat the draining and debilitating effects of the pandemic. And of course, I have “data” from my observations of my own successes and failures in coping with Covid’s psychological effects.
Many “coping lists” have been promulgated and I don’t wish to be overly redundant nor does the one I offer need to be exhaustive.
What seems to standout are the following ideas: “acceptance of the new normal”; “embracing self-imperfection,” “social connection,” and “community connection.”
Below are brief elaborations for each one of these psychosocial activities:
- Acceptance of the New Normal: Acceptance of reality enables us to take action to adapt to it. Every one of us is subject to defense mechanisms such as denial and avoidance in our efforts to protect us from what can be the scary reality of “what is.”
- Embracing Self-imperfection: This in my professional opinion may be the most critical one. It is a key building block. Excessive self-criticism and rigid perfectionism can wreak so much psychological damage. Supportive self-statements are indispensable in this regard.
- Social Connection: I must sound like a broken record to my loved ones, clients, and business associates with this one: Reach out. Please don’t isolate. Share your feelings, thoughts, and listen to how others are trying to cope. Use the phone, email, and text. We are social creatures and we need vital, healthy human connection.
- Community Connection: Decades of empirical and applied research give overwhelmingly support to the theory that one of the most effective ways of boosting our sense of worth and belonging and counteracting depression and anxiety is through helping others less fortunate than ourselves. The classical dictum is that we help ourselves by helping others. There are a myriad number of examples of this concept-too many to list here.
The point is that you provide care for yourself by providing care for the community in which you reside.
Peter’s business is called the Human Equation and he has over thirty years experience in guiding, motivating, and leading individuals, groups, and organizations to find the answers when they are “stuck.” He has an MSW in Social Work Administration and Community Organization from UCLA and an MA in Clinical and Community Psychology from SUNY Buffalo. For more info please visit his website: https://humanequation.net/.