Why can’t we all just get along?

For many non-profits there is a great divide among employees. One that often goesbroken-chain-2.jpg unnoticed or ignored, but could destroy a great organization.

As I witnessed at my previous job and have discovered during interviews at other non-profits, many non-profits are split almost into two separate cultures—the business side and the service side.

As an idealistic intern and young professional, I never understood this phenomenon. I wanted to work at a non-profit to help people and I assumed that is what everyone else was there for too. Working toward the same goal was a no-brainer to me. But to everyone else, it seemed like a turf war.

This venomous distain between business (i.e. accountants, HR, communication professionals) and service (i.e. caregivers, guides, therapists) staff is a potentially disastrous threat to an organization.

I look at this problem from the communications side. Since it is hard to believe that any employee works at a non-profit for a malicious intent, there must be a lack of communication causing this riff.

The underline issue here is the everlasting search for respect. Each side wants respect from the other for what they contribute to the organization. No side is willing to concede complete respect to the other because neither fully understands the importance of everyone’s contributions.

I believe this classic feud is another opportunity for public relations professionals to prove their worth to an organization. Communication is our forte. Although small non-profit budgets tend to focus on communicating to the outside to generate interest, funds, etc., time needs to be set aside to specifically communicate to each other. And I don’t mean the humdrum employee newsletter updates, I mean real meaningful communication.

Recently, an organization I interviewed with mentioned the organization’s three-month orientation process (my last orientation was two days, so I was intrigued). During this period new employees shadow other employees in different positions throughout the whole organization. How great is that? First-hand knowledge of my peers’ daily duties. After walking a mile in a nurse or a payroll clerk’s shoes who couldn’t respect what they do every day?

However, orientation is not enough; coaxing employees into a unified team is a never-ending process. Although PR pros are known for being great communicators, we must remember that an essential of communication is listening. We must keep our ears to the pulse of the organization. What are employees’ concerns? What do they really care about? Although a big donation check is exciting to all the bigwigs, it is also important to recognize what excites employees.

Internal communication is vital in creating a cohesive culture. Authenticity is huge in today’s world. With the ability to blog available to anyone, one irate employee can shatter a non-profit who boasts to the public about its “team” while inside a rage is roaring.

To the outside world, all non-profit employees are in the same ship regardless of position. So it’s about time we realize we’re all hands on deck before we start a real mutiny.


1 Response to “Why can’t we all just get along?”

  1. 1 MJ Martin April 4, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    I thought your post was quite insightful and agree that internal communication acts — or at least should act — as the glue that keeps an organization together.

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