Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Quitting the board: A few years ago, my best friend was asked by a local arts organization to serve on a committee to evaluate how it could stay afloat. Because I have also been involved with this organization, I read the resulting report. It recommended creating an executive director position. When I read that, I actually said aloud, “Should that ever happen, I would love that job.”
My friend was hired as the artistic director, and I was asked to serve on the board. Artistically, the organization is doing excellent work. Administratively is another issue. The office was managed by an office administrator who was empowered to do almost nothing; she paid bills and took care of office tasks as directed. But all the marketing and publicity were pushed to volunteers (hence why I was asked to be on the board). My friend, the artistic director, and I commented with some frequency on the inefficiency of the administrator and how things could be better. She wasn’t incompetent, but she could—should—have been doing so much more. She didn’t seem to be the hub of information, and in an organization this size, that seems critical.
The office administrator announced her retirement. And the job has been restructured as an executive director/development director—my dream job. I applied and interviewed. The search committee recognized my expertise. They acknowledged my work over the past months, taking the lead on marketing—resulting in sales of over 500 tickets for an upcoming performance, which far surpassed expectations—and including my catching of an error in acknowledging a donor that was noted as a possible $25,000 mistake. They also asked about my working relationship with the artistic director. They know he and I are very close; I was honest and said we have a good working relationship (which is true, having worked together on two other boards).
I was not offered the job. I am stunned, given my proven track record. I’m not sure exactly why—whether they just don’t like me (I know I can come across as too strong for some people) or if it’s my relationship with the artistic director. Frankly, I feel pretty rejected by an organization for which I have a done a lot of work—unpaid—during the tenure of the former office administrator. I wrote press releases and ad copy and handled social media for her. I did graphic design and editing. Someone else updates the website. I often wonder what she even did. I no longer want to stay on the board. My term is up in June, though I could renew for a second term. Do I look childish if I say, “Clearly my contributions have not been valued, thus I feel it is inappropriate for me to continue”? Or do I stay on through June? I know I shouldn’t feel bitter, but I do. And I still support the organization—I just resent the old boys’ club running things behind the scenes.
A: I suppose some people might consider resigning now childish, but do you really want to continue doing unpaid work for this company just to make sure you seem “adult” to a couple of people who will never hire you? You don’t even have to include a dig about how much they do or don’t value your contributions—you can just say you’re resigning as of X date and that you wish them all the best in the future. There’s nothing embittered about declining to volunteer for an organization you don’t think of as well-run, especially after you’ve been turned down for a job you’ve been gunning for a long time. Be polite and professional and take your talents and hard work elsewhere.