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  • Joshua Wilson

What to do about "Nonprofit Nice"

Some workplaces are miserable places to be…where people are happy to yell at you, tell you your feelings don’t matter, or text you at 2 AM. Because nobody wants to work in an environment that’s abusive, manipulative, and causes burnout, some professionals seek mission-driven nonprofits, where a shared sense of altruism combined with a commitment to inclusion and individual well-being is thought to limit unkind behaviors at work.

Sometimes these theoretically-more-evolved organizations suffer from a tendency to avoid discussing important topics because these conversations don’t feel “nice.” We call this phenomenon “non-profit nice,” and it can cause lots of problems. For example, in whatever organization you work at, you’ll need to reflect on work your team has done lately and find ways to improve that work. When you suffer from “non-profit nice,” it’s hard to point out problems or mistakes when there’s a risk of hurting someone’s feelings or making people feel uneasy. If you can’t identify and correct mistakes without stigma, your non-profit organization could have problems achieving its mission.

The solution is (of course) to find a way to talk about the hard stuff without making people feel attacked: it is possible, but takes some work! If you’d like to give it a shot, we recommend you start small: here’s a small experiment you might try.

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