[thechat] discussion question: corporate vs nonprofit sectors

Erika ekm at seastorm.com
Sat Sep 22 14:41:27 CDT 2007

I have never really worked in the corporate sector, but this response 
from John pretty much sums up my experiences in the nonprofit sector. 
I've not worked in HUGE nonprofits, but in small (grassroots) to 
mid-sized nonprofits, and in (private) colleges and universities. I find 
that, particularly when top-level leadership is poor, there is a level 
of political infighting that can get to the point of being pretty damn 
awful.  And it can go on for YEARS... decades, even.

I do agree that situations may also change as quickly as the leadership 
does.  I saw this happen at my college when a (fairly decent) president 
had to resign for doing a very stupid thing, and suddenly the dominoes 
of leadership fell, the board became more activist, and scores of petty 
wanna-be tyrants drew and bloodied their swords.  I've been in more than 
one situation where leadership was as charismatic as it was corrupt (the 
chickens do eventually come home to roost, but usually not before many 
casualties) and I have seen "mobbing" by devious co-workers taken to the 
point of driving a perfectly decent person to the edge of the grave via 
suicide and/or stress-related health problems.

My experience is that non-profits and academic staff (a form of 
non-profit) tend to have at least this in common (excluding faculty who 
are sort of a unique form of employee): underpaid employees (often 
women) vying for other slightly-less underpaid jobs.   Also there is 
(and maybe this is in corporate too) a clear hierarchy where men 
dominate the better-paid administrative positions, and women the 
less-well compensated clerical and PR (glass ceiling) -type positions. 
I mean, some of these positions are so poorly compensated, that these 
women are not even really earning a living wage (I suppose under the 
assumption they are secondary wage earners?)

Furthermore, I agree that it is harder to fire people from these 
positions, and so crappy workers have a far longer shelf life in the 
nonprofit sector, and particularly in academia.

I mean, you may get to wear open-toed shoes...  but at what cost?

I was just thinking about all this....


John Handelaar wrote:
> On 22/09/2007, Erika <ekm at seastorm.com> wrote:
>> Who is more cut-throat, the academic/nonprofit sector or the corporate
>> sector?  I mean, in particular within an organization.  And why?
> It wasn't a popular point of view when last I espoused it to former
> nonprofit colleagues, but I'm absolutely certain that I never worked
> in a more egalitarian, more progressive and less prejudiced
> environment than in the "superbanks" like Lehman Bros and Morgan
> Stanley where I worked as an editor during college summer breaks.
> They only care about money and profit.  Crappy internal politicking
> and institutional racism are obstacles to the acquisition of money.
> Whether that applies over there I dunno, but it was certainly true in
> their London outposts.
> Conversely the campaign group I spent seven years in spent more than
> half of its time and energy either trying to herd its own cats, or in
> fights to the death involving internal caucuses of opinion and/or
> external left groups piggybacking on our size and reputation.
> And useless people gravitate towards them (and to almost any public
> sector workplace) like flies on shit, because it's almost impossible
> to get fired no matter how much of a moron you are.
> Similarly, I distinctly recall gleefully writing glowing references
> for the most entrenched fools on our staff, and occasionally
> successfully passing them off to Greenpeace or Amnesty.  Then slumping
> my head in my hands as they did the same thing back to us.
> jh

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