Yesterday, we nominated ACLU spokeswoman Emily Whitfield for our "worst bosses of New York" tournament, and though we noted she was a weak contender, we admit that we had no idea just how weak. Though we were thanked by one commenter—"There is justice in this world, and it begins with this article"—we also received an impassioned missive from a reader who was determined to clear Whitfield's name. It's both compelling and exhaustive!
She is one of the smartest people I've ever worked with (in fact, I'm sure she'd find a way not to end that sentence with "with"). She has one of the hardest jobs in the nonprofit biz, and does it far, far better than anyone else could. Has she fired some people? Yes. Were they incompetent? Yes ... and she gave them more chances than they deserved. If anything, she made a couple of bad hires — that's it. But here are some facts: (1) She promoted at least one former assistant, who is now in a substantive position (2) Another one of her employees has been there for 3-plus years, with multiple raises and increases in responsibility (3) She has a tiny staff — about four people to do all the ACLU media work. Much smaller and less significant organizations have twice that and do much, much less (4) She regularly takes her staff to drinks after work and picks up the tab (without mentioning it or making a big deal out of it) (5) She juggles people's work so that they get to handle projects that interest them personally (6) She remembers people's birthdays and other important life events, and asks about them with true interest (7) She helps connect her staff with outside professional associations, colleagues, and other kinds of networking opportunities (that a less secure or "evil" boss would never even think of letting their staff near) Everyone who works with her (or for her) learns and grows. She can be tough, but she has a tough job. Frankly, I prefer to have a tough, smart person fighting the Bush Spin Machine, day in and day out.
Well, when you put it that way, we begin to feel pretty guilty. Pays for drinks?! Hot! Maybe this free speech thing isn't such a good idea. Sometimes it can be so tricky!