Avoiding the toxic collaborators

March 24, 2015       The NonProfit Times      

When you’re fighting hard on behalf of the people or things for which your organization stands, you must be able to trust those fighting by your side. “You can deal with staff members who turn out to be scoundrels so long as you stick like glue to your organization’s personnel policies,” according to Barbara Floersch, director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

“Collaborators who are toxic to a project are different. If good faith efforts to sort things out fail, there’s not usually much you can do. Insincere collaborators can turn a promising project into a mess,” she said. To smooth the way for productive collaboration, Floersch suggested reviewing a simple checklist before joining ranks on a project with outside collaborators.

  •  Is the collaborative project a snug fit with your organization’s mission? Can you honestly get behind it and push?
  • Have the organizations and individuals collaborating on the project earned a reputation for effective, mission-driven work that puts meaningful project outcomes above individual interests?
  • Is your organization willing to make reasonable compromises for the greater good of the whole?
  • Is your organization willing to share — funding, staff time, glory, and, especially, blame?
  •  Are the benefits to be gained from the collaboration worth the time, energy, and compromise?

“Solid, effective collaborations are highly rewarding,” said Floersch. “They leverage expanded resources and talent and propel important work forward.” To get the full benefits of collaboration, vet the project and players before jumping in.