Published: 4 August 2013

The comms insider – Managers in the charity sector (a tongue in cheek guide to spotting the winners, the losers, and the somewhere-in-betweeners)

The Crusader

These people start the job brimming with enthusiasm, convinced they will be the saviour of the charity world; the one to make a lasting difference. Within weeks, however, the cheery disposition they wear as armour against the negative exterior world is showing chinks, and underlying doubt is beginning to surface: Have they taken on more than they can chew?

Shelf life: Once the scales have fallen from their eyes and the depressing reality sets in that they may not, in fact, be the one to save the day after all, Crusaders rarely last beyond a year.

The People Pleaser

These bosses want more than anything to be liked. They'll treat colleagues like friends and encourage team bonding at every opportunity. What they fail to realise is their team would rather have a boss than a BFF, and without a firm hand to control them they will soon underperform compared to the rest of their department. Furthermore, people pleasers will almost always be regarded with derision from their peers, and will rarely, if ever, be considered for serious promotion. At best, they will be universally ‘liked,’ at worst universally made fun of behind their backs.

Shelf life: People Pleasers can often have surprising longevity in the work place, often purely by virtue of the fact their easy going natures can be taken advantage of by other, more underhanded peers (see The Glory Seeker).

The Brown Noser

Not to be confused with the People Pleaser, the Brown Noser uses every opportunity to shmooze their way up the food chain rather than down it. They wouldn't dream of fraternising with the juniors: oh no, this manager wants to fast track to the top. And that sure as hell won't happen by taking the jobsworths out for a G&T and a friendly career progression chat. Don’t be fooled by their suck-up exterior; this type of manager is street-smart and savvy. They know exactly what they’re doing, and if you don’t recognise that they’ll walk all over you.

Shelf life: Brown Nosers are, unsurprisingly, popular with senior management. Their can-do attitude makes them perfect for jobs the senior management team (SMT) can’t be bothered to do, and if they perform well they can, eventually, earn themselves tidy internal promotions. Remember the kid at school who sucked up to all the teachers and is now a top-earning barrister/consultant? Well this is their younger sibling; a bit slower off the mark but destined for success, in some form or another.

The Pragmatist

Arguably the best manager of them all, this person has a goal and knows how to achieve it. Focused is their middle name, and while they want their team to like them, they are also intelligent enough to realise the dangers that lie in befriending. They set down the rules and their team follows them – because they’ve earned their respect. Other managers aspire to be like The Pragmatist, and senior managers appreciate their hard work and honesty – they just don’t always reward it as fairly as they should, because other people (see The Brown Noser and The Glory Seeker) have a habit of undeservedly stealing their thunder.

Shelf life: Pragmatists tend to stick around, but often feel frustrated at their lack of recognition.

The Enigma

This is the manager whose rise to the top is unfathomable to almost everyone else in the organisation. They command little by way of respect due to their almost total inability to make decisions that are not heavily influenced by other members of the SMT. They may be ‘nice,’ but as everyone (in particular The Pragmatist) knows, nice only gets you so far. There is a unanimous but unspoken agreement between all other managers that they didn’t get to where they are today without considerable, shall we say, powers of persuasion. Probably best to leave it at that…

Shelf life: Annoyingly Enigmas can be firmly entrenched in their organisations and difficult to oust. This is often because of who they know rather than what they know; connections do, after all, get you everywhere in life.

The Glory Seeker

Similar to the Brown Noser in terms of ambition to rise to the top, though their methods vary: Whereas the Brown Noser will think nothing of demeaning his or her self in order to achieve their goal (because to their minds they are playing the long game), the Glory Seeker wouldn't dream of behaving like that and risk being treated with scorn by their colleagues. Instead, they ensure every piece of work they do is nothing less than perfect – and have no issue with passing off good work as their own and blaming their mistakes on other, less senior, members of their team. As a result, and unsurprisingly, they are often disliked by their peers.

Shelf life: Another frustrating long-termer, for obvious reasons.


Anonymous, Mystery UK charity

The comms insider is an anonymous comms professional working at a UK charity. S/he wishes to remain incognito so as to be able to write frankly about his/her experiences and opinions.