I worked at National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) full-time (More than a year)
NACCHO’s mission is critical to our national public health infrastructure and it should be an amazing place to work. The staff is made up of very talented and diverse people who all want to serve the mission. The staff members are also highly engaged and motivated to achieve high quality performance. You can’t ask for a workforce more supportive of the organization. There is also a great willingness to collaborate among teams. The work is rewarding and my experiences working with local health departments are something I will carry with me throughout my career.
Organizations go through phases and have their ups and downs. Unfortunately, I think NACCHO is going through a tough time. There is a high level of dissatisfaction among employees and an outrageous amount of turnover. Some of this can be attributed to organizational growing pains and a change in top-level leadership in 2015. However, the primary source of poor morale seems to relate to the staff relationship with the executive director. Since the present executive director took the helm in early 2015, there has been an ever-widening rift between the executive team and other staff. Initially, staff members were excited about the new energy. But then the executive team was elevated to a loftier and distant position. Staff are disrespected amd marginalized. Rather that working “with” the staff, things are being done “to” the staff. Time has only made the situation worse and a negative undercurrent permeates.
The Human Resources office has a systemic problem with performance. It is not uncommon for staff to experience significant disruptions or errors in HR-related processes due to a lack of management or follow through by the HR team. Opportunities for growth are given inconsistently, and this is the fault of both HR and managers. Rules are applied to some but not to others. Some managers are far too friendly with HR, suggesting that if you ever do have a conflict with your manager, you won't get a fair shake. While the executive staff are aware of these problems and have applied additional staff support to the HR team, the issues seem to continue.
There is also an executive team member that has risen through the ranks fairly quickly but has not developed the skills necessary to be a good leader. The person (“they”) either forgets the decisions and directives they issue or changes their mind frequently. I experienced several instances of this that put me in awkward situations of initiating work on one path only to be told that a completely different progression should have been used. They will not put decisions in writing for confirmation or later reference. They also do not monitor email well for critical communications. They value quantity over quality. There was at least one case in which a budget was reduced by the funding agency, but they reported the team could still deliver the same amount of work (a risky precedent to set with funders). They often does not provide support at critical points in the execution of projects when leadership is needed, but micromanages inconsequential activities, seemingly latching on to the things that are familiar. External partners have commented that the person seems disengaged and unknowledgeable of fundamental components of projects. They also, probably unwittingly, demonstrates a degree of favoritism to the sub-team with which they are most familiar.
As with all organizations, the climate will change. I am hopeful NACCHO will again become a workplace where staff members are content and satisfied.
Advice to Management
The conflict between the executive director and staff must be resolved. It is likely that the only way to do that is with a new executive director. Human Resources team needs a new director, should be held accountable for their performance, and supported however necessary to properly fulfill their roles. Executive team members and senior staff should receive ongoing training in leadership and team management.
I applied online. The process took 2 weeks. I interviewed at National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) (Washington, DC).
30 minute screening phone call followed by an in-person interview with supervisor and 3 team members and with the senior advisor. Everyone was friendly and they show you around the offices which are on three floors.
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