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How can stations pull together when a popular staff is let go?

My Twitter feed was recently awash with news of a community radio station’s beloved general manager being dismissed. Separations like this are never easy. They also expose a challenge that governance, volunteers and staff must come to terms with.

Digging into the aforementioned brouhaha, the story was one I have heard far too often. A lot of people enjoyed to vibe the manager created and appreciated his manner. Organizational culture is essential, so people responded to those feelings. Beneath the surface, though, finances were worsening. As things began to look direr, no turnaround plan seemed forthcoming.

Community radio is more often than not operating at a subsistence level. At so many outlets, there seldom is much capital in reserves. A faltering pledge drive or two can mean serious problems. At this station, and others, the buck stops with the manager. And here, like at far too many community radio stations, a general manager was dismissed over its bleak future.

When popular staff members are removed, even when it’s justified, the questions of leadership always arise.

In volunteer-based organizations like community radio, strong relationships matter. Good managers can model the best behavior and help bring out the best by playing to people’s strengths. However, careful attention must be paid to the bottom line too. Governance needs to be professional and diligent in this regard by compassionately holding leaders to standards and ensuring operations can ultimately continue.

For volunteers, it is important to remember managers we like are wonderful, but no one person is larger than the institution itself or community radio. Decisions to replace managers are not engaged in lightly. Finding ways of being the most successful together going forward is critical to listeners, our peers and the organization. Saying goodbye in community radio is never easy, but it happens.

Above all, it is critical to not let our upset override our hopefulness. I am often taken aback, when partings occur, by assumptions of the worst of intentions. I have also seen people take to social media to ascribe terrible verdicts to a termination without considering a.) whether any of their claims have any verifiable truth, or b.) how these claims reflect on the speaker to the station audience. In a larger sphere, I also encourage those volunteers taking to publicly criticizing stations to consider what their employers and communities make of their behavior. When one is unhappy, there’s room to be critical. However, some community radio scuffles can cross the line.

Unity is hardest when we are challenged to create peace. With patience, stations can navigate one of the most difficult moments they may experience.

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