There seems to be a general consensus that we should elevate volunteers to that “next level” which is leadership. Now, while I tend to agree that we have great prospects out there, those with skills, training and backgrounds, we also have to temper the leadership with some good old fashioned “grounding”.
My example? I have a volunteer who helps me directly. She’s been helping me for four years now, doing a mountain of HR type paperwork in the office. Little by little I turned more and more over to her because she a) wanted it. b) is very organized and c) it needed to be done- the trilogy of a great volunteer fit!
What I’ve noticed more and more lately is what I call, the “entrenched syndrome.” She’s entrenched and by that I mean, feeling so comfortable, almost job-like that she wants to be privy to conversations that don’t involve her input, wants to run me and my work (that’s not so bad, actually) and wants to lord over other volunteers. Ah, that last one is the tough one.
She has two set days to come in and do her work, but she chooses to “drop in” on other days when other volunteers come in which makes for chaos. She wants to not only see what they are doing, but instruct them and frankly, be in charge. I’ve gently asked her to remain on her days, but there is always a reason to come in on the non-scheduled day, “I was in the area,” “I wanted to finish that work,” etc.
She even screens volunteers in her own mind, telling me of the appropriateness of each one who comes through the door. Hmmm, I don’t remember asking her what she thought. And what she doesn’t remember is that our jobs are to place volunteers, not throw them to the curb if they are wearing the wrong blouse. (Ok, that’s an exaggeration).
So, last week, I politely reminded her that on the day she’s not scheduled, we really would like her to not come so that the other volunteers had a space to work and so that I could give her the attention she deserved on her days. The cacophony of voices on days when too many volunteers are in is like a hammer to the head, actually.
Well, she left but in a bit of a snit. I sent her an email again praising her work, telling her how valuable she is and asking her to understand. We’ll see. If I’m being selfish, I really don’t want to train someone new, and I genuinely enjoy her and am so grateful for her contribution. But, she has to bend just a wee bit too.
So, I’m asking her, please, come out of trench and into the fresh air and light!