Just an update. The volunteer who left in a snit did come in on Tuesday and not only did not say more than a few words, she left after about 30 minutes saying through clenched teeth, “well, that’s all I have for work today.”
Sigh. Was I angry, no, frankly I’m fresh out of big emotions. Was I rude to her? No, we know we have to be neutral at all times. She came the day after Monday, a day spent literally sorting out problems and walking the middle road. Bad timing for me, I was exhausted.
I spoke to her as usual, praised her and thanked her for her work. What I really felt was deep disappointment. Although we are not unrealistic and not Pollyannas, don’t you just wish that volunteers would come for reasons that are helpful and REMAIN for those same reasons. Often we worry so much about volunteers coming for the “right” reasons, that we get blindsided by those who develop other reasons to stay. They disappoint us to the core.
Even on our worst days physically, spiritually and emotionally, we have to remain upbeat, caring and willing to step outside of ourselves for a great cause we believe in. We sort of expect that from our volunteers and when one we have relied on gets angry with us, that is hurtful. It’s about the mission, don’t ever forget that. Maybe I need to tell her more often how her work is affecting the bottom line. I will do that, but at least next Tuesday, I’ll be prepared. I’ll bring my coat and drink hot chocolate.
Kristen McHenry said:
This sounds like a really sticky situation. I have faith that you will be able to talk this through with her and come to an understanding. Something you said in this post really struck me: “…we have to be neutral at all times.” I know from my experience, that sometimes letting myself *not* to keep a careful face of neutrality has allowed the volunteers to see me as more human and authentic. Sometimes I have said things like, “I’m having a difficult day and it’s not the best time for me to have this conversation. I want to honor your needs and the importance of this, so let’s talk at a time when I can be fully present.” Or, to allow myself to be honest about how a volunteer’s behavior affects me emotionally (without making it overly-personal or “only” about me.)We are only human, too. In my experience, most of the time volunteers appreciate emotional honesty (when it is a controlled expression of it, of course), and are more trusting and open with me when they know I have been willing to be a little bit vulnerable.
I love the blog! I have all of my colleagues reading it now, too. 🙂
thanks for that insightful reply, I really like that. I teach new volunteers to be “emotionally there” with their patients and families, and if it’s good enough for that tender relationship, then it should be good enough for my relationship with the volunteer! I will give her time to cool off and approach her next Tuesday with the “emotion” talk. Thanks! It’s really great to learn from each other. Happy Friday (if Friday is really Friday if you know what I mean!)