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Mokita is a New Guinea word that speaks of a “truth we all know but agree not to talk about,” which can more easily be translated into “the elephant in the room.”

Do we, volunteer managers have a Mokita stomping around our offices?  Do we put our fingers in our ears when it trumpets? Yeah, I kinda think we do. So what is it? What big elephant are we ignoring when it knocks reports off the shelf and whacks us with its trunk as we work?

We, volunteer managers are at war within ourselves.

Yep, I believe we are. See, on one hand, we are givers, nice, humble, stand in the background types who push our painstakingly cultivated volunteers to reach for the sky. We fade into the shadows while putting everyone ahead of ourselves-the volunteers, the clients, staff, administration, the board, the donors, everyone. Very noble, right?

On the other hand, though, we secretly would like to do a little taking. Somehow we magically hope our organizations will recognize the work we are doing, will appreciate all the sacrifice, and will actually see us in the shadows and give us the respect we have earned. We want a seat at the adult table. We want more than just individual volunteers honored once a year. Truth be told, we want our programs and yes, ourselves recognized as well . Selfish, right?

And when no one sees us in the corner, we get frustrated. We feel beaten down, unappreciated, misunderstood. We can become bitter and angry. We can quit and go work at the Tire and Lube Store down the street or we can stick around and watch the elephant grow bigger on the peanuts of continuing letdown.

It is our Mokita-our deep appreciation for being humble and giving versus our frustration at not being recognized for our humility and giving nature. And it is our inner turmoil in refusing to ‘sell our souls’ to become selfish in wanting to fix this. It is the elephant that constantly bumps our desks and breaks our spirits. Those silent pretty elephant eyes look accusingly at us and ask, “will you cease to be that nurturing person if you demand some respect?”

So what do we do? Are we doomed because nice guys really do finish last? Or, are we, as a profession, awakening from under the blanket of background existence woven from fibers of frustration? Can we somehow balance our give and take and still maintain our cultivating spirits?

What do you think? Well, here’s a question for you to ponder: Do you think volunteer managers should rise to Executive Director positions? If you hesitated, even for just a teeny bit, the Mokita is strong with you.

Next time, some thoughts on Mokita: Do we have to live in the shadow of the elephant?