Working for a nonprofit, I quickly learned that unless stuff was written in a memo, information was pretty much filtered through the staff person or volunteer sharing it. I also learned the hard way, whom I could trust and who blabbed upon leaving my office. I actually identified 734 different types of info spreaders, which I compiled into a book entitled “The Industrial Psychology of Spreading Information:” but since I am not a clinical psychologist, the book was widely rejected. Anyway, we’ll only look at the top 5. Which ones do you recognize?
The Sieve leaks information in a nice way, to share good news, etc. but they are often misguided. The Sieve is a good person and when the sieve hears someone being maligned, they will step in with any information entrusted to them to “help that person out.”
Staff person: “Volunteer Doris was 30 minutes late again. Is she really reliable?”
Sieve: “Well, did you know that Doris is late sometimes because she takes in stray cats. She has like 136 cats in her home that she has to take care of, so she’s kinda busy with fighting the city, because they’ve condemned her home, so let’s give Doris a break, OK? Oh, and you might want to take some allergy medication with you when you work with Doris.”
The tap is always on with the spigot. They broadcast everything to everyone because they….wait, honestly, I don’t know why they do it. But they are always lurking, ready to share, so never, ever tell them in a moment of weakness that you wear Groot jammies to bed.
Volunteer Manager (noticing a staff member still at their desk): “Hey, c’mon, there’s a fire in the microwave in the breakroom, so let’s go, we gotta exit the building.”
Spigot: (getting up) “I’ll bet it was Betta; she’s burned 4 microwave popcorn packs this month. Did you know she has this weird idea that eating popcorn makes you concentrate more?” (Volunteer manager grabs spigot’s arms, yanks them to the door) “Speaking of fire, did you know that Monty in accounting’s son is serving time for arson?”
The Mold Maker
With the mold maker, information goes in raw, comes out according to how the mold maker perceived it. Remember the old kids’ game telephone where you would whisper a message in the ear of the kid next to you and by the time it got to the end it was mangled? The mold maker perceives everything according to their world view or whether they’re constipated, I’m not sure which.
Mold Maker Example:
Volunteer Manager: “I’ll set up a meeting with our finance director to discuss that new program. Right now I believe he’s in a meeting.”
Mold Maker Volunteer: “Oh, yes, the poor finance director; he’s probably talking to his divorce lawyer. I heard from Janey in records that he was going through a nasty divorce. You know,(Mold Maker Volunteer whispering) his wife left him because he works too much, stays here so late. Let that be a lesson to you. You shouldn’t work so much, tsk, tsk.”
The Shredder massacres the message because the shredder does not listen well, or at all, so you can never, ever expect the message to arrive in the same condition you sent it.
Volunteer Manager: “Look, this is extremely important. Please tell the CEO that the volunteers are willing to dress up as wait staff and serve at that black-tie donor event, but they would need gas money reimbursement to drive the 87 miles to the country club at Lake Hilda.”
Shredder to CEO: “Yeah, Madame CEO, the volunteer manager said something about the volunteers wanting you to serve them Thai food at the banquet. Oh, and they’re afraid of falling into an 80 foot deep lake and for some reason, they think your name is Hilda.” (shrugs). “Volunteers, jeesh, they’re a funny bunch, right?”
The Steel Trap
For a Steel trap, everything in, nothing out. I tried to be a steel trap at work. I always viewed information shared in confidence as akin to a possession. That info is not mine. It’s belongs to the person sharing. If I spread it, I’ve stolen it.
And here’s the thing about being a steel trap-you get to hear all kinds of helpful stuff. When you’re a trusted source, people will seek you out, because sometimes, they just gotta share, right? So, you hear things like “there’s going to be a huge change to policy, no one knows it yet.” Or you might hear something that is a key to someone’s motivation. Or that there’s a backlog in finance or marketing is fighting with one another. Since we, LoVols are typically info junkies, there’s quite the upside to being a steel trap.
Steel Trap Example
Staff Member: “Hey, Lazo talks to you all the time. What’s going on with him leaving for an hour at lunch?”
Steel Trap: “That’s Lazo’s business. Go ask him.”
Volunteer: “What’s going on with volunteer Jemma? I heard she’s sick.”
Steel Trap: “Thanks for your concern. What Jemma shared with me is confidential. I’m sure if you shared confidential information with me, you would expect me to respect your wishes.”
Information is a valuable commodity. For us, volunteer engagement professionals, knowing the filter in which you hear information can save a lot of time and trouble. And being a trusted steel trap can just be your ticket to hearing all the stuff that gives you a leadership edge.
Sue Hine said:
Love it! And as I now sit in a Covid total lockdown here in NZ I can see how the kind of communication you are describing is very like a virus spreader.
Thanks Sue! Be safe my friend! And funny how everything starts to resemble a virus or a pandemic right now. It’s the metaphor that won’t go away. (Like a pandemic)
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