I think we, leaders of volunteers hold ourselves to this inner higher standard. Not that we think we’re better or more noble, but because we believe the volunteers and our missions deserve a steward who believes in higher purposes. But sometimes, well…
So, there’s senior managers and then there’s favored senior managers, right? Maybe they’re legacy managers because they’ve been around so long and they’re like pets now, or maybe they tell the CEO exactly what needs to be heard, like “no one gets how brilliant you are, but me.”
I recall one favored senior manager (FSM) had some questionable taste in decorating. (not my words, but pretty much everyone else’s). She loved to decorate our main care center. (Actually everyone did, can you say teal and mauve explosion?) One day, some pretty influential donors were coming for a tour and my boss asked if the volunteers (which was me, really) to tidy up the front lobby. I went the extra mile and did the communal bathroom too. Someone had placed this hideous arrangement of faded silk flowers on the sink, so I took them out and tossed them in the dumpster.
Not more than 20 minutes later, the FSM burst into my office asking where the flower arrangement in the bathroom went. “Did the volunteers disturb it?” Uh oh. Turns out these pale flowers were given to her by her dear, late mother and they meant the world to her. (why she didn’t keep them at home, but rather, subjected the rest of us to them, who knew–wait, they had a teal container, oh, now I get it ). Mouth hanging open, I stuttered, “I’ll take a look, maybe the volunteers are washing them, you know to make a good impression on the donors.”
That seemed to satisfy her. So, I bolted out the back door and crawled into the dumpster while staff went by, watching me throwing garbage around, but I managed to find the arrangement under a load of lunch leftovers. I went back inside and washed the flowers, loaded with spaghetti sauce in the sink, scrubbing the sauce away. (yeah, white flowers were now pinkish–was that mauve I was seeing?) I put the arrangement back into the bathroom and hurried off to find the FSM. “That’s what happened,” I said, breathless, as she got up to go meet the arriving donors. “The volunteers wanted everything to look wonderful, so they washed the arrangement.”
Satisfied, she waved me off. I went back to work, breathing a sigh of relief. However, an hour later, the FSM was in my office again. “While I appreciate the volunteers washing my arrangement, one flower is missing. Do you know where it is?”
Yes, I knew. It was in the dumpster. “Ahhh, I think they said it broke when they washed it.” I lied. “They said they were really, really sorry because it is just so beautiful.”
“Well, next time, have them ask before they touch the decorations.” She turned. “The volunteers are well meaning, but sometimes they think they know better than the actual people who work here.”
I stared at her for a long moment, a tick on my eyelid pulsing. “You know, you are so right. I just hate it when they think they know more than us.”
So, this is my formal apology. Uh, sorry volunteers, I threw you all under the bus.