Dear Hobie & Monk,
I’m a corporate guy, and the expectations for appropriate behavior and job performance are very clear in my professional setting. It has become increasingly frustrating in my volunteer organization, however, to see one person in particular spoil the enjoyment and effectiveness of our group. Do you have any recommendations for how to handle a volunteer who’s making everyone else miserable?
– Coping with a party-pooper
Hobie: I’m assuming this fellow volunteer is merely annoying, rather than inappropriate in a way that necessitates immediate dismissal from the organization. My advice for handling “The Annoying One” is akin to firefighters’ advice for dealing with self-conflagration: stop, drop and roll.
When the volunteer is spoiling something, stop what’s going on in the moment and drop a hint or two: “Tom, I think we’re supposed to let the Boy Scouts set up the tents themselves. Step away from the hammer.” Or: “Bernice, maybe the board could set the agenda together. Step away from the gavel.”
And if none of this shapes a change in behavior but you’re really invested in continuing to volunteer, find a way to roll with it and enjoy yourself. Tom and Bernice may eventually burn out anyway.
Monk: You would do well to apply Hobie’s fire-safety measures when things heat up at your volunteer organization, but you also might consider adopting a fire brigade mindset. You know, everything goes better when you’re all working as a team.
You might enlist the help of similarly minded colleagues. Presumably, your group will agree on a few basic performance standards and share the responsibility for conveying organizational expectations to new and knuckleheaded volunteers.
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