That new volunteer seemed excited to give their time to your organization, but something isn’t quite working out. Maybe they’re not performing like you’d hoped they would, or maybe they’re disrupting the work of others. Maybe they complain about everything from the office being too cold to the closest bus stop being too far away.
Don’t get overly anxious about the situation. Stay calm, and try to address the situation in a way that’s respectful to your volunteer and beneficial for your organization. Here are some tips to make things easier:
The volunteer you’re working with is getting on your last nerve, and you’d like nothing more than to start yelling the next time they come up to you and complain about the kind of soap in the washroom.
This is not the best course of action.
If the volunteer comes to you with a problem and you know you aren’t able to keep a cool head, let them know that you’re a bit busy but you would like to talk to them about their problem. Schedule some time to talk with them the next time they’re in. Go about the rest of your day, it will help you get away from being frustrated with your volunteer.
The Feedback Sandwich
You might want to start the conversation with the volunteer with a list of things that are frustrating you. It’s not the best course of action, even though it might feel good to get it all off of your chest.
Try starting the conversation with something positive about the volunteer. Let them know that you appreciate the work they’ve been doing or their dedication to the organization’s mission, or how it’s great that they’re the only one that can make a database return just the right information.
Try not to make it sound like there’s a “but” coming when you do this.
Address the behavior that’s causing friction. Don’t do it in a way that accuses the volunteer of something, and try to avoid assigning blame. Ask the volunteer if there’s something that you can do to help them with whatever is wrong. This could be the time where you find out that the volunteer’s allergic to something in the soap in the washroom and not just being picky.
Follow up with something else positive about the volunteer’s work. People tend to remember the last thing that was said in a conversation, and if it’s something positive it will help to maintain a positive relationship with your volunteer.
When you’re talking to your volunteer, really listen to what they have to say. Let them know that you understand what they’re saying, and that you’ve had some rough patches too. This might be cliché, but it works. Things calm down when people can tell their story and know that they’re being heard.
Talk about what can be done to remove some of the obstacles facing the volunteer. Suggest some actions that you can take to help remedy the situation. Empower the volunteer by letting them know that you can back them up if they need help making their situation better.
It’s easy to focus on the situation as it’s happening – the complaints or the disruptions. Take a deep breath and pull back from the situation. Remember that you’re all working together to help support the mission of your organization. Lifting eyes to the prize can smooth tensions and inspire renewed effort.
How have you successfully dealt with a difficult volunteer? Let us know in the comments!