To conclude this series of posts about dealing with conflict between staff and volunteers, I have saved the best til last. We have three cracking ideas here – all designed to wreck your volunteer programme!
“Don’t let staff supervise the volunteers who work with them. As a volunteer director, you should be sure to retain all authority over ‘your’ volunteers.”
This will work so well won’t it? After all how would the staff who supervise the volunteers regularly know what was going on with them? It will be so helpful if you stick your nose in and manage all the volunteers in the organisation. Being omnipotent will really make your volunteer involvement successful won’t it? I’m clearly joking, but this happens and trying to “retain all authority” will simply cause confusion amongst the volunteers, dissension amongst the staff and the fallout could be serious. Why would you want to do this? Surely you are better allowing staff to manage the volunteers in their areas and liaising regularly to see it’s running smoothly.
“Try to suppress any problems that come to your attention. Listening only encourages complaints.”
Oops! The problem with trying to suppress problems is that they invariably get bigger and rather than nipping them in the bud, they may rumble on and cause more serious problems. A prime example is a local charity shop, where volunteers were leaving in droves because the shop manager didn’t like new volunteers, preferring their clique of long-serving volunteers, who were allowed to bully the new volunteers and along with the manager, make them feel so undervalued and useless, they rarely stopped longer than a week. Enter an outraged parent, whose best friend was a local journalist and yours truly. Rang the charity to speak to the volunteer co-ordinator who’d taken the afternoon off and spoken to a very helpful man, who offered to see if he could help. Five minutes later with full details give and a promise to call the outraged parent immediately, I was confident the issue would be resolved. Two days later I had a call from the now much happier parent, telling me the shop manager had been sacked as a result of the bullying, the clique dispersed to separate shifts and the aggrieved volunteer was going back next day. Apparently the helpful man was the charity’s Director, who happened to be passing the phone and thought he’d pick it up!
“In case of disputes, operate on the principle that “The Staff is Always Right.” Or operate on the principle of “My Volunteers, Right or Wrong.” This is no time for compromise”
Another key to a successful volunteer programme? Why would you care about resolving issues? Quite simply because you need to deal with any issues equitably, following a laid out procedure and ensuring EVERYONE [be it staff, volunteer, or management], gets an opportunity to express their views, state their case and have someone with them to support them if they wish. I have seen numerous examples of staff ganging up against a particular volunteer, volunteers ganging up against a member of staff and even false allegations against management. You need to follow the procedure laid down, gather evidence, witness statements if required and be transparent in your processes. If you need advice or support, just contact your local Volunteer Centre, who are happy to take on a mediation role as they are independent.