open thread – April 7-8, 2023 — Ask a Manager

Struggling hard this week at a volunteer gig. I’m a lead volunteer, one of four. We work with a couple of (paid) coordinators and a manager. Each lead volunteer oversees a gaggle of entry-level volunteers in shifts for a kids program. We handle issues, make sure everything’s covered, and report problems to the coordinators and manager. Depending on what’s going on that day, there could be one lead volunteer on duty, or multiple, and during big events, the coordinators and/or manager may be there.

I was leading alone this morning with a handful of volunteers, and Denise, one of our new volunteers, was complaining about the kids being frustrating. Honestly, I don’t think Denise is cut out to work with kids, because the behaviors she finds complaint-worthy are pretty mild. I had a conversation with her that was appropriate for my level (“this really isn’t that bad, please don’t complain about the kids in front of the kids, do you need a break?”). After the event, I texted the program group chat (the other 3 leaders, the coordinators, and the manager), to report it. Denise’s negativity has come up a time or two before already.

But Pete — another volunteer lead at my level, chimed in and said he’d have a conversation with Denise about it. That is NOT necessary…I’d already talked to her. Down the road, I foresee someone above us needing to have a conversation with her about whether our organization is really the right place for her volunteer efforts, but that’s not an appropriate conversation for Pete to have. I asked him to stop and leave the conversation where I left it, but he’d already texted her….that’s another issue with Pete. He’s always in such a hurry to act that, by the time I tell him not to act, he replies “lol already did it.”

Pete is a try-hard. He’s made it clear that he wants a paid position in the organization eventually. He does great work but he always over-does everything. He second-guesses me, especially when the org staff are around to see it, which is annoying. He re-does work that does not need to be redone, if I use the team group chat to ask questions he’s always first to chime in with an answer and it’s not always right. We had an initiative a few weeks back that involved sending info to parents who requested it and marking them off a list, and he was so focused on sending as much as he possibly could as fast as he could, that he didn’t keep up with marking requests off, and a lot of parents got duplicate information (but gosh darn it he sent more than anyone else.)

We had a team conversation about future interest/availability for paid roles, and I spoke up and said I was happy with what I was doing and wanted to stick with volunteering at this level of responsibility, and he chimed in saying that he and another volunteer lead had already let Manager know they were interested in paid roles so she had plenty of people to choose from if a coordinator role opened up and it didn’t matter that I wasn’t interested. The tone was…condescending. Both he and the other volunteer lead who wants a paid role tend to stir up/escalate drama instead of smoothing it over or letting the paid staff handle it. I have experience in roles similar to the Manager’s in other nonprofits and would be a good fit, but I have no desire to do that again…if I’m going to take on that kind of grief, I’ll do it for a public sector salary.

I think there’s probably nothing for me to do in response to all this, but I needed to vent. I think I’m going to format any solo issue reports to the text group differently, and use more of a “here’s what happened, here’s what I’ve done as a lead, here’s what I think should happen next” structure, especially when I’m reporting “FYI only” type stuff. And if it continues, I may scale back my volunteering or find somewhere else to pitch in. If he ever gets a paid supervisory role, I’m out of there.

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