Author Topic: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...  (Read 2546 times)

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despedina

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I am heavily involved in Girl Scouts and am Unit Manager for 2 public school districts and 2 religious schools.  Last spring, we found a need to replace some of our volunteers for various reasons.  Girl Scouts does a fall fundraiser (selling candies and nuts) and the current woman who had been doing this on a Unit Level (Unit Fall Funds mgr) is having a baby very soon and we knew she would not be up to anything extra for a few months.  This position entails training all the troops, handing out the forms and permission slips to each troop, receiving copies of the permission slips, getting the order for each troop and delivering product to each troop. Each troop in turn has a troop level Fall funds person to handle the individual girls.

I asked a few people and didn't get any takers until I asked a woman we'll call Lisa. Lisa said she'd do it only she didn't have anywhere to store the product once it came in from Council. We told her we had a church (one of the religious schools) to store product until the troops came to get it and all she'd have to do was be there to hand it out (time to be chosen by her).

She agreed, so I put her name down as our Unit Fall Funds mgr and haven't heard anything else until about 3 weeks ago.

At that time she forwarded an email from the Council Fall funds person listing the Unit Fall Funds training times. She was concerned because one training was a weekday at 8:30 am and the other at 5:30 pm. Both locations were over an hour away from our Unit area.  She said she could not make the trainings.
I agreed the times were inconvenient and I spoke to Council about it and we agreed that the booklet would be sent to her and the previous Unit Fall Funds person (who is having the baby) could be available by phone to answer any questions that remained.

Today I get an urgent phone call from our District level Fall Funds Mgr (who handles the county). We'll call her Rhonda. She proceeds to tell me that Lisa called her to say she was doing this under duress and that she begged us not to put her name down as the Unit Fall Funds mgr, but we did anyway and a Fall Funds booklet and paperwork showed up in the mail.   Rhonda proceeds to ask me why I would do this to which I told it was the first I've heard of such a thing. Lisa also apparently told Rhonda that she does not have any internet access to handle Fall Funds business. I find this hard to believe since she's a teacher at my son's school and also teaches at the local community college.

To be honest I was quite hurt that someone would feel I'm forcing them into something, and stressed to know I have to replace someone at this late hour. I called my Communication Chair and then emailed the rest of our immediate Service team to tell them the emergency (Rhonda told me we need to be having our Unit Fall Funds training within the next 3 weeks as Fall Funds sales begin Oct 12).  I also messaged Lisa through facebook by saying we'd be replacing her as Fall Funds Mgr and that I sincerely apologize for any stress or inconvenience the position has caused.  I guess I forgot to ask her to get the paperwork to me, so I guess I'll be emailing again tomorrow.

So did I handle this correctly? My husband told me I'm taking the "way to high" road in this situation, and turned myself into a doormat.

Acadianna

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2013, 10:33:41 PM »
Former service unit director here.  (Sounds like the same as your unit manager position.)  I'd have handled it just as you did.  You had to replace her -- the job of coordinating fundraising at the unit level is too big and important to entrust to someone who (apparently) hasn't freely accepted the assignment.  On the other hand, you don't want to alienate an adult volunteer in your unit -- you probably still have to work with her.  I see this more as "not burning bridges" than as "doormat."

CookieChica

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2013, 11:04:41 PM »
No way you're a doormat. You can't force her to do this job. If you waste time placing the blame on her or questioning her (i.e Internet suspicions) it could make you look petty even if you're right.

Focus on moving forward!

Raintree

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2013, 11:05:35 PM »
Sounds like she was the doormat. She didn't want to do it, and instead of saying no, she came up with excuses why she "couldn't": nowhere to store things, unable to make trainings. You, understandably, didn't realize she was trying to get out of it and instead made arrangements to accommodate her difficulties.

She should have just said she wasn't interested in doing it, period. Or too busy, or "that won't be possible" or "not this time, thanks for asking." Instead she beat about the bush as so many of us do when asked to do something we don't want to do.

despedina

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2013, 11:44:48 PM »
I think what bothers me the most is I've seen her several times recently since she's a music teacher at my son's school. I spoke to her about girl scout related topics and events and she always seemed upbeat and positive, never once insinuating that she was overwhelmed or anything.

I only wish she would have said something over the summer. Now I'm scrambling to find someone to do this position, and I'll probably end up absorbing it myself.

Yvaine

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2013, 11:47:22 PM »
Sounds like she was the doormat. She didn't want to do it, and instead of saying no, she came up with excuses why she "couldn't": nowhere to store things, unable to make trainings. You, understandably, didn't realize she was trying to get out of it and instead made arrangements to accommodate her difficulties.

She should have just said she wasn't interested in doing it, period. Or too busy, or "that won't be possible" or "not this time, thanks for asking." Instead she beat about the bush as so many of us do when asked to do something we don't want to do.

Yep, this is what I was thinking too. She was trying to say no but never actually said it.

Marbles

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2013, 04:32:25 AM »
Wow. I'd be really angry with Lisa for not being honest about not wanting to volunteer, telling lies about your character (you *forced* her to volunteer?), and then leaving you in the lurch.

Evil Marbles wants to know whether she has emailed back to say "No, no. No need to replace me. I can do it."  ::)

It would be a long time before I asked her to do anything more than drop a paper in the recycle bin.

sammycat

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2013, 05:09:53 AM »
Wow. I'd be really angry with Lisa for not being honest about not wanting to volunteer, telling lies about your character (you *forced* her to volunteer?), and then leaving you in the lurch.

Evil Marbles wants to know whether she has emailed back to say "No, no. No need to replace me. I can do it."  ::)

It would be a long time before I asked her to do anything more than drop a paper in the recycle bin.

This is what got me too. 

Whether she really wanted to volunteer or not, the fact is she did, but then outright lied about it to a third person. I would've told Rhonda straight out that that is not the situation at all, and that Lisa had never once behaved the way Rhonda was describing. There's no way I'd sit back and let my character be assassinated like that.

Next up, I'd contact Lisa and ask her flat out whey she told Rhonda what she did, and tell her that if at any time she really didn't want to do this task all she had to do was tell you and you'd have made other arrangements. I would also never accept any further offers of help from her, assuming she ever would.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2013, 07:49:43 AM by sammycat »

despedina

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2013, 07:44:46 AM »
So this is the response I get this morning:

Despedina,
I made a date to meek with Rhonda to train on friday morning do you want me to cancel it? let me know. I was upset at first due to an unexpected job given to me at work. I didn't realize that I would be required to work almost every evening this year. I'm sorry that I was so upset but, I truly don't think I will be able to do the job for you. You need someone who can do it well, I cannot. I have materials and will bring them to Hometown. I am truly sorry if I have caused any inconvenience. I hope to be able to attend a few leader meetings this year. Hope to see you soon, Lisa


My response:
Wow she didn't mention that to me at all (about you setting a date to train), yes please just tell her you want to cancel. If you want, you can leave the materials with my sons at the after school care in the cafeteria and we'll get them that way. Just let me know what day you do it so we keep an eye out for them. Thanks for your help and we'll figure it out.



So now I'm pretty sure neither Lisa nor Rhonda are telling me the whole story. I'm pretty confused.   And for those that mentioned, I did tell Rhonda that those statements were absolute lies.  Rhonda actually kind of seemed annoyed with me, asking that I handle the situation immediately.

MrTango

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2013, 10:32:50 AM »
No way you're a doormat. You can't force her to do this job. If you waste time placing the blame on her or questioning her (i.e Internet suspicions) it could make you look petty even if you're right.

Focus on moving forward!

This.

Move forward, and do so with the knowledge that you can never trust this person with any amount of responsibility again.

StuffedGrapeLeaves

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2013, 10:53:05 AM »
Sounds like she was the doormat. She didn't want to do it, and instead of saying no, she came up with excuses why she "couldn't": nowhere to store things, unable to make trainings. You, understandably, didn't realize she was trying to get out of it and instead made arrangements to accommodate her difficulties.

She should have just said she wasn't interested in doing it, period. Or too busy, or "that won't be possible" or "not this time, thanks for asking." Instead she beat about the bush as so many of us do when asked to do something we don't want to do.

I agree with this.  But all you can do is just move forward.  If Rhonda tries to blame you again, you can always reiterate that what Lisa told her was untrue, but you are focused on moving forward.

gen xer

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2013, 11:09:12 AM »

My patience would have worn thin really fast with this.  Now as someone with doormattish tendencies I understand that sometimes people feel pressured into taking things on that they don't really want to do.....but to assail your character by insinuating that you coerced her?

This is more than being unreliable and I wouldn't stand for having her tell people that you bullied her into it.  Maybe it is flogging a dead horse but I would want to ask her point blank why she was telling people that she was doing it under duress and that if she didn't want to do it just to say so without all the dithering and excuse making.  Don't let that slide.  Let her know that it gets back to you and maybe she will think twice about saying that kind of stuff again.

This is the kind of horse doogies that turn people off volunteering.

jedikaiti

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2013, 01:48:46 PM »
Former service unit director here.  (Sounds like the same as your unit manager position.)  I'd have handled it just as you did.  You had to replace her -- the job of coordinating fundraising at the unit level is too big and important to entrust to someone who (apparently) hasn't freely accepted the assignment.  On the other hand, you don't want to alienate an adult volunteer in your unit -- you probably still have to work with her.  I see this more as "not burning bridges" than as "doormat."

Exactly. You don't want to alienate her, but I wouldn't count on her ever again.
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bloo

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Re: Taking the high road when a volunteer flakes out last minute...
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2013, 03:14:39 PM »
Sounds like she was the doormat. She didn't want to do it, and instead of saying no, she came up with excuses why she "couldn't": nowhere to store things, unable to make trainings. You, understandably, didn't realize she was trying to get out of it and instead made arrangements to accommodate her difficulties.

She should have just said she wasn't interested in doing it, period. Or too busy, or "that won't be possible" or "not this time, thanks for asking." Instead she beat about the bush as so many of us do when asked to do something we don't want to do.

Yep, this is what I was thinking too. She was trying to say no but never actually said it.

Yes. This.

I had a similar situation in a work-related issue. Sort of.

Basically an acquaintance, Ally, who was/is close to my BFF was hired by my boss to take over part of my responsibilities as I wanted to go part-time. At my recommendation she was hired. My mistake.

I let Ally know that if she needed some time off, to call me and we could arrange me taking over her responsibilities. Well, she and her husband were really hurting for money and she told me her husband, Carl, was actually better at the job and was helping her do it (work at home) so when she called me to take over the job for 4 days, I asked her if she just wanted Carl to do it and I would pick up the products and deliver them for them. I didn't mind doing the job at all, but I knew they were hurting for money so I thought I might be doing them a favor. She said, "Well, that's an idea." I said, "Is that a yes?" She said, "Okay."

So I pick up the products without incident for the four days and deliver them only to have my BFF tell me a week later that Ally is griping and whining about how I said I'd do the work if she needed time off but instead I foisted it on to her DH. I'm all like  :o.

So I went to Ally and explained to her that I wasn't trying to not do the work. I thought I was helping her and if it's not helping, she has to actually tell me that. She was embarrassed and understood me.

But that was a work situation and not a volunteer one. My point in sharing is that while we discussed the miscommunication (which was based on her miscommunicating) I knew full and well that she was not going to change her communication style to a more direct one, nor would she probably quit griping about me to my friends. I don't know how I would have handled her better going forward, because she decided to quit, thankfully, a few weeks later.