Author Topic: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind  (Read 3911 times)

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Green Bean

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The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« on: September 21, 2013, 09:15:41 PM »
While this incident happened in a volunteer setting, I think the interaction could happen in many settings. I'm wondering how I could have better handled the situation.

As I've mentioned in prior posts, I'm a Girl Scout leader (for not quite a year.) At this time of year, we hold informational meetings to help parents and other adults start up new troops. As a volunteer organization, it highly relies on volunteers to step up to lead a troop of girls. If not enough parents are willing to work in a leader role, girls will be wait-listed until there is an opening in a troop. Last year, there were many (70-80) girls in our service unit on wait lists.

Last week I helped out at an informational meeting to try to encourage parents to volunteer and start up new troops. Shortly after the meeting started, a woman came in late and sat down. The person in charge (also a volunteer troop leader) has started her talk. I walked over to the late arriver and gave her some papers. She then says (with an attitude in her voice) that they moved here a year ago from out of state, her daughters were in troops in old state, and she has been given the run around over the past year trying to get her daughters in new troops. Tone can be thard to convey, but I felt as if she was blaming me for her lack of success. Instinctively, I was put on the defensive and just pointed to the woman talking, said everyone here was here to get troops started, and perhaps she should listen to the presenter.

A few people told me that I was fine under the circumstances. If she had come early, I would have been able to address her concerns to a small extent, but there was someone talking and I wanted give her attention and have respect for those listening. However, I also feel my abrupt comments didn't help her feel heard. Thoughts?

esposita

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2013, 10:17:32 PM »
I think you did beeeautifully. I understand wanting to help her be heard, but hearing someone starts with the person who wants to be heard picking an appropriate time to talk. She picked an incredibly inappropriate time to start a conversation like that.

If you feel obligated, make sure to approach her after the meeting next time to "follow up" and make sure she had her questions answered. But she probably just wanted to blow off some steam, and she chose a bad time and place for it.

TootsNYC

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2013, 10:27:32 PM »
ooh, I wish you'd done this--happy face! "Oh, you want to start a troop, come here in the hallway so we don't disturb people [tug, tug on the arm]. So you've got experience with what a Scout troop should be--that's great! We have a real shortage of troops; girls who've been on the list for a long time who are just waiting for an adult to be willing to start a troop. And now you've come, with some experience in Scouting. I'm sure you'd love to be a leader, where do you live? How big a troop do you think you could handle?"

I think you did fine. She is mad and wants to have that be the center of everyone's attention. So she started a big complaint in the middle of someone speaking.

I think you did nicely.

LifeOnPluto

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2013, 12:14:34 AM »
Let me get this straight - she tried to start a conversation with you, when the other troop leader was giving a presentation?

If so, she is quite rude. It's not good form to have a private conversation when other people around you are trying to listen to a presentation. Given the circumstances, I think you handled it ok. At most, you could have added "I'm happy to discuss this further with you after the presentation."

*inviteseller

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2013, 12:41:02 PM »
She came in with an attitude because she isn't getting her way.  She is a SS from the sounds of it.  She is late, interrupts and complains?  If she wants to be taken seriously she should have been on time, found the right person to speak with, and explained in a calm way her dilemma and heard the different solutions for getting her problem solved.  What do you want to bet she would never be a troop leader...other people can volunteer but not her, others are there to serve her needs.  You did fine..if she wanted to be heard there are better ways to do it (and make a batter first impression!)

Green Bean

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2013, 08:09:23 PM »
Thank you! I must be such a lucky girl that I rarely have these types of interactions with people,

LifeOnPluto - I think your suggestion was the type of statement I was trying to think of. Sadly, I don't think it would have worked in this situation. A friend that was also there tried to help her directly after the presentation, but was rudely turned away. Sadly, I suspect she would have been unhappy regardless.

I hope her daughters the best in getting into a troop. (Un)fortunately, my troop is already full.

gmatoy

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2013, 10:04:53 PM »
I was the troop leader for two years. I was also the cookie mom for two years. I helped man the cookie table in front of the store for each and every sale.

Want to know why I wouldn't do it a third year? This mom or her clones. Drop them off early, pick them up late, don't send the dues with the girl, and yell at me when I had the child wait on our covered porch. (DH wanted to take a shower and wasn't comfortable with someone else's child in our house.)

I don't drive and my DH was sooo good about getting me to things, but it got old quickly when other moms going to the same table sale, couldn't give me a ride.

I wanted to do it so that my daughter could stay in Girl Scouts, I just couldn't do it without any help. And Girl Scouts wouldn't put her in a troop where I could be the helper. :(

LifeOnPluto

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2013, 11:14:48 PM »
Thank you! I must be such a lucky girl that I rarely have these types of interactions with people,

LifeOnPluto - I think your suggestion was the type of statement I was trying to think of. Sadly, I don't think it would have worked in this situation. A friend that was also there tried to help her directly after the presentation, but was rudely turned away. Sadly, I suspect she would have been unhappy regardless.

I hope her daughters the best in getting into a troop. (Un)fortunately, my troop is already full.

Sounds like she was looking to pick a fight then.

I'm glad for your sake that your troop is already full!

Promise

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2013, 11:23:14 PM »
She came with displaced anger. Her anger is towards a community that does not have adults who support the number of children who want to participate in this organization. She took that attitude toward you because you were her closest target associated with the scouts. When those things happen, it's best to bean dip - deflect away to something else, and you were the poster child for that technique.

BeagleMommy

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2013, 02:41:02 PM »
OP, you did just fine.  It sounds like this woman wanted to pick a fight.  I went through this with PTA.  There was a core group of us that volunteered for all the events.  The ones that didn't come to any meetings were always the first to complain that things werent' done to their expectations.

Quiltin Nana

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2013, 03:23:24 PM »
Wow 70 - 80 girls on wait lists.  I find that fact just mind boggling.   

Maybe it's because I've been the one who always was the volunteer, but I just can't understand if you want your child to participate in an activity why you can't volunteer some of your time to help in some capacity.  Not everyone needs to be the leader, but there are lots of other ways to help.  I'm still volunteering time for my granddaughter's Brownie troop occasionally when they have a need for some expertise that I possess.   

mrs_deb

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2013, 05:51:23 PM »
...I just can't understand if you want your child to participate in an activity why you can't volunteer some of your time to help in some capacity. 

Darn good question, Quiltin Nana.  Mr_Deb & I coached Little League for 8 years and I found that there were plenty of parents who wanted to complain about their child's playing time, and tell you exactly what you were doing wrong and how it should be done, but very few who actually were willing to help DO it.

And I'm not talking about taking a team, which is a big job, either.  I'm talking about coaching a base at one game, or picking up trash, or manning the concessions stand on a Saturday afternoon.

*inviteseller

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2013, 06:46:55 PM »
...I just can't understand if you want your child to participate in an activity why you can't volunteer some of your time to help in some capacity. 

Darn good question, Quiltin Nana.  Mr_Deb & I coached Little League for 8 years and I found that there were plenty of parents who wanted to complain about their child's playing time, and tell you exactly what you were doing wrong and how it should be done, but very few who actually were willing to help DO it.

And I'm not talking about taking a team, which is a big job, either.  I'm talking about coaching a base at one game, or picking up trash, or manning the concessions stand on a Saturday afternoon.

Very good question!  I feel bad for my younger DD because I am loathe to volunteer for much anymore after getting burned out with my older DD.  PTA, soccer, basketball..you name it it was the same darn people every year busting their rears, finding time in their own work/home schedules, forking out money while the Wendy & Wally Whiners moaned and groaned that they shouldn't have to work for 1/2 hr one a season in the concession stand, or cut up some oranges and bring a few jugs of cold water, or plan out a science fair/book fair/ ect but the ones who did just did it all wrongwrongwrong.  I actually had one mom confront me at the science fair I organized and did without any other volunteers (we were stretched so thin in the volunteer corps that everyone had to do their event on their own) and say "why is this not a judged competition, if I had done it it would have been and there would be awards"  I looked at her as I was working the hands on exhibit table and answering a million questions from other parents and kids and said "Well, hows about you run the science fair next year?" and she was gracious enough to reply "I am too busy, I have kids and a household to run".  How I didn't clock her one still amazes me as I am a single mom, full time job, treasurer of the PTA, plus 4 committees, and I coached soccer.  The ones most vocal about how bad everything is are the ones who do the absolute least, are late picking their kids up (Oh I was shopping and turned my cell phone off) always 'forget' when money is due for something but will catch you at the next game/meeting (but you chase them down), and conveniently aren't able to come to the game when it is their turn for snack/concession stand duty.

Acadianna

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2013, 10:33:26 PM »
How I didn't clock her one still amazes me as I am a single mom, full time job, treasurer of the PTA, plus 4 committees, and I coached soccer.

Like you, I volunteered in every activity my kids participated in, usually in pretty major roles (troop leader, team parent, one year as soccer coach, etc.)  Usually several of these simultaneously.

I was also a service unit director (volunteer) in Girl Scouts, with thirty-odd troops in our unit -- so a significant amount of work.  The one part of the job I absolutely loathed was recruiting troop leaders every September.  Hearing excuse after excuse -- a few good, most not -- eventually led me to burn out, although I loved everything else about the position.

The one excuse that absolutely floored me though was from a woman who said she couldn't be a leader because she "valued [her] family time."

I so wanted to respond (but didn't), "Well, lady, I value my family time too.  But I give up part of it so my child -- and yours -- can have a great Scouting experience."

The other flabber-gaster was from a mother who berated me because I hadn't recruited experienced leadership for her daughter's Daisy troop.  (The troop leader who volunteered was new to Scouting.)  I'm not sure how she expected me to do that.  Pay a salary, maybe?

TootsNYC

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Re: The Complainer with an Axe to Grind
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2013, 08:49:29 AM »
Quote
"Well, hows about you run the science fair next year?" and she was gracious enough to reply "I am too busy, I have kids and a household to run".  How I didn't clock her one still amazes me as I am a single mom, full time job, treasurer of the PTA, plus 4 committees, and I coached soccer.


I so wanted to respond (but didn't), "Well, lady, I value my family time too.  But I give up part of it so my child -- and yours -- can have a great Scouting experience."


I think it's time for volunteers to start saying these things.

Maybe not in an angry way, but in a way that says, "You can do this too--I do it."