Dealing with difficult volunteers

July 16, 2013       The NonProfit Times      

Even the best-intentioned people can cause some kind of problem. In his book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Recruiting & Managing Volunteers,” John L. Lipp outlines the most difficult volunteer types.

  • Know-It-Alls. The name says it. They alienate others. They also limit creativity. Don’t ignore this type. If they don’t get pushback quickly they will assume their advice is always wanted and always right.
  • Saboteurs. Rare, but they do exist. One of the worst things they do is hold back important information. They can cause genuine, consistent failure. Prevention is the best treatment.
  • Gossips. They particularly enjoy when an organization is in upheaval. Their damage usually is to morale. Stop them in their tracks by ensuring information flows freely.
  • Rule Breakers. They ignore both organizational policies and position duties. Consequences: Lawsuit, anyone? Don’t let them get away with it, but deal more discreetly and gently than with Know-It-Alls.
  • Negative Ones. Nothing is ever right, including changes for the better. They can sap an organization’s energy. Listen to them, but don’t get caught up in their negativity.
  • Social Climbers. They care more about their status than your cause. Managing them takes patience. Be clear about expectations.
  • Harassers. They are aggressive and intimidate others with demands and threats. They can derail programs. They often start mildly, so don’t tolerate anything from them.
  • Prejudiced Ones. Very often the first instance will come out of the blue. It will lead to a hostile environment. Don’t tolerate it.
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