Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Who's the boss?

I am on a Board of Directors. So I am, by virtue of holding that position, a boss of sorts (a fact that I find enormously funny since I can't even get my own sh!t together, let alone be in any way in charge of an organization). I am a volunteer for that same organization and do a lot of administrative work that should, in a perfect world, be done by a paid employee. Our micro-sized company can't afford a paid employee, so I do it. And I really don't mind doing the work...but it is an odd place to be.

I find that I take criticism very personally because, after all, I am donating my time. And it seems that lately there is PLENTY of criticism to go around. I'm not doing enough. I'm doing a lot as far as I can tell...but it's not enough. I made a snarky comment that paid staff weren't doing enough (a fact that most everyone involved in the organization will agree with on any normal day)...and I got a snarky comment from the manager in return ("This is what I get paid for. I'm very busy"). SO...it seems that I am supposed to accept criticism...work harder...and keep her mouth shut.

The boss side of me wants to cut a path of destruction and leave nobody standing. Criticism? I've got it if you REALLY want to hear it. In fact, a lot of what our employees get away with would be considered fireable offenses anywhere else. So maybe we should really take a good hard look at policies and procedures and whip the place into shape. But I know that would make it VERY unpleasant for everyone involved.

And then, the volunteer side of me alternates between wanting to (1)fight the good fight and play cheerleader and (2)tuck my tail and run away. Constantly working and working and working behind the scenes without any acknowledgment, only to be told it's not good enough...well...I'll be honest...it's taking a toll. I can not even begin to count the number of hours I have devoted to business operations...a job that I do not get paid for. Every day I do something or other for the organization. Every.Single.Day. And all I seem to hear is criticism. I know I'm not being overly sensitive because I heard the same complaints from volunteers/Board members who have since resolved the conflict for themselves by leaving the organization entirely.

I don't consider myself to be the kind of "me" person that needs constant acknowledgment or positive reinforcement. So I guess I'm searching for inspiration. How to continue to do what I'm doing and feeling good about it...how to block out the stream of negativity that keeps coming at me...how to maintain a professional viewpoint and keep the snark to a minimum when I really just feel like screaming profanities. How do you motivate people to do better when you don't feel it yourself? How do you motivate paid staff who should already be motivated AND motivate volunteers who are feeling under-appreciated? I feel like I've tried it all. Picnics...thank you notes...freebies...it doesn't seem to be working. It just seems to result in a "more, more, more" attitude. And how do you motivate your fellow Board members who seem to have time for every other activity under the sun except the activities relevant to THIS organization? How do you move an organization forward that doesn't want to be moved? that is happy with the status quo? that will not plan ahead and will eventually result in the dissolution of the organization altogether?

I had no idea this would be such a complicated gig when I agreed to join the Board. But now I'm here and I feel a responsibility to do something with it. I'm just not sure how to get to success from here.


kate said...

heck, i don't know. That sounds like an impossible job. The only inspiration is the reason you started volunteering with them in the first place -- the animals. I don't have any advice about screening out the negativity but i know you don't want to quit. Just hang in there, boss!

See, you can always count on me for saying something utterly worthless! hee hee hee

Hennifer said...

I LOVE the new look!

Holley said...

You know, I'm going through a similar professional quandry. And I've been wondering if maybe the best thing is to recognize that it will never get better and that it would be time to leave the situation.

If it were a dating relationship, you would be advised to walk away. What is right for the professional situations?