My last article “Tips to Having an Excellent Volunteer Program” assumed that volunteers were competent and cooperative. In my experience, most volunteers are.
But in the real world, an occasional volunteer is neither competent nor cooperative.
What are your options?
Begin by taking steps to improve performance. In nearly every case, it is more productive to improve performance that to take steps to fire a volunteer.
Every volunteer (and paid worker as well) should have a supervisor. It makes no difference whether the supervisor is paid or not. Each special event, for example, should have a chairperson, and the individuals undertaking the various tasks to make the event successful should report to the chair.
The first way to improve performance is for the supervisor to recognize the unacceptable performance and tell the volunteer how to improve it. For example, the volunteer may have had an important task e.g., driving an individual to a doctor’s appointment, and the volunteer did not show up. The supervisor quietly should tell the volunteer that in the future, if the volunteer has an assignment they can not make, they must notify the supervisor at least one day in advance.
If the inappropriate behavior continues, the supervisor should document the behavior in at least three instances. Then the supervisor asks for a private meeting with the volunteer.
The supervisor begins the discussion by specifically noting the three instances of unsatisfactory performance. The supervisor does not use negative words but just describes the behavior. “Last Tuesday afternoon, you screamed at a client” or “You were late for your Monday assignments at the day care center the last three Mondays.”
The supervisor then tells the volunteer what acceptable behavior would look like. In many cases, the volunteer will state that the behavior will improve. The supervisor then thanks the volunteer and ends the meeting.
In other instances, however, the volunteer refuses to change behavior.
One option would be to give the volunteer a different assignment. “You can not drive the children to the day care program any more but we would be pleased if you
would assist the teacher in reading to the children on Tuesday mornings.”
As a last resort, the supervisor must “fire” the volunteer. Before doing this, the volunteer must again be given an opportunity to improve performance. However, if the volunteer refuses to change, the supervisor must tell the volunteer and confirm in writing that “You can no longer volunteer to assist in the day care program.”
Remember the general rule. The volunteer represents the agency the same way the paid worker does. Unacceptable behavior should not be tolerated.