I haven’t had time to dig into the topic of bullying of volunteers nearly as much as I would like, but I continue to hear of and read about situations where volunteers in the non-profit sector are treated with less than due respect. At times, the scenarios elevate into full-blown mobbings. For those who are interested, I collected three earlier pieces relevant to this topic. Please click on the titles to be taken to the full posts.
This post continues to attract page views on a regular basis, and if you read the comments you’ll see that folks also weigh in on the topic from time to time:
If the volunteers are working on behalf of a cause in which they have an important personal stake, the emotional ante is ratcheted up and buttons may be easily pushed, especially with “underdog” issues where people already feel marginalized.
Conversely, if the volunteer activity is associated with high levels of community prestige or power, there may be a lot of competition and posturing that create their own drama and give rise to the possibility of bullying behaviors.
This post came out of a situation shared with me by someone who was being bullied as a volunteer in a community arts program. While bullying in “cause” organizations certainly can take on its own characteristics, it may also occur — sometimes with a vengeance — in community organizations devoted to the arts, crafts, and kids’ sports.
Recently I was contacted about a significant bullying situation in the organizing of a visual arts program. It confirmed for me how these behaviors are so universal, cutting across occupations and avocations.
The person who contacted me (let’s call him Walter) was teaming up with another arts enthusiast (let’s call her Eloise) to co-organize the event. Although Eloise initially exhibited great enthusiasm for the partnership, she soon began to push Walter to the side and took over key decision making and outreach for the event. Eloise’s behaviors began to look like a textbook list of common workplace bullying tactics….
Okay, so this post is mainly about working in the non-profit sector. Nevertheless, if you swap out “employee” for “volunteer,” you’ll find many parallels:
It’s possible to make a difference in the non-profit sector, but no one should assume that work life there is a picnic. Like for-profit and public employers, non-profit employers run the gamut. Some are terrific, many are okay, and others are positively dreadful.
In addition to facing the financial pressures of trying to do more with limited resources, non-profits suffer from their own brands of employee relations problems. So steer clear of the myths of non-profit employment, and understand the realities.