I spend a lot of my life dealing with organizations that are sometimes heavy-handed with their behavior. I don’t ever quit a group because I think the leadership is making bad choices. In the past, I’ve found the best way to deal with that is to become part of the leadership or to find a way into the change process, whether it’s becoming a union rep, being a reliable person ready to help the leadership, or just speaking out when necessary. It means I’m not always popular, but that’s never been a worry to me. Incompetence in leadership disturbs me. Ignoring the membership, the peons, the lower echelons of the group…that annoys me. Don’t ask for my opinion and then ignore it. Excuses are the worst: I can’t expect professional behavior from a group because they are all volunteers? I don’t get paid for the vast majority of volunteer work I do for two art groups, and I am glad to do it. It helps both groups run better and I am involved in some of the decisionmaking processes because I do that. As a teacher union rep, I don’t get paid for the hours I spend at meetings, but we are supposed to have an adjunct duty and that is mine (some people’s adjunct duties are much less time-consuming…in fact, I’m not even sure what a few people are doing except not showing up to the meetings they’re assigned). I’m a union rep because in my first year in the district, I had an issue that was a direct result of another rep not doing their job and then claiming that I never did what I was supposed to do (not true). Faced with incompetence, I ran in that year’s election, hoping to oust the incompetent (oh no…still there…because no one wants this job). I’m still there, and I hope the people I serve appreciate my work. I think they do. I do it anyway.
Another art group I’m in recently behaved badly…the people in charge. I don’t agree with what happened, not to say getting rid of someone at the top might be necessary, but it seemed that there was no attempt to remedy the problem beforehand. As a teacher, if there’s a problem with a kid in class, I have a list of interventions I have to go through in order to deal with that kid, and it’s extremely difficult to actually get a kid out of our school permanently (as it should be; we are a public school), so we learn how to work with kids and parents and admin and the district as needed to get where we need to go, ideally what’s best for the kid and all other kids in the class. In the other groups I work in, if there are personality conflicts or problems, we do try to work through them, and sometimes that means ignoring the behavior of one participant (or even anticipating it and heading it off at the pass to make sure it doesn’t happen) because there really is no change that can happen. But we would always try to mediate before kicking someone out (and I have to be honest, no one has been kicked out).
As a woman, I have noticed that we are particularly bad about this sometimes, this facing the problem head on and speaking it to the person in question. We complain and gossip to each other, behind their backs, and then we tolerate the issue until it’s almost at an explosion (we’re there at school right now, both as a whole and as a team, unfortunately). Sometimes that inertia is just a lack of energy or time, like now, at the end of the year, and sometimes it’s just easier NOT to have that conversation. But if you’re an international organization that depends on volunteer hours and you aren’t listening to your membership, and worse…volunteers can be kicked out without any attempt to mediate the situation, then those of us who tend to speak up, to dissent even, hey…we’re not likely to volunteer. Why would we? You aren’t encouraging diversity in that case, despite what’s said. You certainly aren’t working to mend the divide or figure out why there was a divide in the first place. You reward competence with firing. Granted, I don’t have all the facts…but I’m not happy with how it was handled no matter what.
Am I going to quit the group? No. That would be stupid. They have provided me with support and exhibits and opportunities. I think a large number of the people at the top have mostly my best interests at heart (and the others…well, whatever.). I don’t believe in voting with my checkbook and leaving. I believe in change from within. I wish I had the time to volunteer, because they’d probably kick me out pretty quickly too. Unfortunately. And I’m significantly disappointed.
I’m looking forward to the end of school because two of the school issues will go away for at least a little while. The art group issue? It colors my view of the leadership. But I have art to make and that has to be my focus right now. But I’m not looking at them in the same way.
Speaking of which…I quilted last night (in utter exhaustion, post-bowling)…
I only had energy for about an hour and a half; got about halfway around the outside edge. So at least another 2 hours I think (isn’t that what I said last night? Dammit). Nine hours total so far.
Ugh. Two days of school left. A heavy heart about the art group. Tired. Girlchild graduates from high school tonight (after I finish school)…It’s going to be a very long day. Hoping I have the energy at the end to keep quilting. If not? It will get done eventually.