Friday, August 13, 2010

Volunteering or Why Can't We Just All Get Along

Like many in my community I'm a long term member of a religion that expects a lot from its members. Occasionally conflicts arise between members (often about how to execute some well intended program or the other) and one, both, or all parties involved reduce their level or participation. Sometimes for a long time. When conflict rears its head it helps me to remember why I'm going to church in the first place, whose church it is, and whose expectations matter. - mine or the Lord's. Plus, we are all volunteers, each with his or her own set of circumstances that can constrain our ability to contribute at any one point in time.
Politics is another area where people "volunteer" their time and donate their money. I'm not sure why but in an arena where people are working together for a common cause, such as a campaign staff, I see a lot more conflict than in church or scouting.
When conflicts occur in this arena, I find that if I step back and ask myself
  • Why am I really doing this?
  • Is my objective to put a principled person in office, support an important piece of legislation or is it something else?
  • Is the quote "bad behavior" of another volunteer reason enough to quit? If so then perhaps the cause or candidate was not really that important after all.
I have seen conflict on the inside negatively impact laudable causes in business, church and politics. It is especially sad in religion and politics, where most people are volunteers, that this occurs. Perhaps if we remember that we are all freely giving up something that is irreplaceable (time) we'll be more forgiving, say thank you more often, and find it easier to bite our tongue and count to 10 or 100 or 1,000 if necessary.


  1. As always, good advice, Rod. I'm curious, though: in which campaign are you seeing the conflict among volunteers?

  2. Because I don't want to end up being critical of specific individuals I'll pass on being more specific. I would say that I can't think of a campaign I've been involved in (starting with high school) where there wasn't conflict. Probably because there is always the perceived or real opportunity for power accumulation in the politically arena.

  3. Please note, there are always items that need to be debated and discussed in a campaign. So conflict in that sense is valid. It is when conflict becomes personal that it can be a problem.


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