Sunday, May 13, 2018
Volunteering and the Quandary it Presents
One of the more fascination ploys of the upper classes or elites is the volunteer “move.” It means never asking for something (asking implies the other person has power) but volunteering (which implies you are doing the other person a favor). This means no matter how much you want something, when you get it, it was a result of your charitable instincts. For example, I once chaired the committee that was to go to the meat market. Not everyone on the committee needed to go so in a meeting I made the mistake of asking who "wanted" to go. Not one person “wanted to.” Within days every person on the committee contacted me privately to say he or she was “willing to go.” And then when I announced I had too many people who volunteered to go, no one volunteered to stay at home.
It is pervasive. I was in a meeting a few months ago when one faculty member described how he did not want to hold an administrative post, a position now held by that person with an iron grip with no signs of change. And, there was a past interim dean who was described as being forced to be interim dean. The problem was it took a crowbar to get him to move on.
My favorite recent one involves the director of a set of programs that involve traveling to interesting places. When I asked to go, I was told that he had already “volunteered” to do it.
And, there are plenty of people who volunteer to teach an extra course, organize a conference, or teach at an inconvenient time. Sometimes volunteers are solicited and sometime people volunteer to do things that really do not need doing. It is the appearance of volunteering that is important.
But here is the quandary. If you volunteer for something and then do it, can you turn around and complain that you have too much on your plate or that you are deserving of a pay raise higher than that of someone who did not volunteer? This gets even stickier when you volunteer to do something that is not really needed -- you kind of made up a project, a program, a course, -- and then you turn around and want to be rewarded for it.
Perhaps those who step forward when volunteers are solicited deserve recognition. On the other hand, volunteers who create work for themselves and then seek a reward are not volunteers at all. They are operators.