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Blog > What do you do with a problem volunteer?

What do you do with a problem volunteer?

affiché le 7 jan 2019

by Maria Lahiffe

Most of our volunteers do great work, helping us stretch our limited resources to meet our clients’ varied and important needs. However, every once in a while, you’ll get a volunteer whose work really, really needs to change. Maybe they are endangering clients, maybe their attitude is bringing down the whole team, or maybe they say and do things which put your organization’s reputation at risk.

Most of us would rather get a root canal than discipline a volunteer; however, we owe it to our clients, our donors, and the rest of our team to hold everyone to high standards.

Discipline is Not Step One

There is a lot you can do to prevent a team member from needing to be disciplined in the first place. These tools will also be invaluable in the rare cases that discipline becomes necessary. These include

If, despite all the foregoing supports, someone still underperforms, then further action is necessary.

Managing Poor Performance

Poor performance can be considered to stem from two possible sources:

  • Incompetence: the team member lacks the skills or ability to do the job
  • Misconduct: the team member breaks rules for keeping the workplace efficient and safe

These two sources warrant different disciplinary actions. Basically, in the case of incompetence, the goal is to help the team member to develop the job skills they are lacking. In the case of misconduct, the goal is to help the team member to understand the rules of the workplace.

Steps of Progressive Discipline

The main steps of progressive discipline are the same, whether you are managing incompetence or misconduct.

  1. Document everything carefully
  2. Start with verbal communication
  3. Written warning
  4. Suspension
  5. Termination

Read our previous blog post for explanations of these steps.

Managing Incompetence [1]


Managing Misconduct [1]

The flowchart for managing misconduct looks pretty similar to that of managing incompetence, with one notable exception: some misconduct can be severe enough to warrant immediate dismissal. Some of these actions may be illegal, while others may be severe in the context of your organization. Make sure to write robust policies and procedures to explain this.


Want to learn more? Come to an upcoming workshop.

Click here for more information, and to register.

Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to volunteer management. Click here for more information, and to register. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.

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