Many years ago I was taught something called
"interactive modeling" as a supervisory technique for dealing with problem behavior. It's deceptively simple but powerful in its effectiveness. Not only does it work with volunteers and employees, but you can use it on family members, too!
There are seven steps and the key is to do them in sequence. It may take more than one meeting to work through them all.
Step 1: Tell the volunteer there is a problem. Explain why it is a problem for you and the organization.
Surprisingly, this is harder than it sounds. Knowing that we are meeting to focus on a concern is uncomfortable, so we talk about the weather, a new movie - anything to slow down getting to the real subject (all the while the volunteer knows
"something's coming"). Pleasantly but succinctly, state your concern. But do not assume the volunteer knows why it's problematic! This may sound crazy, but unless you explain what makes the behavior a problem, you cannot be sure you are "solving" the same issue. Example:
You've been late several times this week. This makes our clients wait for the service they need and forces the staff to keep them occupied until you arrive.
The VERY important thing to remember is to only discuss the problem, not any possible solution at this point (e.g., do not add to the above: "...and you must start being on time").
Step 2: Agree on the problem.
If you both accept what you stated in step 1, you can move forward. But what if the volunteer says:
Well, I started coming in on time, but most often I ended up sitting around for 30 minutes or so. Did the staff really say they were waiting for me?
You can see how this response immediately changes the situation. It would lead you a different game plan than a response such as:
I'm so sorry. I thought I could get here at 9:30 but the traffic is worse than I expected.
Do not move to another step until you both agree on what the issue really is. Then...
Step 3: Ask the volunteer for a suggested solution.
The goal is get the volunteer to be the leader of the solution, not just do what you direct. Besides, the ideas she or he offers may be very good. If she or he can't come up with a possible plan right away, stop the meeting and reschedule in a few days to give the person a chance to think.
Step 4: Add your thoughts and negotiate a solution.
Just because the volunteer suggests something does not mean you have to accept it. But be open to the possibility that the suggestion may have merit. Respond with your ideas and go back and forth until you both agree on the plan.
Step 5: Agree on a timetable for implementation. Schedule when you will talk again.
The volunteer may feel on the spot and wish to make the conversation as short as possible, thereby agreeing to anything. So it's vital that - before you end the meeting - you agree on when the new plan or behavior will start. Also fix a time after that to talk again and see if it's working.
Step 6: Document the interaction.
After the volunteer leaves, write down your recollection of the conversation. Save a copy to file, just in case the negative situation escalates and you need to document the "case" for removing the volunteer. But, more positively, also send your minutes to the volunteer as a follow up, with a note such as: "so glad we had the chance to talk and here's what we agreed to do together."
Step 7: Follow up as agreed and:
- Praise progress and reinforce the plan. Or....
- If things haven't changed or have worsened, you have a new and different problem: "What we decided together hasn't worked." Return to Step 1 and start again.