Aline Carrão 2015 Q&A: Volunteer Management

What is your approach to people management and development?

I believe in setting clear expectations and goals, in frank communication and in open access by default. I think it’s essential to create an environment where people feel comfortable asking for help, feedback or reassignments without fear of pushback, shaming or consequences. Above all, I think people at all levels have to feel at ease asking questions, and people, especially those in a position of power, have to be careful to avoid missteps when receiving and reacting to criticism. I like managing people in an environment where they have opportunities to discuss matters openly and freely, where regardless of our agreeing or disagreeing I will always hear a variety of perspectives.

How would you build the organisation’s capacity and ensure we are making the most of volunteers’ energy and skills?

We need to do everything we can to facilitate everyone’s work, be it through granting the tools they need to make their work easier, making procedures simpler and more efficient, authorizing contractors or purchases or any other resources while always taking care to not create unnecessary work or problems that will wear down our volunteers needlessly.

A lot of the tensions between the Board, Committees, Volunteers and the public stem from the fact that a lot of those volunteers over-invest because they are passionate about fandom, end up close to burnout, and tend to be overworked, which isn’t sustainable in the long run.
A) In your experience as an OTW volunteer/staffer/Board member, how did you deal with this, both for yourself as with people you were responsible for,
B) How would you promote an atmosphere where volunteers don’t feel this pressure?

I believe the best way to deal with this is to trust people to know their limits and to set clear minimal expectations, while also creating an environment where people are comfortable asking for time off or stepping down from a role whose expectations they no longer feel like they can fulfil without feeling like they’re letting everyone down. This means heading towards an environment where we have more failsafes in place even for our most critical volunteers: absolutely no one should ever feel the pressure that they cannot risk taking a week off in case something ends up on fire. It’s our responsibility to look out for each other at all levels, and I think many of us are already doing that.