Jessica Steiner – Elections Q&A (Part 5)

16) How would you respond if you saw a fellow director speaking harshly to a volunteer in a public chat?

It may depend on the circumstances, but overall I don’t see any excuse for being harsh in a public space (or a private one) to anyone, let alone a Board director to a volunteer. I like to think that I’d tell them to knock it off, and then try to mediate the dispute in the moment as best I could. I’d also discuss the incident with the director in private to try to help them to figure out a better way to deal with their anger without creating a confrontation. If this was part of a pattern of behaviour, I’d discuss with other Board members whether such a person should remain on the Board at all. There’s a difference between disagreement and being disrespectful to people. Disagreement is fine, but we should always strive to be respectful, and someone who doesn’t think that’s important shouldn’t be in a position of power.

17) It’s been shared by past Directors that Board work is both incredibly time-consuming and stressful and this can sometimes bring out “the worst” in people and can lead to negative interactions within the organization that have a lasting impact. From your outside observations so far, what difficulties have you noticed? Do you have any ideas for how to combat this issue that you will try to implement either for yourself or others during your Board service and how might you encourage self-care for yourself, your fellow Directors, and OTW personnel at-large?

I have definitely been witness to some incidents like this, and I have already spoken privately with some people involved with such incidents in the past and given feedback about how I felt they went down.

In terms of prevention and healing, I’m hopeful that the Ombuds Team will be a big help in this area. I personally deal with incredible amounts of stress and strife in my day job – as you might imagine, given that most of my clients are fleeing abusive relationships or have had their children placed temporarily in foster care. The feedback I receive in my practice is that I’m patient and empathetic. I achieve this by doing my best to maintain my composure in the moment, focusing on problem solving and on the viewpoint of the person I’m dealing with as best I can, and having a strong support network to help deal with the emotions later on. I’m sure this same strategy will work with the OTW.

Not everyone can be perfectly nice all the time, though. Sometimes emotions get heated, and I’m as guilty of that at times as anyone. The most important thing, I think, when that does happen, is to have the maturity to recognize when you screwed up or that the other person was justified in their anger and to have the integrity to apologize and forgive.

18) How do you plan to avoid burnout as a director?

I recognize that I have a tendency to take a lot on and not want to let people down, and that’s something I continually try to work on. My intention is to do my best to recognize when things are getting overwhelming and take a step back. My wife is a huge support in this regard and also a gigantic emotional support. She also has the advantage of not being involved with the org in any capacity, though she is fannish. I have a large support network outside of the org, and I intend to lean on them greatly. I’m also excited by many of the proposed Board-related goals that will hopefully make their way into the strategic plan, and I think that implementation of those early ones will make a huge positive impact on the day-to-day experience of being a Board director.

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