Margaret MacRae – 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?

My first reaction is to step in and tell the director to tone it down in the public chat and to apologize for their unprofessional behavior. What I would probably do is send the director a private chat message that amounts to “your behavior is unprofessional right now. Take a few deep breaths and ask for a moment to ‘step out’ of the room so you can calm down, and then apologize to the staffer as well as everyone else present.” I try to praise in public and reprimand in private. I don’t know if the director would listen to me, and if she did not, then I probably would step into the public room and suggest that everyone “slow down” and take a few minutes to calm down.

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?

It’s hard to be positive and professional when people are calling you names, talking behind your back, and being rude; this doesn’t matter if you are on the board or a volunteer. I think that it can be a pretty vicious cycle when someone intends to be rude, and most of the time I think that these conflicts start for no reason. Communicating exclusively via the written word means that people will fill-in tone and intention. We don’t have the benefit of non-verbal cues, which can make it easier for miscommunications to happen and harder to realize when someone is bothered or hurt by something that you say. I try really hard to check everything with the speaker, both so that I make sure that I understand the speaker’s point and their intention. I also try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume that they didn’t mean for something to be rude or insulting. Obviously, sometimes people do make it clear that they are very intentionally calling you names or being rude. In those cases all I can do is remain professional.

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

The same way that I avoid burnout as a lawyer: I will set boundaries and priorities. I turn off all technology at 9 PM. Experience has taught me that I will have a more meaningful face-to-face life when I make time that is technology or job free. I get into the back-country where there is no internet or electricity pretty regularly. I also put my cell phone in my purse and I don’t check it when I am out with another person or even just eating dinner at home. It’s really important to me to be present when I am with someone or doing something. The people that I love deserve that, and I am much happier and healthier person when I am not instagramming every moment of my life. The same is true when I am in a chatroom for org, I won’t talk on the phone, or watch a movie, or do anything that takes me away from being present. This is different for everyone, and I know some people need something to add distance or to stay engaged. I am much happier with the OTW when I take the time to really be present in the org and make the time to truly give myself space from it too.

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