Punk Rock HR Question 14: Unhappy Do-Gooder


Dear Laurie,

My company encourages employees to participate in community service. We get a day off to work in our community on an annual basis. This year, I picked a charity that seemed like a great fit for my personal beliefs. The experience was nice and I signed up for an ongoing volunteer role in the organization. Turns out, this place is filled with petty, vitriolic, insane people. Mostly women. There is infighting. Some backstabbing. When I try to get involved, I am given a lecture on the history of the organization and why I should hate Mr. X or Mrs. Y.

I am ready to bolt, but I am concerned because my employer supports this organization in multiple ways. Matching funds are given when employees donate. Our company supports the local United Way agency that, in turn, supports this organization. Employees donate time, goods, and services to this charity. Should I talk to someone in Human Resources about my experiences with the charity? I don’t think this is a healthy place for employees to volunteer their time.

Thanks and sign me,

Frustrated Do-Gooder


Dear Do-Gooder,

I’m sure you could talk to Human Resources and ask for advice about conflict resolution, but attempting to solve this problem through Human Resources is like asking the manager of Wendy’s to intervene when you eat a nasty burger at McDonald’s. The manager of Wendy’s will sympathize, but in the end, there’s not much that he/she can do for you and you’ll need to deal with McDonald’s directly.

I volunteer at a local charity, too, and most of the problems have nothing to do with the charity and have everything to do with people. The problems are systemic, and there isn’t much that I can do beyond my immediate tasks at hand. I try to have a good time and enjoy my volunteer work. When the experience sucks, though, it really sucks.

Have you tried speaking with the executive director of the charity? Are there any board members who are strong enough and/or new enough to intervene?

I’m not in love with the concept of ‘the marketplace’ but I do believe that people will support healthy organizations with their checkbooks. If you leave this charity, and other healthy people leave the charity, the only people who remain in the organization are the ones who cause the problem. Eventually, the charity can no longer justify fundraising because the results won’t be there. It will either close or merge with a healthier organization.

You can’t solve this problem. Don’t even try. People suck, and I advise you to find another charity where you can donate your time and make a difference. (If only I could follow my own advice!)


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