Questions to Determine Problem Behavior
(Adapted from Handling Problem Volunteers by Steve McCurley and Sue Vineyard, Heritage Arts Publishing, 1998, p. 4-5. Used with permission.)
Very often in conflicts between volunteers, particularly in minor problem behavior, there will be no real "villain." Two people in the organization might just be not getting along, or they may even have a simple misunderstanding in which neither is really at fault. These innocent situations often create larger difficulties, however, if unaddressed. A good volunteer manager can sometimes intervene and assist the parties to look for their own solution to the situation before things get out of hand. The best process for attempting this involves talking with the parties involved on an individual basis and getting them to describe their version of the difficulty as well as what they think they could do to address the problem. Note that the solution offered here is not for the volunteer manager to act to solve the problem, but rather to encourage and assist the involved parties to identify what they themselves can do to resolve the difficulty.
The following are some good questions to use during the interview with a problem volunteer. They are grouped into: examining the background of the situation (including how the problem volunteer feels about what is happening), creating possible solution options, and creating an implementation plan for helping the problem volunteer address the situation.
1. Background Investigation
- How are things going?
- Why do you think they are going so well?
- How could things be better?
- What problems are you having?
- Why are those problems happening?
- What factors in the situation caused the problems?
- Are the difficulties related to a single person or to most persons?
- How long has the situation been this way?
- What happened prior to the situation?
- Is there a time when this seems most likely to occur?
- Does this behavior happen with everybody or only with some people?
- What problems does this person's behavior cause?
- Why do you think the person behaves that way?
- What would a person get out of behaving that way?
- How are other staff and volunteers reacting to the behavior?
- Have you talked with the person about the behavior?
- What was the person's reaction when you talked with them?
2. Creation of Options
- What do you think you might do if the situation/behavior doesn't change?
- What has been your response?
- What has been the person's reaction to your response?
- Why do you think this response didn't work?
- Are there other responses you might consider?
- How do you suppose the person will react to these?
- What are the pros and cons of that course?
- What other options do we have?
- If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?
- What would you advise someone else to do in this situation?
- What would you advise someone else to do to avoid this situation?
- Of the possible options, which would best fit with your situation?
- What will you need before trying to implement the solution?
- How will this affect other volunteers and staff in your department?
- Is there a way to best communicate this change to these others?
- Are there any advantages to the way we now do things that we want to preserve?
- How will you monitor responses to this attempted solution?
- Is there anything I can do to help make your plan work?
- When can we talk about this again?