21st Anniversary Page
Archives Search
Ask Connie
Boards & Committees
Internet Resources
Management & Supervision
Recruiting & Retention
Tech Tips
Volunteer Program Evaluation Series
Who We Are
Email Us

VolunteerToday.com~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


Find tips to oversee the work of volunteers and practical suggestions to supervise them. Everything from ideas to help you work more efficiently to the latest in research on keeping volunteers happy and productive.

Management Image

~ April 2004 ~ Topics

The Art of Managing With Questions

Many managers of volunteers assume that being effective in telling people what to do is the key element of supervision. It is all in the giving of orders or direction. Knowing how to "direct" is an important skill, the art of asking questions probably is more important. Being able to ask the right question can frequently help someone change behavior, assess a skill level, iron out a personality conflict, or be more productive in his or her position.

Questions have a way of moving responsibility, and then action, into the hands of the person being questioned. This type of questioning is not "grilling" or interrogation, but a search for answers. In many cases the manager of volunteers already knows the answers, but getting the volunteer to identify the problem or situation frequently leads to solutions.

Here is a list of possible questions for use in managing and supervising volunteers (or paid staff!).

  • What part of this job involved too many people?
  • What part of this job could be done more efficiently and with fewer people?
  • What was wasted?Note Taker Guy Image
  • What was misunderstood?
  • What was complicated?
  • How did you feel about the work today?
  • Could you have done this differently?
  • Did anyone complain today?
  • What made you mad?

Interested in more information on volunteer management and supervision? Check out our online bookstore for One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions, authored by Mary Kay Hood and Handling Problem Volunteers, by Sue Vineyard and Steve McCurley.

One Minute Answer book Image Handling Problem Volunteers book Image

Return to the Menu

Coping With the Hostile Person

Hostile volunteers or co-workers can be a trial. The person seems to have it 'in" for you, despite your best efforts to cooperate. You are in no position to change a personality, but you can cope and perhaps exert some positive influence. Here are some possible strategies.

Highlight only your behavior. Finger pointing loses wars! You might win a battle by showing the person up, but if he/she is already hostile, it will only intensify the hostility. Hence, you win the skirmish, but run the risk of losing the larger war. Stick to describing your own behavior and how you might do things differently to make the hostile person’s job easier or less cumbersome. "I will try very hard to get those items laid out before you arrive."

Do not expect instant change. Suppose you have spent a month working hard to interact differently with the hostile person. And it is not working! Do not give up. No change occurs immediately and you are looking for long term and permanent change. Hostile people are often hostile to more than one person. A change in behavior by that individual has a ripple effect throughout the work group. Be patient.

Be consistent. Be clear in your expectations. Plan ahead. Announce your intentions and then do not deviate. This can reduce tension between you and the hostile person. The person knows what to expect from you because of your consistency. "You can count on me to have the same task for you to do every time you volunteer."

Reward changes, no matter how small. A hostile person might make small changes, that are more annoying than helpful. But, those changes need to be acknowledged and rewarded. For example, if the person rarely greets you on arrival, but today he sticks his head in the door and mumbles a half-hearted greeting, reply warmly. Later in the day visit the person’s work site and thank them for the effort made to greet you. Explain how it helps you start the day on a positive note when people say good morning.

Return to the Menu

Two Dozen Ways to Say "Good Job"

Thank you is essential to the management of volunteers. Praise should NEVER be underestimated as a motivator. "Thank you" is always appropriate. Here are some other ways to say "well done."

1. You are a bonus to our program.
2. You continue to delight our clients, patrons, or members.
3. Your mood always uplifts others on the volunteer team.
4. You're a champion.Announcer Man Image
5. The results you get are sensational.
6. Our vision for this program comes alive in your work.
7. We couldn’t do this without your contributions.
8. Your skill in dealing with individuals is outstanding.
9. Thanks for being so consistent.
10. I am so proud you have chosen us as a place to volunteer.
11. You are always so helpful.
12. I admire your "stick-to-it" attitude.
13. Your efforts make the entire volunteer team and the organization look good.
14. Clients/customers notice the extra effort you put in.
15. What you do inspires others.
16. Congratulations on a terrific job.
17. I am not sure we could have come this far without your special skills and positive attitude.
18. What I admire most about you is the way to constantly seek to improve things.
19. What an incredible accomplishment.
20. I have confidence in your ability to get this work done.
21. You have an uncanny ability to work with other people.
22. One of the best things about you is how you grasp the vision of what we are trying to do here.
23. You are a valuable part of our team.
24. I hope you know how much your efforts are making a difference.


Washington State University offers a Volunteer Management Certification Program through the Internet. Individuals around the world can earn a certificate in managing or coordinating volunteers, without leaving home. For more information, visit Volunteer Today's Portal site, Internet Resources. Look for the Washington State University listing. There is a hot link to their Web site.

Return to Top

A Service of MBA Publishing-A subsidiary of Macduff/Bunt Associates All materials copyright protected ©2007
925 "E" Street Walla Walla, WA 99362 (509) 529-0244 FAX: (509) 529-8865 EMAIL: editor@volunteertoday.com
The content of all linked sites are beyond the control Volunteer Today and the newsletter assumes no responsibility for their content.