We were taking a short break to catch our breath after an intense morning when Anne received a call. She recognized the caller and greeted her warmly, “Hello Ramona! We haven’t spoken for ages. How can I help?”
[Notice that Anne doesn’t ask IF she can help,” she asks HOW she can help!]
Watching Anne’s face, I could see she wasn’t happy with the request.
“No, I did not know that Norine had applied for that position. And she did not ask if I would be willing to serve as a reference. So shall we start there?”
Anne listened to Ramona for a minute, and then she replied, “I see. Well, if you tell me a little more about the position, I will give you my perspective.”
Ramona must have been describing the position as Anne started making notes on the requirements and expectations of the ideal candidate. Then she put down her pen and said,
“Norine would not be my first choice for that position. I have worked with her on various volunteer committees, and my experience has not been fun … I wouldn’t expect it to be any different in a paid position. The way that she treats other volunteers is NOT collaborative, collegial, or compassionate. She is good at delegating but a non-performer when it comes to fulfilling her own commitments. Do you need more?”
Anne put the phone down and looked at me.
“I am astonished that Norine would give me as a reference! She made three strategic errors:
1. Not doing me the courtesy of asking my permission.
2. Not providing me with an overview of the position she was applying for.
3. Not outlining the key strengths and abilities she would like me to focus on when providing a reference.
“Had Norine asked me, I would have had an opportunity to consider whether I would be comfortable providing a reference. I am not a previous employer, so I have no obligation.
“Had Norine provided me with an overview of the position, I would have had an opportunity to consider whether I could see her in that position and support her application.
“Had Norine articulated the strengths she believed she would bring to the position, again I would have had the opportunity to consider whether I could add a positive perspective.
“On top of that, she is either unaware or unconcerned that her behaviour as a volunteer committee member is an opportunity for her to demonstrate her highest and best so that someone like me has positive experiences to point to when asked."
I know that Anne felt badly about the situation. But, had Norine asked, she would have learned that Anne was not comfortable providing a reference and the reasons; Anne would have been kind but firm and transparent.
Remember, fellow volunteer committee members are great resources and great sources when it comes to career development and advancement. Something to keep in mind when taking on volunteer assignments!