|Renay (renay) wrote,|
@ 2012-05-01 12:50 am UTC
|Entry tags:||check out any time you like, otw, volcomrades \o/, wizard chair hat, you can never leave|
Last time on what became The Hogwarts News Network (everything can be a Harry Potter reference), I was all "tl;dr look at my emotions" about the DevMem drive and the surge of volunteers we saw pouring in wanting to help. News on the drive front is that we've earned approximately $37,000 and FinCom is going to buy me five unicorns. News on the volunteer front is that we've reached a place where most of them will have excellent positions. That's been the bulk of the work the committee has been doing, while I've been running around having meetings and doing chair supporting and noting where we don't have enough documentation or training to do half of the things we need to do. Yet another entry in the "chairs don't do the work, they do the work that leads to doing the work."
What's up for the last week:
- Tons of email.
- I started using Toggl to track the amount of time I am working on OTW stuff. This is going to be terrifying.
- I am working on my proposal to request
a ponyScreenFlow in order to do some training screencasts. Oh, proposals, why are you so hard to write!
- We have a new Basecamp project for people, leaving our old area to be for just projects. I am really excited because it will soon be filled with all the projects we'll have time to tackle.
- A volunteer suggested that we run our Code of Conduct draft through chairs, staff, and finally volunteers, to get the most bang for our buck regarding a document that will be used for everyone throughout the organization. The same volunteer suggested a revision period, which I have been considering since I read it, just to see how it's working and possibly making it a public document. The machine is working.
- I worked on a Welcome to Tag Wrangling page which was part of my TW staff work but also a sneaky VolCom task because it's going to help incoming wranglers know all the things about the organization and be more empowered about the structure of their committee.
- Inducted a few coders but am about to claim ALL the wrangling inductions.
On the non-task side, there have been some ups and downs. Last year I talked about how hard I found chairing Tag Wrangling. It was hard (it's still hard, please tell your friendly Tag Wrangling chair you heart them today!), but the scale and the scope was limited and therefore I had no clue how much harder it could actually get. I have tons more appreciation for all the VolCom chairs before me now that I didn't have before. I owe allison so much more than one terrible MCR fic. So much more.
This is how it is to be Volunteers & Recruiting chair, and I suspect sometimes a chair in general: in the last two months, I've seen staffers overjoyed by the people they've been working with and excitedly passing on news about how awesome things are getting. I've seen evidence of the support structure that helped me help other people. I've watched people succeed and be recognized. I've been told I helped someone feel better about themselves even outside their organization work, been told I'm a great leader, and been told that I have a great perspective on how to handle miscommunications (this will be funny later). I've been thanked for giving up my time to do nothing more than listen for several hours in a row. I've been apologized to about 600 times when people ask me to do things for them (note: you can always ask me for things with no apologies needed, that's why I have office hours on Gtalk). I've been buoyed up by awesome people and encouraged others to step up and do the same, watched it happen and seen new relationships being born. I've mentored and taught and helped people see another perspective and been thanked for providing it.
But there's always a flip side. I've been forced into decisions I wasn't ready to make, I've had to apologize for doing my job, I've had things explained to me multiple times because I disagreed and the people on the other end couldn't grok that "disagreement" didn't equal "misunderstanding". I've been bypassed, cut out of important loops and then expected to know what the heck's going on, and been told I shouldn't be chairing. I've been accused of giving people special treatment. I've been lectured (and not the fun kind with hot professors), I've been told several times how I feel instead of being asked how I'm feeling. I've been treated like I was a hysterical, irrational headcase that needs to be handled instead of like human being with feelings and a valid perspective. Most of these could have been resolved with better communication; most (not all, because I screw up but I'm not responsible for all the failures) are a result of miscommunication on my part. (I said it would be funny later.) Some of this is the nature of political non-profit positions. Some are handled and others I'll live with because I don't have the energy and I wouldn't know where to start unpacking all the issues. That's a big part of what some of us do. We just live with it.
One of the biggest criticisms I hear in the organization and of the organization is that we don't have a culture of critical discourse and that's never been so clear to me until this term. I had a general suspicion last term given how I felt like mistakes could cost one all of their credibility but it's very obvious from where I'm standing now. We're not often critical of ourselves, each other, our decisions, or our actions. That's why when something happens to bring the public into our discussions and our work, it hurts. I'm no stranger to it. I saw all the comments last year from wranglers and non-wranglers alike that burned like hell. It was miserable.
The problem was, I didn't know how to handle criticism from wranglers or non-wranglers because inside the organization there's no way to give critical, constructive feedback about behaviors and actions without it being assumed you're calling the other party a terrible person. I spent a year picking up on that vibe and internalizing it so when shit hit all the fans and criticism came pouring in I had no earthly idea what to do with it, how to react and how to parse it. When there's not a foundation of critical discourse that one can filter things through, when it's \o/ \o/ \o/ all the time and even one stray /o\ at someone can get you a negative reputation, actual or in your own head, it's impossible to deal with bad feelings, miscommunication, and actual harmful behavior. It makes it impossible to learn from each other. All these comments pile up and you're not used to taking criticism and so you can't separate out the valid criticism meant to help you be more thoughtful from the meanieheads who want you to fail so your option is to a) ignore it and shoulder through or b) explode and ragequit the organization. Guess what a bunch of people did last term? That problem? Not fixed. I keep ramming into it even now.
How can I approach anyone with criticism if it's possible that it will be attached to the assumption I'm making a comment about someone's inherent worth as a person and accusing them of being irredeemable, inept, or incapable and calling their current and past work worthless? It's hard when it's not something you can pin on individuals to say "okay, let's work with them to make it better!" but instead the culture of the entire organization. The most common response I get to this is that there's no criticism because everyone just agrees and gets along. But now we're back to how many people just live with their criticisms, choke them down, and say nothing. That can't be measured, but I've been told, and VolCom chairs before me have been told, and there's a legacy of off the record chats and confidential conversations that will never be shared, and those people are long gone, burnt out and out of hope that constructive criticism will ever be welcome. The ones that are still present sure aren't going to say anything, but it's likely they're in sensitive positions they enjoy and don't want to be frozen out of or shunned from. They don't want to risk exclusion, real or imagined.
There's a lot of good things that happen in the organization and they all deserve attention and celebrating, but I guess I'm still not at the point where I agree that the positive is all we ever need to focus on. The negative sucks but it doesn't mean there's no worth in the commentary and we should shut it out because we're volunteers and not getting paid to listen to less than enthusiastic cheers and ego-boosting. The OTW is a professional nonprofit, and it may be fan work, but it's not the type of fan work we can choose to say "no crit, plz!!" on and go on our merry way. We'll never improve.
I guess this was "tl;dr look at my emotions" about criticism. Oh well.