About a year ago, I joined a service organization in my town, and joined the committee that volunteers at a food pantry and community center. I love the people at the center, the work is fulfilling, and I’m passionate about helping people and raising money and awareness to help the struggling families we support. I just can’t stand “Jane,” the woman in charge of my volunteer group. She is not part of the community center, but rather the service group. She is bossy and a know-it-all and has to be involved in every aspect of my volunteer experience. Jane refuses to listen to other people’s ideas, micromanages the volunteers, and is condescending even to the people who run the food pantry. For some strange reason, she’s popular within the service organization and I know complaining would get me nowhere. I love where I volunteer, and I enjoy the other members of my group, but I’m considering quitting because Jane is making my life miserable.
I’ve been the president of everything from fourth grade to my moms’ group, and it’s not by accident.
I like to think I share some of the same qualities as another great president, Barack Obama: drive, ambition, great leadership skills, megalomania, and a stunning commitment to my own excellent ideas, no matter what anyone else may say or what actual facts prove otherwise.
People like us are hard to handle. I feel your pain; the reason I decided to be a team leader back in the day at Boston Cares was the annoying bossy woman, my first team leader, who was deluded into thinking she knew more than me. I took care of that by becoming a leader myself.
I was captain of my track team in high school not because I was particularly fast or dedicated to the sport, but because I was incredibly (some might say disturbingly) loud and enthusiastic about it. I think you’re stifling your inner control freak, and you need to let her out. Ask to be put in charge of a team, or quit the service organization and volunteer directly for the food pantry. Badger people. Out-boss the bossy woman. Put yourself in charge of your own destiny, for Christ’s sake! And if you truly don’t want to be in charge, then put your head down, do your work, and don’t let Jane ruin what is otherwise a pleasurable experience for you.