Monday, August 15, 2011

How do you counter absence?

I am currently volunteering at the new community centre down the road.  I am helping with events.  However I sit on the Development Group as I am chair of the Events Team and then get involved in governance although this is not my role.  They are setting up the governance arrangements and I have been slightly concerned with the lack of clarity.  So I have spoken to the governance lead and written a paper.  This was seemingly ignored as the original proposal was sent out again saying that it needed agreeing at the next meeting.  So I sent the paper to all group members - to help the debate.  In my view they needed to be aware of all the options that have been discussed.  

My problem is that I think I am 'working' with someone who sees this as a some kind of battle between people rather than as a process to get the right structure and process in place - irrespective of who first said what and how.  I know it's a personality thing and I recognise how this person may have problems with my approach (or perhaps me!).  I am not sure that this person recognises this or that I might have problems with their approach.  Perhaps they think it's OK to ignore people as a means of expediting what they want to happen.

It is very difficult to counter absence - an absence of response, an absence round the table (the person has said that they won't be at tonight's meeting) or an absence of respect.  The problem can then be that the person present becomes the one under the spotlight.  I remember, when doing my social work training, that the community work lecturer who was very boring, told us that the attendance at his lectures was not good enough and that there would be consequences - we did point out to him that he was talking to those who were there who weren't the problem.  He faced the same dilemma - how do you counter absence?  

Sins of omission are so much harder to identify than sins of commission.  And yet omission can be just as harmful and hurtful.  I struggle every time I am in a situation like this.  My reaction tends to be to try to be as honest and as open as I can without any emotional language or blaming.  In some circumstances that can be difficult, for example if you describe a situation where you have constantly tried to contact someone and they haven't responded it seems fairly clear where the breakdown of communications is.  However we do not know if someone is not connecting with us what the problems may be.  So I aim for openness and honesty and a focus on the goal.  What am I trying to achieve - in this instance it's using my skills to make our community centre work more effectively.  

I often have anxious times about such things - I know that if people are more emotional about 'business' than I am that they will react more emotionally to any communication.  Hence I try to focus on what needs to be said in plain language and hope that someone somewhere will appreciate that I am trying to do the right thing.  

Such experiences lead us to recognise that whenever we work with people we enter a minefield of personalities and approaches, ours included. Someone else's absence has to be countered by our own presence albeit a more considered presence.  If we focus on the task in hand and our own behaviour then we can feel that at the very least we have done ourselves justice.

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