Redundancy & Self Esteem

Article published in VE’s Volunteer Magazine, Sept 2009.

It’s been reported that the recession in the UK is coming to an end.  This doesn’t however mean an end to redundancies in all sectors, including our own.  I’ve heard that the Third Sector is hit by the effects of a recession 12-18 months later and if that’s true I guess we should brace ourselves for more redundancies before it’s over.

It’s not a pleasant experience being made redundant. I know from personal experience.  The emotions I’ve been through are like that of a bereavement and in a way I guess it is: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

I can recall thinking, ‘how can they make me redundant?  They just don’t get volunteer management!’  I later thought, well who’s fault is that?  Perhaps if I’d been more vocal, been a better advocate for volunteer management in my own organisation, perhaps I wouldn’t have lost my job.  Maybe, maybe not.  

I’ve heard that volunteer management roles are usually one of the first roles to be cut when redundancies happen.  I’ve no idea if this is true or not, or whether this notion is borne from a ‘poor me’ attitude I’ve sensed within our profession recently.  A recent article in Personnel Today (sorry, no link as I’ve heard about it anecdotally) suggested that HR professionals would be hardest hit with redundancies in this recession with apparently as much as 40% losing their jobs.  So it’s not just us then!

Do we have a ‘poor me’ attitude as a profession?  Am I being too critical?  I’m not so sure. (see my reaction above to losing my job!).  It does seem to me that collectively we do have a low self esteem as a profession.  I do think we are misunderstood, however, I think we are partly to blame for that.  How can we expect people to understand our profession if we don’t tell them? 

I think firstly we need to gain a clearer understanding of what the volunteer management procession looks like because I don’t think we actually know ourselves.  What is the difference between a volunteer manager and a co-ordinator?  What should a Head of Volunteering do?  Do we have a career path? 

We also need to start loving ourselves more.  If we don’t love and respect ourselves, how can we expect others to do so?  Let us be proud of who we are.  Let’s work together to define our profession and educate chief executives and senior management teams.  Let’s demonstrate the value of our work and the importance of our roles to our organisations.  If we can do this, perhaps when the next recession strikes, volunteer management won’t be seen as an easy role to get rid of if indeed that is the case now.

To paraphrase the film the Commitments, ‘I’m a Volunteer Manager and I’m proud!’

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