Is it time for you to fire that volunteer?

I'm not sure if you know this but it's actually a myth that you can't fire a volunteer. You very much can. And you should. If you can go four years leading a volunteer team and not have to fire anyone you are either the world's greatest trainer or your spine is missing.

I've had to fire more volunteers than I have fingers and toes and I've learned a few things through the years. I've watched tears fall into coffee. I've also experienced backlashes and blame. Regardless of the situation I don't think firing a volunteer has ever been easy.

Here are some reasons I've asked volunteers to step away (notice the kind, gentle language).

  • Disinterested - Listen. If you don't want to be here I'm confused why you volunteered? Stop waisting your time and stop wasting the time of the other people on this team who want to make a mark!
  • Dissension - You know the saying, "The captain goes down with the ship"? Yeah, that doesn't fly here. Long before the ship goes down the problem is going overboard.
  • Decision making - This is one you have to be very careful on. There is not one of us who doesn't make a bad decision in a year. Maybe more. Every issue has a three strike policy when it's been confronted. After the third time I know someone has chosen themselves over the team.

So how does this firing go down? Here are some tips:

1. Go public - Public places are good for a firing. More than anything, it keeps my tone correct. I still want to care for the person and not just get rid of a problem.

2. See what you see - Be confident in what you've seen and share it. If you've done the process right it's not the first time the topic has been addressed with the specific volunteer. But the worst thing you can do is be vague and leave a volunteer feeling like everything is wrong instead of addressing the issue that couldn't be resolved.

3. 1 on 1 - Don't bring a friend. Don't bring a co-leader. Don't bring your mom. Don't ever bring a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend. If you are the leader BE THE LEADER. Make it a private conversation because the person deserves that regardless of how you emotionally feel at the time.

4. Identify gifts - Continue to be a leader and talk about where their gifts might be leading them. When you have to fire a volunteer more than likely they were in the wrong seat to begin with and then things just went bad. Restoration is the goal for them, help them find a place where they get to really chase life.

I wish I could tell you that letting a volunteer go is easy or can become easy, but that's not true. The critical part of leadership in the midst of the firing is still having a heart to serve. We don't want to tear people down in order to make ourselves feel better as leaders.

What would you add to either of these lists? Please share your thoughts about firing volunteers by leaving a comment below!