How big is it?

Recruiting for a role can be a powerful tool to let your people grow and mature in their abilities by delegating to them certain tasks and responsibilities to stretch themselves.

It can also be cause for resentment, especially in “volunteer” situations.

Be upfront

How many times have you said to yourself the following:

I’ll never get anyone to volunteer for this one, I’ll just make it seem easier/smaller/shorter.

So your recruit cheerfully takes the role, secure in the knowledge that it’s a short-term task and will only take an hour a week.

The volunteer gladly commits to spending four hours on it this week. That’s to be expected since there’s some ramp-up time involved. No problem.

The problem comes when at the end of the four hours, your recruit figures out that the “hour a week” you mentioned was all the free time she’d have after doing this job and doing it right.

I may exaggerate to make the point, but the point still stands. Don’t sell the job short to get someone into it knowing that once she’s in, she’ll stay. She may stay, but she’ll be mad at you forever.

Two lists

One way to handle this situation is to come up with two lists.

  • The (short) list of things that absolutely must be done for the role to be successful.
  • The (longer) list that the role could expand into.

Be upfront. Let your volunteer decide. And then let her stick to the agreement.

The only constant

Change is said to be the only constant. And it could be that the role changes during the term. And if (when?) it does, allow your volunteer a way out.

Bring it up with her the first time you see the role morphing into something else/bigger/longer. Don’t wait for the kettle to warm up too much without the frog noticing it (ref.)—go to her and bring it up. Give her a chance to scale back or drop the assignment. Not only will this individual be more likely to volunteer for something in the future, but word will get out and the next time you need a volunteer, it may not be so hard to recruit.

Readers, have you ever been on either side of this experience? Do you have any words to add?

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