One Bad Apple: How to Avoid Having a New Member Spoil Your Unit
[Today’s post is a guest post by Sean Lothar]
Recruiting is difficult. Some units struggle for years with a just a few members and often fizzle out because the work becomes too much for so few. So when an enthusiastic prospect comes around, it is hard to turn them away. But it is also important to make sure that the prospect is right for your group. Otherwise, you may find that they become a liability. They may make the work harder. Or they may drive away other members. Or they may bring drama. Having the wrong members is worse than not having enough members. My own group had a difficult experience with a new member last year. I would like to share my experience in order to help others avoid some unnecessary drama. Here’s some advice to help you vet new members for your unit.
Offer a provisional membership.
Let them know that they only become a full member after attending a certain number of events and meetings or being approved by the rest of the group. This gives the other members time to get to know them and see how they interact with the public. After just two events the rest of my unit had decided that they hated the new guy. If full membership comes with voting rights or some influence in a group’s decisions, it is easier to let someone go when they have not yet achieved that status.
Create a group philosophy.
By clearly stating what the purpose and tone of your group is, you give prospective members a heads up about whether this is the right group for them. Our new member argued repeatedly with me about our purpose and what we were supposed to be accomplishing with the unit. I should have explained up front that our group expects everyone to respect each other and maintain a positive attitude, and gave him a clear idea of what my vision of the group was. Then he would have had no grounds on which to argue because he would have had to accept that before joining.
Create group standards.
Of course group equipments standards are important. But group behavior standards are even more important. Clearly state up front how members of your group are expected to behave while representing your group. If they can’t meet these standards, they cannot be in the group. Our new member made no attempt to refrain from expressing his racist and homophobic opinions while in camp. Certainly not the impression I want to give the public about our otherwise respectful and welcoming unit.
Have loaner gear available for their use.
This will ensure they don’t invest much money in the impression until both the group and the new member know they are right for each other. Last year my new member dropped a couple hundred dollars on new gear for the impression. This showed he was committed to be in the group. But when he started showing signs of trouble, I was reluctant to show him the door because he had spent so much money. By having loaner gear available, you discourage them from spending too much on the impression. That way neither party will feel bad about the new member wasting their money if you decide to part ways.
Also watch out for these sure signs of trouble:
Attitude. Do they have a poor attitude? Do they make a lot of negative comments?
Oppositional. Do they argue a lot?
Forceful. Do they try to push ideas on the group that nobody wants?
Lazy. Do they avoid work? Do they make excuses? Do they try to get others to do things for them without offering something in return?
Know it all. Do they think they are the expert on everything? Do they say things are right or wrong without providing documentation?
Drama. Do they talk about others behind their backs? Do they start or spread rumors? Do they get involved in power struggles?
If you answer yes to any of those questions, you may want to reconsider this person as a member. If you answer yes to all of them, don’t let this person in your group!