A recent workshop that I had the pleasure to deliver was about Boundaries – Personal and Professional. 30 people were booked to attend and a fraction of that actually attended, which I found interesting given the topic.
The attendees and I mused that it may be fear of missing out on something better or because it was free of charge to them and they didn’t value what the presentation might give them. (I got paid to present regardless of how many turned up) Those who did turn up were volunteers and prospective volunteers and from all walks of life. As someone who volunteers on a regular basis, I feel it is important to recognize and set boundaries, as volunteer “burnout” is all too common.
I’m not going to bore you with the actual presentation that I prepared, but one thing that I felt was an important message to get across, was to recognize WHY one becomes a volunteer and WHO is benefiting from the volunteering.
Is it therapeutic to the volunteer or the client?
By asking these questions of yourself, you can then start to identify where your boundaries start.
I’m a visual learner so I created a graphic to help me to look at the different elements to consider. Discussion led on to Cultural boundaries and making sure we learn about cultures we work with so as to be respectful in our interaction and how boundaries can become blurred. Too often we read in the newspaper about a therapist or carer who has crossed the professional boundaries with a client.
As a volunteer you can be friendly with a client, but establishing a friendship is quite a different thing and may well cross professional boundaries that should be in place. This not only applies to the volunteer/client relationship but should be considered in peer to peer relationships in any workplace.
There is often over disclosure of personal information within the workplace.
It is far better to find a trusted person, usually a counselor to disclose to if there is a problem.
The organization should have systems and protocols in place that educate employees and volunteers about personal, cultural and social expectations and boundaries. Ideally there should be a structure in place for the volunteers to “download” or supervision process, so that they don’t burn out emotionally.