Dealing with Challenging Situations


Undoubtedly, the hardest part of volunteer management can be dealing with challenging situations that arise with volunteers. It is human nature to want to put it off in the hope that it will sort itself out! Addressing difficulties as early as possible will help to avoid an escalation that will demand more of your valuable time. Issues generally fall into one of three categories:

A Character issue

The volunteer lacks moral judgment, a strong work ethic or can’t be trusted. They might overstep their role boundaries or show lack of motivation by continually arriving late.

A Competency issue

The volunteer lacks the necessary skills set required to do the role competently.

A Chemistry issue

The volunteer is a good and competent person, but the fit just isn’t right.

These factors can help when considering how to approach an Issue:

  • Was the volunteer aware that their actions were wrong or could cause difficulty?
  • Was the volunteer aware of the procedures that should have been followed?
  • Was it an unconscious mistake?
  • Is the problem made more serious because of an unexpected outcome?
  • Is the volunteer willing to learn from the experience?
  • Is the difficulty so serious that the organisation would not consider keeping the volunteer as a team member?

Dealing with difficulties is never easy. Try to raise issues as they arise and avoid allowing them develop into bigger problems. It will help to have all the facts at hand and keep focused on the issue and finding a solution. Be clear about what the next steps will be if the issue reoccurs.

Problem Solving


These elements can help to minimise the adverse effects of challenging situations or avoid them arising in the first place. Do you have:

  1. A comprehensive volunteer role description
  2. Appropriate targeting of potential volunteers
  3. Clear advertising, good interviewing & selection techniques
  4. A Volunteer agreement signed with appropriate supports from induction
  5. A Trial Period – 4/6 weeks
  6. Review and clarification of role and duties at timely intervals – 6 monthly
  7. A volunteer policy which deals with grievance and disciplinary issues amongst others

Helpful Resources

CUDSA – When you are in a conflict situation, in the heat of the moment it can sometimes be difficult to remember what to do. The CUDSA model may help to approach with a clearer head.

  1. Confront the behaviourCUDSA Model
  2. Understand each other’s position
  3. Define the problem
  4. Search for a solution
  5. Agree upon the best solution and put into practice

Download: CUDSA Model document

Policy – Your volunteer policy can provide helpful direction by including a Code of Conduct and a section on ‘Dealing with Issues’.

Here are some policy examples: Volunteer Policy sections – Dealing with Challenging Situations

Further Information?

To discuss your needs and see how we can support you best, please contact your Organisation Support Officer Frances Hayden

frances@volunteerdublincity.ie or (01) 473 7482