Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Nice little thing

I do different bits and pieces of volunteer work here and there, and often I find myself feeling frustrated by it. A lot of volunteer work is pretty thankless, the worst of it is where you bust your hump to do something and then you have someone there on the sidelines telling you how you did it wrong and they'd TOTALLY do it differently (and when you ask them to help, they refuse to).

But once in a while, you do get thanked.

I did some proofreading recently for a journal - this is a small society in my state to which I belong. I did the proofreading because (a) I know I'm pretty good at it and (b) they asked if I would, and they had given me a little money for research in the past, so I figured, hey, might as well "pay back" a little.

I got an e-mail: please send in your full contact information, we're being included in an online database of "open access" journals (they are available for free online). (They do do peer review: they are different from the "predatory" journals I blogged about the other day. I'm not even sure if they do page charges...)

I was surprised, because normally proofreaders aren't mentioned, but I sent it back in, requesting the title of "proofreader." The editor e-mailed me back, saying she was putting me down as a "Technical Advisor." Which is kind of the same thing, I guess, but which sounds grander. (And I presume this means they want my help again: that's fine, and I agreed to do peer review if it was needed)

But it strikes me: this is the way you thank volunteers. You can't pay them in a lot of cases but some kind of nice little ego-boosting thing helps, rather than having volunteer work being merely "a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie" (I have seen organizations burn out their volunteers by giving them too much work and insufficient recognition).

And yes, I openly acknowledge that this is one way in which, as a friend of mine once claimed, I am "showing a stereotype of [my] northern German heritage" - I secretly love "fancy" titles, I love that little bit of recognition. (I MIGHT put it on my CV, I don't know. It sounds grander than it actually is and I tend to shy away from that sort of thing, being the sort of person who doesn't want her mouth writing checks her backside can't cash, so to speak). But yeah, it made me feel good. And honestly, keeping the goodwill of your volunteers is SUPER important, I think.

And yes, part of me kind of hates that I can be "bought off" so cheaply, but volunteer work is necessary- the sort of unpaid labor like that is really what keeps academia running (it's a dirty little secret). But the thing is, if you're doing unpaid labor, I don't think you should also be made to feel like everyone is taking you for granted, too. And I've been there with that. (Or, as I said, worse: the Sideline Johnnies who are happy to tell you every way in which you're screwing up, but who fade away the moment you ask for help)

The real truth is this: a little gratitude goes a long way. (That's also why I strive to be humane to the people waiting on me at stores and the like - I know it sucks to work retail a lot of the time and even if I'm frustrated (like I was at the Ulta this weekend - there were fifteen women in line and ONE person working the bank of checkouts, and they have FOUR checkouts) if I can smile and thank the person I figure I'm at least not contributing to their day being bad. And it's not their fault that either a co-worker failed to show up, or corporate policy is stupid and they put in four checkstands but only have one person working at any given time....) But I've been on the other side of it - had students who did stuff like request make-up exams and then not show at the designated time, then demand ANOTHER time, and then expect me to drop everything to accommodate them, and that kind of thing just makes a person so tired....and once in a while, getting a little thanks makes you realize, "Hey, not everyone things I'm a serving-robot who just rolls back into a broom closet at the end of the day!"

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