Musings: Volunteer Types

Role-players often refer to “gamer types”; Robin’s Laws of Good GMing, for example, divides gamers into Power Gamers, Buttkickers, Tacticians, Specialists, Method Actors, Storytellers and Casual Gamers. Another common style nicknames them Munchkins, Real Men, Loonies, Real Role-Players, etc. And Georgios, a.k.a. , has also transferred this to GM types. After having participated in organizing various events such as conventions and tournaments, and observed my friends volunteering for other types of activities such as choirs and charitable organizations, I’m starting to come up with a Volunteer Types scheme.

Naturally, a single person can often combine several roles; for example, the Whiner and the Attention Whore, the Grognard and the ADD Poster Child, the Go-Getter and the Pushy Git, etc. I have seen people combine four of these with ease.

The ADD Poster Child. Also known as Short-Attention Span Theatre, the Illiterate, and Bedtime-Story Boy. He never reads anything you write, never listens to anything you say, never responds to your questions, and shows endless willingness to make you repeat. He won’t read meeting minutes or even attend meetings, but he wants you to repeat the contents to him. He won’t read the last three posts exchanged in the last half-hour and will brightly ask the very question that was just discussed. Holding him to the agenda at meetings is a major challenge. His goal appears to be to reduce the signal-to-noise ratio to non-measurable levels.

The Attention Whore. Also known as the Prima Donna, the Drama Llama, etc., his motto is “There’s no team in ‘I’.” He will spend all his energies trying to gather attention, congratulations, pats on the back, and glory from any success the group gathers. As a corollary, he will spend this energy making sure all the blame is directed away from him and onto the rest of the group when any failure or problem looms. After he has made your life miserable for months as the group is working on your event or project, you will have the joy of overhearing people congratulate him and “his people” on the result.

The Go-Getter. Also known as the Sucker, the Point-Man, the Nag, the Tyrant, Mom, etc. This is the person who does a majority of the work. There’s always one in a group; if you’re lucky, there are a few and the work load may be spread enough to avoid early burnout. This person prepares a meeting agenda and tries to stick to it, writes meeting minutes, organizes mailing lists, insists on tasks being assigned to specific group members. This is usually the person who plans ahead of disasters and has a Plan B. The group is usually content to let its Go-Getters do 90% of the work, but can get tired of them trying to stir the rest of the members to get in gear.

The Grognard. Also known as the Nay-Sayer, the Old-Timer, etc. This is often a former Go-Getter who burned out, but can be anyone who stays long enough to fossilize. Whenever any new idea is mentioned, the Grognard reflexively opposes it. He’s wary of newcomers, and his motto is “We’ve always done it that way.” If you’re lucky and the Grognard used to be something more constructive, you may be able to sway him into motion, but it’s an uphill battle.

The Pushy Git. Also known the Bully, the Brush Salesman, the Rules Lawyer, etc. This is the guy who always takes a foot when you give an inch, runs rough-shod over everyone else’s efforts and planning, tries to weasel his way into twisting the meaning of any agreement made with outside parties, tries to obtain more space or time for whatever portion of the project he’s responsible for, and will not submit the information needed for coordination but will want his contribution to be prominently acknowledged. His motto is, “Compromise is for the WEAK!”

The Supporter. Also known as the Back-Bencher, Six O’Clock Charlie, or the Yes-Man, this is a very, very common type in volunteer groups. The Supporter will not take initiative, will not launch anything new, and doesn’t want to be in charge of anything. If you push responsibility into his lap, he will be tentative and will want you to be there to say “Yes, do that” to every single step he takes; but he’s not necessarily trying to avoid work — just responsibility. If he’s hand-held by a Go-Getter long enough, he can be mobilized into usefulness.

The Whiner. Also known as the Martyr, Poor Me, etc., this is the guy who always feels his contribution is being dissed. He digs his heels against the group but always finds a way to argue that he’s being singled out. He’d be so very helpful (he says), so very valuable if only everyone else would let him! Why is no one ever going along with his ideas? He’s often particularly adept at creating new work for others, coming up with tons of ideas and insisting that someone else should implement them. Whatever else the group decides is always a deadly insult, and he will not let you forget that; he has stupendous capacity for holding a grudge.

EDIT: My husband wants me to add:

The mass murderer – also known as the Tower Sniper, The Postal Employee, “That nice guy who lived next door”, or “MACHETE!” This is a committee member, usually a Go-Getter, who finally decides to clear the dead wood out of the committee with extreme prejudice.


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