my contact won’t stop pressuring me to volunteer while I’m on medical leave

A reader writes:

I am a part of an international volunteer organization that is not doing very well at the local level. I am also disabled with a number of conditions that have all chosen the last few months to give me trouble, leaving me unable to contribute. I really like participating in this organization and the people there really like me, so I want it to succeed but I cannot give it the effort I normally would. I was last able to participate at the end of February. Traveling to and from the organization is difficult because I rely on public transportation and if one of my conditions flares up, I don’t have an easy way home.

I have a colleague who is at the same level as me in terms of structure, but with different responsibilities. She has been contacting me regularly, over social media, messenger, email, and text about me not participating. I’ve told her very clearly that I am not well right now and I don’t like leaving the house alone for long periods of time.

Her contact has included the following:

– asking me to write, direct, and produce a “viral video” of a meme from two years ago
– signing me up for events without contacting me to confirm I can attend
– asking me to host meetings in my own home on my own private time
– asking me to organize events and meetings that I cannot attend.

She also accidentally included me in a messenger conversation with higher-ups in the organization asking them repeatedly to do something they told her was not part of the organization. She applied this sort of passive aggressive social pressure to me as well, telling me that I am “unsupportive” and not acting in the spirit of the organization.

The last straw was her sending me an official email from the organization asking me if I am even interested in participating anymore. When I said I was, and would be back as soon as I was cleared from my disability leave (I am on what amounts to temporary disability in my country). She replied to me heavily implying that the local branch of the organization would fail due to my inaction.

At this point, I don’t know what to do. I have tried very hard at establishing boundaries with her, and for the most part she respects them until she finds a reason to contact me and then lay on the guilt trip after I respond. Her boundary issues started long before this and I’d normally be able to handle her but I’m just exhausted after being extremely sick for months. I talked to my husband about quitting before I got sick because I didn’t want to deal with her, and I’m fine with letting the local branch fail because there’s nothing I can do right now.

She’s also applied this guilt tripping behavior to members, by posting public guilt trips to our Facebook page, which is turning people away. It’s normally my responsibility to update the Facebook page, which I can do from my phone on my couch as I rest, but she’s bypassing me to do this herself.

I’m sorry if this got long, I’m just at my wits end about what to do about her.

Tell her clearly one final time that you’re not available for the foreseeable future and that she needs to stop contacting you, and then ignore all future messages from her.

Use wording like this: “I’m currently on disability leave and not available to participate in any way. I’ve explained this previously, but you’ve continued to contact me. I’m requesting that you stop contacting me about XYZ Organization activities until I inform the organization that I am formally off disability leave.”

That’s it. Then ignore anything she sends after that. If you’ll have trouble doing that or if it stresses you out to see her messages, block them or set them to bypass your inbox and go straight to your trash. You have zero obligation to allow her to mess with your state of mind this way, particularly when you’ve clearly told her to stop.

Frankly, since it sounds like you’ve already told her to stop, you could even skip sending the message above and just go straight to ignoring her messages.

You might also consider emailing the organization’s leadership and let them know that she’s continuing to contact you after you’ve told her not to, and that her behavior is likely to drive away volunteers altogether. Cite those Facebook guilt trips in particular. You could say that you’re happy to continue maintaining the Facebook page (if you really are) but that you can’t do it if she’s going to be posting unauthorized, obnoxious messages there.

But you have no obligations to continue dealing with her. None. Zero. That’s an advantage to volunteering; you get to set up whatever boundaries you want and can walk away at any time if those boundaries are repeatedly disrespected.

A good organization is one that leaves people alone when they request it.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 163 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die on*

    You absolutely need to say something to leadership–it sounds like she has already driven people away! I wouldn’t blame you for finding another place to volunteer your time. That sounds miserable. I wish you a speedy recovery!

    1. Antilles*

      Agreed 100%. OP has no choice I think you have no choice but to talk to the higher-ups. As I see it, there’s one key point here that’s worth emphasizing:
      OP is a volunteer who’s been with the organization quite a while, who’s trusted enough to run their FB page (among other things), and who’s emotionally involved enough to contact an advice columnist in order to find ways to keep going. In short, OP is far more committed than almost anybody else…and yet, Colleague’s behavior is so awful that it’s driving her off.
      For new volunteers, without that level of commitment (because again, they’re new!)? They’re going to bail out the instant they have to deal with this can of insanity. In fact, I’d bet that Colleague is actually a major part of the reason *why* the organization is falling apart – because Colleague’s behavior is so awful that new volunteers/members run away.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “For new volunteers, without that level of commitment (because again, they’re new!)? They’re going to bail out the instant they have to deal with this can of insanity. In fact, I’d bet that Colleague is actually a major part of the reason *why* the organization is falling apart – because Colleague’s behavior is so awful that new volunteers/members run away.”

        I’m pretty resilient. I can let a lot of stuff just roll off my back and not let things get to me too much. This level of “are you freaking kidding me” would make me bounce in about a tenth of a nano second. Seriously if I were OP I’d be gone already.

        I understand why she isn’t and ok…tbh depending on the org. I might be willing to stick around for a while regardless, but you can bet I’d have already talked to someone who could make Colleague back the hell off.

      2. Thatgirlwiththeglasses*

        This colleague is also publicly embarrassing the organization with her social media harassment. If she’s using the organizations official social media accounts to harass volunteers?

    2. H.C.*

      Yeah, I would bring these messages to the attention of the local chapter leadership or even the chapter relations team at the national level.

    3. Alli525*

      Agreed. At this point I wouldn’t even send One Last Email to her – I’d just email leadership now. What a bully.

      1. 2horseygirls*

        And perhaps include a few choice PDFs of Colleague’s emails and your replies over a period of time, so they know this is not a one-off/having a particularly bad day reaction, but rather the straw that has broken the camel’s back, so to speak.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Also agreed. Heads should roll for this kind of behavior.

      I’m so very sorry, OP.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I wouldn’t tolerate this much harassment from an employer, someone actually paying me for my work. This is a volunteer org., a place OP gives her time/work for free and she’s being massively harassed. Just no. I wonder if the colleague used to do MLM…I’m getting Amway flashbacks over here.

    5. Agglutination*

      I am considering writing formally to our leadership; but they’re already aware of her behavior. I’ve spoken to some of them privately and they’re aware of my situation and they’ve been absolutely supportive of me and my need to take some time for myself.

      1. eplawyer*

        They are aware of your situation. But have you actually told them she needs to stop? Alison always says “use your words.” People may think they told someone something but they really didn’t relay the problem.

        You need to tell leadership that she has 1) not stoppped contacting you despite your repeated requests; 2) signed you up for things without your permission; 3) is driving people away with her Facebook posts and 4) is drivinng YOU away if it keeps up.

        If you aren’t direct leadership they might not know its really problem.

        1. Agglutination*

          I haven’t told them anything specific, no, but they can see the Facebook posts.

          I’ve already chosen to leave so now it’s a debate of whether or not to burn the bridge or walk away and not bother.

          1. Emi.*

            Burn which bridge? Alerting management shouldn’t burn a bridge with them. If it’s the bridge with Ms. Pushy, well, why do you want a bridge with her?

          2. myswtghst*

            Even if they can see the Facebook posts and are peripherally aware of her behavior towards you, they may not be putting all the pieces together the way that you are. Even if they should see the damage her actions are causing, it doesn’t mean that they do.

            You’re absolutely not required to do so, but you would be doing them a favor to send one last email to the leadership team putting all those pieces together so they can clearly see the impact this person is having, both in terms of driving you away and potentially driving away others in the future. As Emi said, it shouldn’t burn any bridges with the org/leadership if you present the facts as they are, and it would be doing them a kindness.

            1. TheGoodBoss*

              Maybe it would be easiest to forward a copy of what you sent to AAM so you don’t have to invest more time in preparing something special for them when you are already dealing with so much.

            2. only acting normal*

              “Even if they should see the damage her actions are causing, it doesn’t mean that they do.”
              Yes. Never underestimate people’s ability to rationalise away uncomfortable truths if it’s easier for them to ignore reality.
              The bosses will likely come up with a more comfortable narrative – e.g. “Agglutination quit because of health problems”, not “Agglutination was harassed out by someone we failed to deal with”.

          3. tangerineRose*

            I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this. Take care of yourself – if management can’t tell from the Facebook posts that this person is a problem, then they have a problem too.

          4. Lara*

            It’s totally your choice and if you dislike confrontation there’s nothing wrong with noping out. But telling them wouldn’t be burning a bridge; orgs live by volunteers like you, and die on ones like Ms. Pushy.

          5. Kate 2*

            But the facebook posts are just one small piece of the puzzle, one way she has been contacting you. Have you told them about all the other ways she has been bothering you? Phone calls, emails, etc.

      2. Hey Nonnie*

        If someone were this disrespectful of me when I am sick, I would go full-on scorched earth with them. Reply to her most recent email, copy the entire leadership, pointedly explain that you are copying leadership because she has been riding roughshod over your clearly stated boundaries and completely disregarding your health and your needs, and that HER behavior is the kind of thing that leads to volunteer organizations failing, because who wants to volunteer for someone that callous and self-absorbed, and who won’t take no for an answer, even when they are sick?

        Then add a polite paragraph directly addressing leadership to inform them that you will be completely unavailable, until YOU reach out and let them know you can come back.

        FWIW, I did actually do something very similar to this. There wasn’t an outside organization involved, but I had a “friend” who demanded I send special illness updates just for her, because she didn’t want to join the email list I set up specifically for that purpose — but she totally really wanted updates from me! So I told her that I wasn’t about to write them out twice just for her — because, you know, I’M SICK and not even my family got that privilege — and she could join the list and get updates, or not get updates, and it was entirely on her which one she chose. She tried to argue with me, so I gave up and stopped responding until she stopped, and then never spoke to her again. (Despite this, she somehow missed the fact that we were no longer friends, and after several YEARS of no contact ran up to me at a public event all smiles like nothing had happened. I pulled away and gave her a glare that could have frozen Hell, and I think she finally got it.)

    6. No Mas Pantalones*

      This, this this.

      If I read the letter correctly, this person is also a volunteer. If that is the case, leadership may want to “fire” her because she seems like she isn’t the best representation for their organisation.

      I’d also stop trying to be polite and diplomatic. It hasn’t worked. “Do not contact me again.” That’s it. Then block everything to do with her.

    7. Mary*

      OP, I’d like to rephrase this: you absolutely could tell the senior management about this and it’s information they should be grateful for, but you have no *responsibility* to do that. Even telling management is performing extra labour for this organisation, and you have no obligation to do that. Your priority should be your health and if the stress of contacting the organisation’s senior managers and worrying about it is too much for you right now, that’s absolutely fair and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it!

  2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I have a friend and co-worker who is very, very ill. She’s called me crying about emails that co-workers have sent implying that she’s not doing her job. (I’ve gone to our boss directly because I know she won’t.).

    But I’m going to tell you the same thing I’ve told her, LW. You’re only responsibility right now is to focus on you. Let someone else take the reins. If you were to stop participating altogether, they would figure out how to cope. Let them figure it out. Do whatever it takes to take care of you. Because, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

    1. Teapot librarian*

      Thanks for having your friend/coworker’s back. I hope she has a complete and speedy recovery.

    2. essEss*

      If your friend is in the US and is on FMLA for her illness, you need to alert the coworkers about the seriousness of FMLA interference/retaliation.

    3. Agglutination*

      Thanks for your kind words. I have been taking more time for myself and taking care of myself and enjoying it. You sound like a wonderful friend!

  3. animaniactoo*

    Start with whoever is directly above her in the organization. Discuss with them her aggressive networking and how it is negatively impacting you and probably others.

    When she posts the public shaming messages, take them down. If she complains? “I am the manager of the FaceBook page. It is the one thing that I AM still capable of contributing. I do not agree with the message that people should feel guilty if they are not putting in more time/whatever. If you have an issue with how I am managing the page, please talk to Jane or Bart (people above us) about it.”

    Anything she sends you that is “official” like the “asking if you’re even interested in participating”, reply to her and CC whoever is appropriate “As previously notified…”

    It is likely that many people have complained about her, but the complaints probably do not give a clear picture of how egregious her behavior is as a pattern vs this next “one-off” thing.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think there are few complaints. There are people who would take one look at her and not give her an inch. There are people who can ignore someone like that, unfollow, block and move along like she’s not there. Then there are people like the LW who thinks that since this woman is acting in the name of a charity, she gets a pass when she violates all social norms and etiquette niceties, because well, it’s for charity. If her bosses haven’t shut her down, they are ultimately saying her means are acceptable.
      If LW weren’t “free at home, not working” (in the demented mind of this do-gooder) LW would not be pushed to this point.
      It’s for charity should replace get out of jail free in the new millennium monopoly.

    2. Antilles*

      It is likely that many people have complained about her
      I actually disagree. I think it’s far more likely that there are a handful of complaints…which are way outnumbered by the people who just quietly ghosted on the organization without a word. After all, complaining about someone requires a certain level of emotional connection to the organization; anybody who isn’t that committed probably just quietly vanished without a trace and left it at that.
      Essentially an equivalent to the old ‘restaurants love to hear complaints’ thing – for every one person who’s so irritated by your bad service that they are willing to spend time and energy complaining about what went wrong, there are 9 people who had that exact same issue but just mentally wrote you off without a spoken word.

      1. Amber T*

        Agreed. I think there are plenty of people who have complained under their breath, or even among themselves, but my fear as a volunteer would be, if I brought this up with someone higher, they would act the same way (this is how the entire organization is), so what’s the point? It’s much easier for me to slip away quietly.

      2. Christmas Carol*

        The danger is that the 9 people who just mentally wrote you off also told their friends, relatives, co-workers and the guy they sat next to on the bus how irritated they were.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        Agreed. As QA I have had this argument before “it’s not bothering anyone.. they haven’t complained!” I usually don’t complain. I just use someone else.

        Relevant at moment – house hunting. One of sites doesn’t allow you to open a property from the map in a different tab, and if you click it and go back, you’ve got the default map again when you had zoomed to where you wanted.

        Didn’t complain. Used other site. They probably will never know.

        1. Oranges*

          Your example is a perfect example of “why UX testing is actually important”.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Same experience when I was apartment-hunting. One place kept showing me units that were outside the parameters I set… and I just stopped using that site due to how useless that is.

      4. AKchic*

        If a place I was volunteering for started posting guilt trips on their page, I would unlike the page so fast it would glitch my browser. I would cancel any donations being made, and I’d keep an eye out to see if this becomes a pattern. If it does, I would start telling other people about it. I don’t need or want a guilt trip to do *more* than I can or to harass others into doing more than they can.
        I would also assume that if they are posting on the organizational social media page, that either the upper management approved the message, was at least aware of the message, or simply doesn’t care what messages get posted. Any of those three things bother me enough to not want to donate time, money or resources to a program when I’m getting guilt tripping lectures to do “more”.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Yup, that’s why I’m saying – if you’re in control of that page, delete those messages. The fact that they have been “posted” by someone from the org doesn’t mean they have to be left up.

      5. Penny Lane*

        I disagree too that many people have complained about her. We know that by far the most common difficulty people have with coworkers is not “using their words” to express dissatisfaction with something. Nonetheless, the OP just needs to repeat “I am on disability, I am able to do X but unable to do Y” and just say the same thing, over and over again, and/or ignore the messages. Why she feels she has an obligation is beyond me. This is volunteer, not a paid position.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yes, this. CC people. Chances are they don’t know and would be horrified

    4. Agglutination*

      Hi! Some other people responding to you have already responded but the issue is her behaviour is quietly driving people away. She’s even caught on to that and is trying to “fix it” but I feel it may be too little, too late.

      For this year we started with an official ‘leadership position’ that’s supposed to be the executive decision maker for a local branch. He unfortunately also became ill (unrelated issues) and he’s been working ‘in name only’ and letting us handle things between each other. The next step is our regional leadership and they’re already aware of her issues (having bumped heads with her in the past).

      Thank you for the suggestions!

      1. TheGoodBoss*

        You sound like an awesome human being who cares and is continuing to do good in the world despite having so much going on in your life. I hope you are healing and this person is soon in your past. <3

    5. paul*

      We would fire someone–ASAP–for posting negative messages on our facebook page. I can’t believe management has already.

  4. aes_sidhe*

    Let your boss know to allow them to address the issue. They can’t handle something if they’re not told about it. Tell them what she’s said, going so far as to make you feel that your position with the company is threatened and that it’s at her sole discretion as to whether or not you’re allowed back, and let them handle it after that.

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      +1 on this. Especially if she’s already been pulling some shenanigans with the higher ups, as the OP seems to have indicated.

      1. Irene Adler*

        Let the higher ups know what this person is doing to you and others. There are consequences to her actions. Do they want that?

        I bet this person worked for Habitat for Humanity once.
        I would donate any $ that was leftover at the end of the month to them.
        One time this gal called and would not let me alone until I promised to send funds immediately. It was imperative she said. They had someone who would match whatever funds were donated. I had to do this right now otherwise I was not doing my part for folks who don’t have a roof over their heads like I do. I explained that I’d sent all I could but could not spare any $ at this time. Shame on me! She really had me upset.

        Later I wrote to Habitat and explained that because of this woman, I would NEVER donate another cent to them. And I never have.

        1. Amber T*

          I hope someone read that letter and responded (at least internally). That is not someone who should be asking other’s for money.

        2. periwinkle*

          This is why I refuse to donate a penny to the ASPCA. One of their phone bank people pulled this crap on me once. I asked to speak to a supervisor, explained why I would not donate and how terribly unpleasant I would be to anyone else who called from the organization so please inactivate my record, and hung up.

          Really hate to do that to a worthy organization, but there are many worthy organizations (a local no-kill shelter got my donations after that).

          Don’t EVER bleeping tell me how to spend my money…

          1. Stormfeather*

            Ugh, my father signed up for a monthly donation to the ASPCA… which only opened him up for constant phone calls where they don’t even leave a message, just keep calling… and mailing… and calling… and mailing…

            Come to think of it, I’m not sure if they finally got a clue, or if he snapped and told them he was going to stop donating and to take him off their calling list. I know he was considering it.

        3. essEss*

          I had a fundraising place call me a couple days after I had just signed closing papers on my first house. They were asking for money and I told them that I couldn’t commit to anything right now because I didn’t know what my monthly expenses were going to look like for a few months but I’d be willing to consider it in a couple months when I knew that my finances wouldn’t be so tight. The caller’s response to that was a rude “Lady, things are tough all over. I am only allowed to call you once a year so you need to donate now.” I informed him that since he was so rude, I wasn’t going to donate at all and hung up. One week later, I got another call from the same place, giving me the same pressure about how they were only allowed to call once a year. I again told them that I wasn’t in a position to donate, and that I already told them when they called me the week before. This time the caller told me that I was wrong and that no one could have possibly called me from that organization the previous week. I told them no again, and hung up. The following week, I got a third call from the same organization and they started out with a spiel about only calling once a year. I lost my temper and told them that they were liars and that I’d already been called twice in the previous 2 weeks and been treated rudely and they were to NEVER call my home again.

        4. Em*

          I had a charity call me to solicit a donation (I think I had donated ONE time to them previously). The caller was extremely aggressive and pushy. I wrote them and told them not to call me again because of this. They called back two more times (not as pushy as the first guy but still off putting — one guy, I guess making friendly small talk, started off the call with a mini rant about how terrible the government was, which I thought was foolish because he didn’t know if that was my party or not). After the last call, I wrote to the better business bureau and complained. Got a letter from someone with a high up title telling me very sharply that I should have contacted them about the issue instead of going to BBB and that I would not be contacted again. It was a legit charity and it does good work, but it’s not near and dear to me and you can bet it will never see another penny from me. They did remove me from their contact list, which I appreciate and is one reason I’m not naming them here.

        5. Hey Nonnie*

          I kind of wish these aggressive solicitors would call when I actually have time to screw with them.

          You can ask me once. I’ll probably say no (I don’t hand money over for anything without a ton of research first, which is not going to happen while someone is waiting on the phone).

          If they try to use my “no” as some sort of entry into a further sales pitch (I mean, I don’t know how “no” is unclear, but you do you), I’d love to have the time to just let them go for as long as they will, and then remind them that I’d already given them my answer 15 minutes ago. And that all attempts to wheedle me into a “yes” only serve to confirm that “no” was the correct answer.

          They never call when I have that kind of free time, though. Only when I’m in the middle of something I need to get back to ASAP.

        6. Gazebo Slayer*

          I’ll never donate to Habitat for Humanity because, in my area at least, they have a *minimum* annual income for people they serve that’s much more money than I make. Yes, minimum.

          I get snippy with anyone who won’t take no for an answer, in any context. Phone fundraisers who tried to guilt me after I explained that I was unemployed, pushy salespeople trying to “overcome objections”… they all make my skin crawl.

          1. Irene Adler*

            Didn’t know about the minimum income requirement. I suspect that they do this to assure the home owners can make the mortgage payments.
            But, having written this, I think they need to be more open about this requirement. And this convinces me that I did the right thing by ending my donations to them.

        7. TheGoodBoss*

          Wow, what an awful way to treat you after all you had given! I can imagine how upsetting that must have been, especially having to deal with someone bullying you on the phone.

          I had a similar experience, although not as bad as yours as it was in writing. Several years ago I received a letter from the local branch of the Salvation Army chastising me for not contributing as much money as I had in past years. They were criticizing me based on donations I’d made online and checks I’d sent to their local office for which I received tax receipts.

          However, most of my donations were during the holiday season when I would anonymously put $20 bills into their red kettles whenever I was at the shopping mall, adding up to hundreds of dollars every Christmas season. I wrote back telling them how shocked and upset I was to receive their letter criticizing me and explained how much more I was actually donating. No one responded, although they continued to send me requests for donations.

          I haven’t donated anything to them since receiving that awful letter. There are so many other good causes in the world! My donations now go to organizations that don’t scold me for “not doing enough”.

        8. JoJo*

          I quit donating blood for the same reason. I was getting up to 6 calls a day, both at work and at home for several months. I kept telling them I was going to donate at the blood drive at work, but they kept calling me non stop. Finally I told them I would never donate blood again and never to contact me.

          1. Canadian Teapots*

            That’s actually kind of concerning. It’s a matter of public health that enough blood be available for any patient who might need it – could you consider donating directly to a hospital or to a local government-run agency?

            I’d also really highly suggest you write to whichever organization was pushing you on this and tell them their tactics are unwarranted and are have public health implications if they’re turning people off.

    2. Seriously?*

      Or tell them that you really need this time to recover, and if you are going to be continually harassed like this you will have to resign from the organization in order to protect your health.

      1. aes_sidhe*

        Or let them know with the caveat that, due to the health situation, OP won’t have any other choice but to resign if the behavior of the other woman continues.

    3. Agglutination*

      Hi! Thank you for your suggestion. It is excellent advice; but our ‘boss’ as it were had to step down in duties earlier this year and he’s been operating in name only. All he’s done is sign official paperwork and documents. The higher ups in the organisation are aware of her behaviour but what plan they have for her going forward is unclear to me.

      1. aes_sidhe*

        Do they know, though, that she’s actually harassing you while on medical leave and semi-threatening your position there? I’d still let the head boss, because he hasn’t actually stepped down if he still has authority to sign documents on behalf of the organization. If he’d actively stepped down, someone else would be doing his job. I’d be sure to mention to him, too, that the other higher ups are aware of her behavior but have done nothing to stop the constant abuse.

        Good luck!

      2. aes_sidhe*

        Dang it. The other comment disappeared.

        Any way, if he’s still signing documents, he hasn’t stepped down. He still has the authority to deal with this woman. I’d be sure to loop him in on not only the harassment and veiled threats (while on medical leave, no less) but the fact the other higher ups know about it and have done nothing to put an end to it.

        1. Agglutination*

          I appreciate your suggestion but he is having a worse medical situation than I am so I wouldn’t want to bully him into the same spot I’m in. I will likely go to the next level.

  5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    “for the most part she respects them until she finds a reason to contact me”
    No. She never respects your boundaries. When she is not harassing you (there is no weaker term that fits) it is because she is eating, sleeping or harassing other people. When she gets back you you on her list of people to beat into her army of volunteers, she hits you up again.
    She is not normal. It’s not that she’s a bad person, or that she’s a good person.
    She is a “gone off the rails for her cause” person.
    Step back.
    Tell her one more time that you are unable to participate at this time and then stop responding to her. Unfollow her on social media and block her on if you have to. It’s a tool, not a binding contract and lifetime commitment. You can block her. It’s fine.
    Contact the higher ups and tell them that you’ve discovered she is volunteering your time and services without your consent and that you are unable to participate at this time but will contact them when you are able to again.

    1. Jadelyn*

      This. It’s not respecting your boundaries if she only “respects” them when it’s convenient for her, but happily tramples them the second she has a “reason” to.

    2. Agglutination*

      Hi! Thanks for responding.

      You’re absolutely right that she’s not respecting my boundaries. It’s something that’s become clear to me since writing the letter. She reminds me of someone who was abusive to me in the past and it’s caused me quite a bit of anxiety. That’s when I realised I had to step back.

    3. Khlovia*

      “She is not normal. It’s not that she’s a bad person, or that she’s a good person.
      She is a “gone off the rails for her cause” person.”

      I dunno. I don’t think she *is* a “gone off the rails for her cause” person. I think she is a “this is the venue I have chosen to be the background for my self-aggrandization” person.

      Which, in my book, does make her a bad person.

  6. Geneva*

    Man, OP, I feel for you. There’s always that “leader” in the office who believes illnesses are a choice you need to “push through” for the greater good, when any sane person knows, bodies don’t work that way! Yes, please ignore her and let the chips fall where they may. I have a very good feeling, that once you’re on the mend, she’ll be out the door due to her all around tone-deaf antics.

    1. Agglutination*

      Hi! Thanks for your kind words. I’m doing much better now and focusing on myself.

  7. Temperance*

    LW, the time for being nice has ended. Respond to this person and CC her manager, making it clear in no uncertain terms that you are not able to assist for the foreseeable future, and that, if anything changes, you will reach out to someone else.

    I might even attach every single aggressive email she sent, and include her responses.

    1. Agglutination*


      This is excellent advice; unfortunately she doesn’t have a manager right now and those higher above us in the org are aware (though perhaps not about specific emails).

      1. Pollygrammer*

        They may be aware of the behavior, but there may be a chance that they haven’t yet put 2+2 together and realized the threat she poses to volunteer retention and the organization’s image.

        1. Kathenus*

          Very much this! LW I know you’ve mentioned that you’ve made a decision to step back, and you should 100% do whatever is best for you and your health.

          It would be a kindness to the organization if you would still reach out to those higher up (above your manager since you said he’s not overly involved right now) in the org and be very specific with your feedback on her behavior and its impact on you and possibly others. You’ve said they’re aware, but from a distance it can be hard to see things through the same lens that you are, and it might be a great benefit to the organization to give them very clear information on this, regardless of whether you want to stay involved or not. Good luck, and take care.

        2. Agglutination*

          I didn’t speak to this specifically in the original letter; but the conversation she accidentally put me into (she is very bad at Facebook and messenger) she was basically trying to manipulate the regional and national leadership into paying travel expenses for one of our branch members to attend a conference. They repeatedly told her no, that the member would have to pay for their own expenses. Then she looped both me and the member into the conversation to make them tell them personally they wouldn’t be paying for expenses. She kicked me out of the conversation when she realized I was there.

          When I say they’re aware, I mean because they’re on the receiving end.

          But I can detail my own issues on that regard.

  8. Clorinda*

    Take care of yourself, OP.
    There are plenty of philanthropic organizations. You’ll be able to volunteer again when you’re better. If you need to cut ties with this entire organization to get this vampire’s fangs out of your neck, do it and don’t look back.

    1. Agglutination*

      Hi! Thanks for the advice.

      I have already accepted another volunteer role and I’m stepping back from this one. I’m just sad because I put so much into it and this one person is making something that’s been so rewarding into something agonizing. I have better things to do with my time!

      1. Close Bracket*

        I’m glad you found a new role, and I’m sorry this one drove you out.
        I would def have removed her Facebook privileges. :)

  9. Matt*

    If you do contact either the offending contact or the organization, I’d also tell them that the harassment (and the above-commenter is right- that’s exactly what this is) is making you strongly reconsider any future participation with them after your recovery is complete.

    1. Agglutination*


      I have felt harassed, that’s exactly right! I’m now debating whether or not I want to invest the energy into burning that bridge or just walking away.

      1. Ophelia*

        I don’t think it’s necessarily burning a bridge with the organization, though. With Pushy McHarrassment, it is, sure, but if I were running an organization that was losing support, and someone gave me useful information about why, I wouldn’t consider that to be bridge-burning.

        1. Agglutination*

          I’m not worried about the organization; I don’t want to give her more of my energy than she’s already taken.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            I totally get it. But since in your other comments you have said you really care about the organization/cause and have put a lot of time/energy into it, it might feel better to think of it as the last thing you do for the organization (and not even factor her into it).

            Of course it’s your choice, but since you are such a valued volunteer I think your position gives your voice extra power and maybe the organization will listen to you. “Wow, if Ms. Pushy is harassing Agglutination (who is awesome and has done so much for us) /while they’re sick/ think of who else she is driving away!”

  10. AnonForThis*

    Not violating your boundaries until she wants to is not respecting your boundaries!

    It would not be unreasonable to forward these emails to a higher up with a quick note that this is causing issues.

    Also… you’re a volunteer. As long as you are up front with how much you can do, you do what works for you. This kind of pressure can lose volunteers!

    1. Agglutination*

      I started this branch when I was five months pregnant. She wasn’t with us at the time, she came when I was taking maternity leave. She would ask me to do really inappropriate things regarding my personal time. She suggested we take a salsa class Saturday nights at 10pm, and when I said I had to stay home with the baby she suggested I bring my infant with me to the class because she would bring her own kids to those things. One of the reasons I wanted to participate was because it was voluntary and low commitment but now it feels more “voluntold”

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Wow. It sounds like she has some sort of personal fixation on you in addition to the “everything for the cause” mentality. A scary combination.

  11. Anon Today*

    Definitely reach out to the leadership of the organization. I work for a non-profit and if there was someone that we worked with (either in a volunteer or paid capacity) who was putting this much pressure on a volunteer we’d want to know so that we can talk to that person. Because that sort of behavior will drive away other volunteers.

    1. Agglutination*

      I think I may drop a line up the chain as a heads up to voice my concerns since a lot of people are suggesting it. Thanks for the advice!

  12. Lara*

    “I told you on X date and X date that I was unavailable for volunteering because I am on disability leave. I am out of office until X date. Do not contact me until then.”

    Cc in her manager and consider removing her from the Facebook page. Radio silence is better than passive aggressive threats.

    1. 2horseygirls*

      Absolutely this! If social media posts are the one thing you are able to still do, then remove her admin/mod privileges first (very important – I am in power admin groups that spend hours dealing with rogue admins who have dumped the founder/team, blocked them, and then run amuck), then block her from the page.

      As long as you are in the communications loop to be posting effective messaging, there is no reason for her to add that to her already full plate [see what I did there? It may be slightly passive aggressive, but hey, you are only thinking of her ;) ]

    2. Agglutination*

      Since I decided to leave I won’t be removing her FB permissions. She’s not very good at it and is constantly asking me things like how to find posts on our page; or she’s posting personally under the admin name instead of posting as herself. It’s her mess to untangle now.

  13. Technical_Kitty*

    As a volunteer BS like this means I don’t volunteer with that organization. Volunteers are not looking for extra drama, and bitchy guilt trips send a very clear signal to avoid. The hard cores who are committed to the cause might power through, but the ones who are just looking for a way to help will go to other organizations. I’ve found that volunteers tend to fall into the second category for the most part.

  14. Cordoba*

    If the local branch is so tenuous that that the absence of a single volunteer will cause it to fail then it’s probably best that this happens sooner rather than later; as then everybody can redirect their energy to some other productive thing instead of trying to limp this one along.

    I recommend LW reiterate that they quit and don’t want any further contact, and also send an email to whoever this dreadful person’s supervisor is letting them know how she operates.

    It would be unreasonable to get this treatment from an actual employer, much less an organization that doesn’t even pay you. That’s one of the downsides of relying on free labor; people can just stop at any time for any reason and there’s not much the organization can do about it.

    1. Midge*

      Agreed! LW, if this person is right (and she may be exaggerating) and the organization is in such bad shape that they will fail because you aren’t currently actively volunteering, then they have failed to create a sustainable business model. Just like if the non-profit only had a single grant and it was in danger of failing if the grant ended, it seems they’ve put themselves on a path to unsustainability due to a lack of volunteers.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      “If the local branch is so tenuous that that the absence of a single volunteer will cause it to fail then it’s probably best that this happens sooner rather than later”
      This. If OP’s involvement is the only thing keeping the org afloat? The org just might have to sink.

      The only thing I thought miiiiight be a faint possibility is that OP has told Overzealous Volunteer Lady that she is not well and doesn’t want to leave the house, and so OVL has shifted to demanding that OP do things OP *technically* can do from home. It’s unacceptable behavior, but I can see how OVL thinks video editing and having people over for a meeting are activities that don’t require leaving the house, or that OP would be okay just sitting quietly in a meeting, and probably wants a change of scenery once in a while and not to be cooped up in the house all the time.

      I’ve known these people — OP thinks she has said no very clearly to everything. If she were dealing with a normal person, they would get it. But OVL thinks OP did not say no. OVL thinks that OP can’t do X … so she now has cut way back on asking for X (not stopped entirely), AND has started asking for Y (“well, it’s not X!”).

      Agree with others that OP needs to tell OVL that she cannot do ANYTHING right now and then cut her off.

      (I had a college roommate like this. She nagged me to do and go places I didn’t want to do or go, and I thought I was being polite when I gave excuses that *I* would have understood meant no. When I lost my temper and thought I was being unacceptably and harshly rude was when she finally was like, “Oh, okay, I guess you really don’t want to.” I had to learn that even when I said, “No, absolutely not, I do not want to do that,” she would still be like, “Oh, come on! There isn’t any way? You sure? Just for an hour? For me?” Ugh.)

      1. RVA Cat*

        “No does not mean Convince Me.”
        I stole this from a #MeToo-related article but it applies to so many other things in life.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yes. And frankly whenever I encounter people who won’t take no for an answer in other contexts, I wonder what they’re like with people they’re attracted to. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this kind of “won’t take no for an answer” behavior and mindset is correlated with sexual coercion.

          (I had a friend I ghosted on and cut out of my life who would throw guilt-trippy whining fits if you said no to his totally unreasonable demands. His masturbating in public in front of my mother was one of the last straws.)

          1. Thursday Next*

            [Imagine all the exclamation points in the world here.]

            In front of your mother? YIKES. I can’t imagine what other straws can be grouped with those!

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Oh, plenty of others. Extreme clinginess, demanding I skip classes and meetings to travel to his family events out of state and telling me I didn’t care about him if I didn’t… and this person insisted everyone disliked him and was meeeean to him *because of his physical disabilities*. The immaturity and lack of self-awareness were astounding. Whacking it in front of my mom was just the worst of many inappropriate things he did.

              (This person is also a large part of why I get so angry when people use “but disability!!!1” as an excuse to treat others like garbage with impunity, like with the bird letter case – another large part being that as a woman with Asperger’s I am really tired of being lumped in with creepers who use ASD for plausible deniability.)

          2. Khlovia*

            If I have to see a doctor to get my jaw re-attached, I’m sending you the bill.

    3. Agglutination*

      She’s switching tactics now from “it’s your fault we’re going to fail” to “it’s okay we don’t need you anyway but please stay anyway”. No thanks, lady!

  15. Oranges*

    This… isn’t (or shouldn’t) be normal. I’d actually send one email to her higher-ups stating your issues with her and stating that you cannot work with her. If they don’t figure out another contact person/some solution then I wouldn’t work for that org any longer. I’d also be honest about my reasons for not working with that org if it ever comes up.

    It shouldn’t be your problem to solve. You didn’t sign up for harassment like this and the higher ups are either a) dropping the ball (not dealing with Pushy McPushPants) or b) horrible people (who think this is okay). If it’s situation “a” then they won’t do anything until they’re inconvenienced. If “b”…. do you really want to work with an org that thinks that way?

    1. Agglutination*

      I don’t want to work with her anymore, so that’s off the table.

      We’re in a small country so our next highest level is the national level. They are very hands off when it comes to disputes on a local level. Every other branch I’ve talked to seems to be lacking this problem. So I think they’re willing to let our branch fail and support the ones that are succeeding.

      1. Oranges*

        Yeah, I kinda understand them being hands off, but there’s hands off and there’s ignoring the child with matches and a gas can. If they continue not stepping in when a local branch is going up in flames (looking at you pyro-child) then sooner or later there won’t be any local branches.

        Every volunteer group will occasionally get the “impossible to work with show-off” because of the way humans are. People who trend ego-centric love volunteering because of the ego boost it gives them and the positive attentions. If there isn’t a method in place to rein them in (or better yet oust them) then the higher ups just better hope that they grow more local chapters faster then those chapters implode.

        So they’re not being smart but right now your local chapter sounds like it’s already doomed. I’m so so sorry since I know it’s horrible to see something you worked so hard on go up in smoke because of someone else. However, I think the damage is too extensive by now. Let it rest, grieve for the loss, and see what you feel like in a few years about starting up again (sans scary lady).

  16. Emi.*

    asking me to write, direct, and produce a “viral video” of a meme from two years ago

    1. Agglutination*

      Omg you have no idea. The short version left out a lot of details but out discussion of it went on for a while. Not only was it a 2 year old meme, it was out of theme for the organization. It would have been like if we were an asthma organization trying to do the cinnamon challenge.

      Also I’ve never written or produced a video ever? I film some events but that’s it. I have no idea why she thought I could do this.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        She sounds–in addition to being self-righteous and unkind–like kind of an idiot.

        1. Agglutination*

          I’ve dealt with people like her before. It’s not that she’s an idiot, it’s more like she has unrealistic expectations and gets upset when they’re not met. She doesn’t put any effort into understanding why things work. You can explain it to her and she just brushes it off as excuses.

          She’s intelligent and cultured and speaks multiple languages; so it takes some time to see past her first impression to see how exhausting she really is.

          1. Khlovia*

            She has selected your organization as the stage upon which to produce the great drama of Herself. She is not only the producer, but director and star. The rest of you are stage-hands. She is not devoted to the cause. She is devoted to the spotlight. Your local branch may be done for. But you would be doing your last great volunteer deed for this organization, at the national level, if you could make them understand just exactly how poisonous this person is; or she is likely to move in on another branch and start her shenanigans all over.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              “She is not devoted to the cause. She is devoted to the spotlight.”

              This is perfect!

            2. Agglutination*

              Oh goodness.

              You know, I didn’t think about it but she’s a member of another branch a few hours away. If ours did fail you’re right, she’ll probably just try and elbow her way into leadership there. And they’d be grateful for it too at first because she’s so experienced and she’s a very gregarious and outgoing person. She seems fun and interesting until she starts making demands.

              You’ve convinced me. I’ll drop a line to our director tomorrow (it’s late here and this can wait until daytime).

  17. Green Cheese Moon*

    “The last straw was her sending me an official email from the organization asking me if I am even interested in participating anymore.”

    That is so horribly manipulative and insulting to you. I am sorry that you are the recipient of this.

    I think it’s time to answer her question with a no, I am not interested in participating at this time, thank you very much.

    1. Oranges*

      In my fantasy I would reply “No, congrats you have driven me away! Have fun you horrible person you!” and she would slink away in shame.

      Yes, I know this wouldn’t work in the real world but the fantasy is nice.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Thanks to your repeated attempts to bully me into doing things when I have clearly communicated that I am on disability leave right now and unable to help, I am no longer interested in participating and will be sharing with my network why I am no longer a volunteer for [organization].

          (and CC the higher ups)

      1. AKchic*

        Honestly, a good old digital slap to the side of the head may be necessary here. Cc’ing the higher-ups and making it very clear that this email is the final straw, that yes, *she* is the reason you are now no longer willing to volunteer time for this organization after you are off of Disability Leave, which is the whole reason why you aren’t currently working and volunteering time at this moment, to which information she was aware of and had been told repeatedly not to bother you.
        Then a blurb about how X is never to contact you personally or on behalf of any volunteer organization again, and if the organization had any questions or concerns, someone higher up could contact you during normal business hours through proper channels.

        Wish fulfillment, I know, but it would be so satisfying.

    2. Anonymoose*

      Oh, no, my favorite was: “She replied to me heavily implying that the local branch of the organization would fail due to my inaction.”

      Like, if that org’s house of cards will fail because ONE volunteer isn’t participating, then you have much bigger problems, lady. lol

    3. Agglutination*

      Hi! Thank you for your kindness!

      It was really insulting and it hurt, because I helped found this branch.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Remind yourself that you’re a better volunteer than she is, and any sane person would recognize that. You’ve helped the organization tremendously, and it sounds like she is actively doing it harm.

        Best wishes for your wellness.

  18. AKchic*

    This woman needs to be shut down.

    Having said that, it’s not your *job* to manage this woman. It is on the leadership of this organization to do that. Your sole focus should be on your own well-being. Dealing with this tyrant’s whims may very well be hindering your own recovery. And yes, she *is* a tyrant.

    Email the organization’s higher-ups. Let them know that you are supposed to be on disability leave and that the one thing you *can* do is the Facebook page; however, even after repeated reminders about what you are capable of doing, you are still getting multiple guilt-tripping harangues, and she is stepping on your toes in regards to what you should be doing. Let them know that if they wish for her to take over your duties, you will happily hand it over and be done with the organization, but if they wish you to continue on, they need to reign her in because you are done trying to get through to her. You are requesting that the Facebook page password be changed and she not have access to it (to minimize unauthorized usage and posting of guilt-trips, which does drive away potential volunteers and sours current volunteers) and that any communication regarding the organization be directed from them. She is not to contact you at all until you are off of disability leave, and that order must come from them *today*.

    You have every right to be aggrieved. Just reading about your dealings makes me want to quit on the spot and I don’t even volunteer there!

    1. Anonymoose*

      Yep. Mentioning that her methods of communication are a major liability to their public relations and volunteer efforts should get their ball rolling quickly to manage her. IF they still don’t bother managing her, I think it may be time to move onto an org that can respect it’s benefactors and volunteers.

  19. Lumen*

    This line jumped out at me: “the people there really like me”. Not “I really like the people there and the work the organization does”. I’m not suggesting that you don’t hold those feelings; I think it’s implied by the rest of your tone and the simple fact that you’re working with this organization in the first place.

    However, it put the rest of your letter in a certain context for me: the desire to contribute, but also the desire to be liked, to please others, to not lose their approval (even due to a bitter colleague getting huffy and spreading rumors about how awful and unhelpful you’re being). I think it’s possible that there’s a low level of that causing more internal pressure for you to handle this in a way that does not offend, disappoint, or let others down, even the jerkface colleague. Which isn’t inherently a bad thing – wanting to be tactful is a worthwhile quality.

    But man, this colleague is being a HUGE jerkface. Shut her down so your energy can go back to taking care of yourself, not fending her off. And if, when you’re cleared from medical leave and ready to jump in again, anyone brings up that time you ‘rudely’ ignored repeated emails and so on from Ms. Jerkface? Remember that this person was the rude one. Not you. This person harassed you until the politest, most tactful, most appropriate option you had left was flat-out ignoring her.

    And if it helps, write yourself this note and stick it where you can see it: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO *LESS* THAN YOU ARE HUMANLY CAPABLE OF DOING.

    None of us have to be at 100% at all times. No one. Especially not someone on disability leave.

    1. Agglutination*


      Thank you for your kind words! It’s very validating to hear this from someone else.

      I get what you’re saying about me maybe being a people pleaser but I wanted to say that it was more of just one person being difficult rather than the entire organization being unhappy with me.

  20. This Daydreamer*

    Once again, YOU ARE A VOLUNTEER. You have no more obligation to this organization than you do to participate in the Royal Wedding.

    As someone who has made way too many volunteer recruitment calls for political campaigns “Can you help us canvass this Saturday or Sunday? Ah, busy this weekend. Good for you. Think you’ll have a couple of hours free to help us make phone calls during the week? No, we’re calling every day and evening. Now through election day. And canvassing every weekend through election day. Not sure but keep you on the volunteer list? So I can call you three times a week until that last Tuesday? Sure thing” I would love to have a chat with your colleague. No freaking means no. She should be glad you’re not stringing her along with false hopes and a cheerful insistence that you stay on the list.

    Do yourself a big favor and don’t go back until you want to. And don’t let this person pressure you. Tell her you simply can’t come in now and will contact her when you are ready and to leave you the hell alone so you can recover. And stop engaging. “I’ll call you when I’m ready.” Keep repeating those words and stick to them, not saying anything else at all. Eventually she should leave you alone.

    If she still doesn’t, make sure the powers that be know that she is bullying you to come back too soon and stressing you out to the point you’re not sure you want to return.

    1. LBK*

      Oh wow, I somehow skated over the fact that this is a volunteer organization. Yeah, tell this woman to stuff it. You’d think if they were doing so poorly she wouldn’t be actively working to drive away someone who wants to participate when they’re able to.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        I know! You NEVER forget that the volunteers don’t owe you anything and you should make sure they know you’re grateful for their work.

    2. Agglutination*

      I really wish more people understood a soft no, but she doesn’t even get a hard no.

      When she asked me to do the video I told her outright “No, I won’t be doing that, but you’re free to find someone else.” That’s when she called me unsupportive.

      It was the day before I had to put my cat down and I just wanted to spend some time with her. Instead this lady made me upset.

      It’s lovely to know that there are people who understand and appreciate my situation. Thank you for your kindness!

      1. This Daydreamer*

        Wait, she got mad at you for wanting to spend some time with your cat on her last day? Seriously?

        Why the hell is she working with volunteers? Bosses from hell only hold on to employees because their afraid of being unemployed. With volunteers, you have to rely on good will, and that can vanish in a big hurry if you treat them like crap.

        It sounds like you feel a sense of duty to this organization. That’s fine, great actually, but this person has lost all right to that sense of duty. She has no respect for you or your time. There are thousands of organizations that would be grateful to have someone like you as a volunteer.

        And I am so, so sorry about your cat. I’ll give my trio some love in her honor.

  21. Agglutination*

    Hi Everyone, LW here!

    Some things have happened since I wrote to Alison, and her advice has been very helpful and has cemented my decision to leave the organisation as a volunteer. I want to thank everyone who is giving advice (most of which has also really reinforced my decision) and I’ll respond to some comments individually with more detailed explanations; but I wanted to give a broad update first. I was also cleared from my disabled status and I’m (relatively) healthy again.

    Here are some bullet points of what went down:
    – I went to one of the regular events we host before I was cleared because of all of the pressure she put on me and because they only have one type of chair at these meetings I spent part of the time sitting in agony, part of the time kneeling on the chair to relieve the pressure on my back, and part of the time standing up which was extremely awkward. I couldn’t move from my spot to give updates which disrupted the flow of the meetings.
    – The day after I was cleared, I signed up to attend (but not participate in) the next event. She messaged me at midnight, after I’d gone to bed, asking me to participate. The next morning I got the event schedule and she’d scheduled me to participate in two different roles; this was expected on top of my usual duties when attending the event (managing Facebook, handling the presentation and taking photos). I told her I hadn’t agreed to this and I wasn’t posting the schedule until it was changed; she told me to change it however I wanted to and post it and implied I wasn’t doing my part. Her phrasing was something like “This is not about YOU it is about US and OUR organisation.”
    – She approached me after the meeting to lay another guilt trip on me about not attending and how the organisation is failing. I knew she would do something like this; so I had prepared a list of suggestions and if they didn’t go through I was going to walk. She shot down every idea, some even before I finished explaining them. She asked me if I would be continuing through after our administration change (more on that later); I told her no, that I had other opportunities I would be pursuing starting in July.
    – At our next administrative meeting she presented all of my ideas, finalised, as her own, and asked my help in implementing them.
    – So our administration goes through a yearly evaluation and restructuring on the local level, to make sure things are working and changing things that aren’t. We live in an area where people tend to come and go often because of the nature of the industry so it’s normal for us to change out 2-3 people every year in our administration. We’re usually about 6 people – this year 5 people all announced their resignation, leaving my passive aggressive colleague the only person left to handle administration. Some of them confided to me that they don’t want to stay because of her.
    – When I announced my resignation from the duties I handle (social media and technology) she called me a few days later and asked me to handle secretarial duties. I told her I was the worst person to be a secretary and gave her my reasons (I’m disorganised, I don’t take notes, and I don’t work well on schedules). She replied “That sounds like a challenge then ;) ” and I just told her “No, I won’t be your secretary”.

    So that’s where I’m at. I’m better for the most part, I’m leaving the organisation as a volunteer (but I’ll still be a member and working with some of their programs). It’s very bittersweet because I was a founding member of the local branch and I’ve been on the board since it’s inception.

    Thanks everyone for commenting and your wonderful words of support and advice!

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Wow… you definitely need to communicate this with the regional folks. Preferably along with the 5 people who resigned their duties because of her!

      1. Kyrielle*

        If the regional folks don’t go “hey, wait a minute” after everyone *but* this woman left?

        I’d be surprised, and I’d think them foolish.

        They may not, of course. But it’s only worth continuing to follow up if it’s likely to improve recognition or action, not damage the reputations of the complaining parties, and is something they care enough about to spend time and capital on it.

        Realistically, turning this around at this stage may not save the local branch, given the givens.

    2. This Daydreamer*

      Wow. She needs to take a hike. Remember, you’re a volunteer and you don’t owe them anything. They should be grateful for what you give and respect your needs. The person sounds like she’s using high pressure sales tactics on her volunteers and that is unacceptable.

    3. AKchic*

      Good for you! I’m glad you were able to walk away from this one, and with others who felt similarly. Hopefully the organization will take note and do the right thing.

    4. Kathenus*

      Nothing like someone making it incredibly obvious that you’ve made the right decision. If you can, block her from everything – email, social media, cell phone, etc. so that she can’t keep trying to guilt you into things. Get a little peace for yourself. Best of luck.

    5. Marthooh*

      She seems to have hit every one of the Annoying Coworker points except “Steals food” and “Horrifying personal habits”. Glad you don’t have to deal with her anymore.

      1. Agglutination*

        She doesn’t steal food, but she will “forget” to eat and then complain if any food you offer her is not to her liking. I often stop by McDonalds before going home because it’s the only place open that still serves food when we’re done with meetings and it’s right by my bus stop, but she’s always critical of my choice to do so because she doesn’t know how I can eat “that junk”.

        Also she’s said some extremely insensitive things about my culture directly to my face like it was nothing.

        So yeah she’s the worst.

        1. tangerineRose*

          She sounds totally awful. At least you’re feeling better now! Sounds like you dealt with this really well.

        2. This Daydreamer*

          Good gravy. I’m glad you’re done with her. Have popcorn ready for when she realizes she’s doomed in that role.

    6. Gazebo Slayer*

      Oh. Oh no.

      I strongly suggest you forward all this awful person’s harassing emails to the organization’s leadership along with your resignation, explaining that she is why you left. Also, that you tell them about how she stole your ideas and presented them as her own.

      It sounds like she is destroying this organization by driving people away, and she needs to be kicked out.

      A lot of organizations don’t like kicking out bullies, but the thing is… by not kicking out the bully, you are effectively kicking out the decent people who leave to avoid her.

    7. Cornflower Blue*

      I’m glad to hear you don’t have to deal with her anymore, though sorry it involved you having to step back like that. I hope there’ll be consequences to HER for such terrible behavior and wish you all the best!

    8. anonagain*

      I am glad to hear that your health situation is improving!
      The situation with this organization sounds like a real pain. Good for you for beginning to distance yourself from it.
      I am so sorry it all unfolded this way though. It’s clear you were really invested in this organization and it is a shame that is has been so poorly managed.

      I want to preface this by saying that I absolutely don’t mean to tell you what you should do or suggest that you handled this the wrong way. I just see something that I struggle with sometimes: When she asked you to be secretary you said you gave her reasons why you would be the worst secretary. I think in this sort of situation it would have been okay to go straight to “No, I won’t be your secretary.”

      If pressed for answers by someone else in the organization, I think it also would have been completely fair (and just as true) to talk about how poorly you have been treated as a volunteer.

      I also would be a terrible secretary and I have the same impulse to give this kind of response. It’s not you, it’s me, etc. But if you were the most phenomenal secretary around, would you have wanted to do it? It doesn’t sound like it.

      1. Agglutination*

        This is very good advice! Thank you.

        You’re absolutely right. I’m actually in marketing and I do social media strategy which is why I have been handling their Facebook page and taking pictures and everything. I’m good st the job I do now and I don’t want to do it because of her.

        What a great way of looking at things! Thank you for opening my eyes!

    9. Margaret*

      Hey- you’ve gotten a lot of great advice here, and I won’t echo all of it- just jump in to say that this is not normal behaviour, and most places would never treat their volunteers this way! I’m glad you’re getting out, and I hope when your health is totally recovered you can find a new organization to offer your support. There are many that would be glad to have you and will treat you with respect and gratitude for your hard work.

  22. Manager Mary*

    OP, when you’re unwell, your ONLY responsibility is to your health. Are you following your doctor’s orders? Then good news! You have met 100% of your responsibilities! I would send an email that says “As I clearly stated in my emails on [date and date], I will be out on disability leave until [date], which means I will be unable to do any work of any kind at all, ever, until that time. Per my doctor’s orders, this is non-negotiable and is not up for further discussion. Since you’ve made it clear you can’t handle this without me, then I give you my blessing to proceed with closing down the Townville chapter. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve enjoyed working with this organization and wish you the best going forward. I have found keeping up with all these emails has made it hard for me to focus on my recovery, so I am setting my emails to vacation mode for now. If you have any further questions or comments, I’ll get to them after [date disability leave ends]. Cheers, OP.”

    Best wishes on your recovery!

    PS… is this Chive? Because this sounds like it’s run by the awful people who run our local Chive group and they’re awful and they should be shut down. >.<

    1. Agglutination*

      I had to google what Chive was because it’s not a thing here. I wish it was but if it had the same organizational issues it would be even worse! I would hate to be around her and sharp objects like cooking. She’s way too unpredictable!

    2. MysteryFan*

      Oh my gosh! I just read the Bloomberg review of Chive (dated 2013, but still out there), and am appalled!

  23. Marissa*

    There are a lot of people here that feel for your situation, and I hope that’s provided some comfort for you, OP! But with Allison’s advice you never have to engage with this person again, so I hope you take this validation to heart and forget her. She’s already taken too much energy from you and isn’t worth any more. I get the people that are saying her higher ups should be more explicitly looped in, but frankly it sounds like they have all the information they need to come to this conclusion on their own and just… aren’t. Which sucks, if you care about the mission, but that part is not on you! Good luck in your next endeavors :)

  24. Aaron G*

    It sounds like she’s one of those people that believe that “disability” is the same as “lazy”.

    1. Agglutination*

      The irony of that comment is the last presentation I gave for the organization (before I got sick) was about why laziness is a value judgment and why we should consider what motivates people instead of making assumptions about whether they’re lazy or not.

  25. Shay Simmons*

    Speaking as a volunteer:

    Your organization should have a (full-time, paid staff) person who acts as a volunteer coordinator and/or workforce engagement coordinator. Write this up and take it to her/him.

    The other volunteer is way out of line and overstepping the bounds of her (non-existent) authority.

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