Saturday, 26 April 2008

A word on volunteering...

I am continually amazed by people who express disappointment that their employers are not 'supportive enough' of their volunteer / pro bono work, or are 'interested only in profits'. Of course a company is interested in making profits! Why else would a company be set up? Agencies and firms are not incorporated for the sole purpose of looking after their employees' welfare, or squandering all their capital 'giving back to society', or boosting the self-esteem of their ever-fickle employees. Any good company would of course wish to provide sufficient incentives to retain key staff and carry out corporate social responsibility projects both for tax reasons and to improve their corporate image. But to expect one's employer to consistently make concessions for one because one wishes to concentrate on one's community work is unreasonable and unrealistic. It is not fair to one's colleagues when one does pro bono work on company time, or complains about low morale when one is assessed poorly for work performance because one fails to demonstrate commitment and is lacking in focus and progress.

There are of course, exceptions to the rule. If your employer is disapproving of your involvement in a trade union or PeTA or GreenPeace because he alleges that these organizations are ‘militant’, or believes that any affiliation with a non-profit will brand the entire outfit as ‘leftist’ (i.e. bad for corporate image), then it’s probably time for you to go. However, if the complaint is about you spending ‘too much time’ on volunteer work, it probably means you are. So stop e-mailing or making phone calls on company time. If you believe in truth and justice, then it would have to start with you not running personal errands or doing non-work related things on company time.

To me, our volunteer and pro bono commitments should provide us with a sense of balance and meaning that carries over to our work. Being a volunteer should make us better able to focus on work and make us feel more rested and fulfilled by the time Monday comes around. My take is that if you're getting a lot of stick at work for your pro bono work, you probably have not been giving your job due importance. Our day job is a steady source of income, without which we would not have the resources to perform our volunteer duties or carry out community projects. Think about it. Being a volunteer makes me try harder at work, because I have a sense of purpose and the motivation to better myself in all respects. The more I earn, the more animals/ disadvantaged women and children/ community centres I am able to help. There's nothing complex or esoteric about it.

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