Facing Challenges as VISTA leader with site staff (not direct supervisor)

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Hi,

I have an interesting situation and I was hoping that other VISTA leaders may be able to provide helpful advice. I am new to being a VISTA leader and will be attending the training in Dec. I have been at my site for two weeks now, my VISTAs have all been great and I have an amazing site supervisor that has two previous years of VISTA experience. 

The challenge I am facing concerns my site supervisor's Director. She has been giving me tasks to complete with little or no direction and then seems to be upset when I do them as I see appropriate and in alignment with my VAD but they do not match her idea of what they should be. This is in conjunction with completely ommitting the information she seems to expect me to automatically know. I want to be helpful and also set boundaries with this person, however normal professionalism does not seem to be an option in this circumstance. 

As an example, this person the site Director, has sent out emails to everyone in the office with personal details about other employees that I do not feel comfortable receiving as well as sending long and confusing emails to all the employees well after office hours in the evenings. I feel like the typical tools I would use in this situation do not apply in this situation as there appears to be a lack of professionalism and rationality during face-to-face conversations.With this individual, I do not feel communication is where it should be.

I feel ultimately my responsibilties is to the VISTAs I serve and the VISTA program as well as AmeriCorps. This individual is very intense and so early in my service has me concerned that they could become an obstacle to completing my service that I may not be able to overcome. 

Does anyone have helpful guidance or advice that can assist me in successfully mitigating this before it becomes a serious issue? 

Thanks!

I would suggest asking the Director how does she want you to do the job if she gives you another task to do. Ask her specifically and maybe set up a meeting or just go into her office and ask for a quick meeting. Start with positive and then express how you're feeling and that you need a little bit more direction because you want to do the task right the first time.

I hope this helps, me finally talking to my Director really helped and aired out some angst I had about the tasks they assigned me.

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Thanks Constance, this is helpful and I appreciate your direction to focus on positives. I have a meeting with my site supervisor and this director today. I will make sure that I ask for more direction and clarification when I am asked to do tasks.

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Hi Valerie,

Have you had a conversation with your site supervisor about this yet? What did they recommend? 

If face-to-face interactions with the Director aren't great I suggest using email as much as possible. You can even cc your site supervisor (after talking to them about it) if it seems like having another person involved would increase the professionalism of her response.

When I was a VISTA Member one of the site employees and I had a terrible time communicating in person, for various reasons. There was a lot of frustration on my part as I was tasked with things outside my realm of responsibility, couldn't get answers about what her vision for the project were, how she wanted things done, timelines, etc. Eventually it did become a big enough issue that I spoke with my site supervisor, the ED. His suggestion was to communicate with her by email as much as possble, and if we met in person to take notes and email a summary to her including action items and deadlines for each of us, and directly ask if it looked right to her. It was very helpful; even when she chose not to respond I knew I was doing my part.

I was doing social media for my site and most of the time I was given no clear instructions and only a vague vision. It's TOUGH to operate in that kind of environment. You are right in that you are accountable to the VISTA program, and you're only accountable to your site supervisor - not everyone else at the site. Ideally they will be able to help clarify your role at your site and their expectations for you and advocate for you with the Director (if necessary).

Best,

Aiden

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Oh, and sharing a draft or outline of how you intend to do the assignment prior to completing the work might help clarify her vision for the project.

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