Achieving Workplace Clarity – Lessons From A Public Hearing
I was traveling between two clients last week and came across an unusual radio broadcast.
It was a public hearing from either a city council or county government session. The issue at hand was a volunteer who was being questioned on her use of expenditures in coordinating a project for a municipal area.
It was a lengthy session that lasted for a few hours. The core question was how the volunteer justified about $1000 in food expenses for the other volunteers of the project that some felt was out of line. Candy, they felt, was unnecessary, and ribs were too pricey. There were a few other questions about the use of her time and resources in other instances that she was asked to justify as well.
During this session the following was revealed:
- The volunteer coordinator had appropriated expenses felt by some in the council to be excessive
- She had provided all receipts and was fully transparent in all expenditures
- She had maintained expenses well within fundraising limits
- Her use of some expenses was questioned as to the relevance of the project
- The council had guidelines for project management and expense management, but did not have clarity of details on how the were to be managed
- Frustrations ensued from both parties as they struggled to explain why their position was correct
- The volunteer felt attacked by the supposed accusations and claimed there needed to be more education and learning on protocol and policy
The underlying issue here was simply unclear steps in how to manage these types of projects. Assumptions were made on behalf of both parties that with some work ahead of time, may have prevented an uncomfortable situation from arising.
The council was correct in their questions regarding expenses, her use of her time and public resources. The woman was very forthcoming in that she provided all receipts and did not hide any items from the council in what she spent.
However, both parties had fault when it came to clarity of their responsibilities. The council needed to have more detailed procedures in what they deemed appropriate use of municipal funds. In addition, they should have spent more time in ensuring the volunteer was fully aligned and clear of what their expectations were in her role.
The woman should also have not assumed that certain expenses, while in line with budget, were acceptable. She assumed her management background would justify her judgment in these expenses in having the ability to coordinate the project accordingly.
What ended was a brief halt from the project for a few days, and the woman was able to resume her duties after the council declared they needed to shore up their policies and establish better expectations. While this was an acceptable result to all involved, much time, stress, and embarrassment could have been avoided with some clearer knowledge and less assumptions made by both parties.
All organizations can learn from this session and keep in ind the following takeaways:
- Anticipate roles and procedures and clearly establish the expectations beforehand
- Ask if you’re uncertain; don’t assume you know the answers or have answers that align with the organization
- Work together, not as a silo. Don’t appoint a project team or leader and disengage from it. And don’t isolate yourself or your team from those who have entrusted the job to you
- Be transparent and accountable. This volunteer’s biggest leadership asset was her discipline in keeping all expenses documented and accessible. The council acknowledged this, which strengthened her position as someone they could continue to trust.
Workplace clarity and well-planned expectations will prevent wasted time, resources, and any resulting disengagement in your teams. Work together with your people, and those you report to, to ensure alignment and a congruency of understanding.
How can your organization promote better clarity? Share your thoughts below!