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Toxic Volunteer. There. I said it.



We can’t use that word referring to our volunteers’

‘Kinda harsh, don’t you think?’

‘Well, I agree with you, but that word…’



That was some of the feedback I received two years ago when I first released my 3-minute video entitled ‘7 Signs You Have a Toxic Volunteer’.  Not that anyone was arguing the 7 signs or that they didn't have Volunteers that fit the description. No, it was the word ‘Toxic’ that seemed to ruffle the feathers.


As a result, I rethought and renamed the video and how I referred to this level of volunteer when working with clients. I selected the word ‘Misaligned’ instead of toxic. I did so reluctantly. Misaligned, though still accurate, doesn’t carry the pain and damage that the word 'toxic' carries.


So, now, here we are.  What we considered ‘toxic’ behavior in 2016 looks like child play compared to what we are managing now. 


Just ask Oxford Dictionary why

they selected the word ‘toxic’ as the word of the year.


The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year.


The term toxic environment … frequently used in reference to harmful workplace environments and the toll this takes on the

workforce’s mental health.”


And, yes. The word is harsh, but so is the behavior that may be occurring that is unraveling your efforts and contributing to staff burnout.  One step forward, two steps back when you don’t manage that toxicity.


With that, I now re-release my ‘7 Signs You Have a Toxic Volunteer’ in its original form.  There. I said it. And, so should you.



Marla Benson, SPHR. Volunteer Conflict Management Expert.

Founder of the innovative

Volunteer Relations Conflict Management System℠. 

Reimagine Your Organizations Conflict, Customer & Culture.



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