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- 3 things to do if your club officers are fighting
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My wife has six cats. Yes, they all belong to her – not me. That does not mean, however, that I do not fulfill my role as a “kitty daddy” and sometimes mediate disputes between them. Cat fights usually happen when one cat looks at another and the second cat does not want to be looked at. This leads to loud shrieking and paw-batting at one another. How do I deal with this? Two loud claps of my hands and then I shout “HEY!” The combatants then run off in different directions. That probably won’t work if it’s two of your club officers.
If it did it’d be great. Two of our officers get into an argument before, during, or after a meeting and we clap our hands and yell, “HEY!” and they would scatter to different parts of campus. That would be cool. But, unfortunately, things are not usually resolved so easily.
So, what do you do when you find two of your officers getting into fights? Here are three suggestions:
1) Get all of your officers to agree, at the beginning of the year if possible, that you will not engage in “drama” in front of the members of the organization. While there may be disagreements in the boardroom, you show a unified team to the members. You can turn people off very quickly if every meeting is disrupted with bickering and sniping between the officers.
2) Talk through the disputes, disagreements, personality conflicts, slights, perceived slights, stresses, etc. to find out the real reason for the problem. Many fights are caused by misunderstandings and miscommunications—where one person thinks something is the case, the other person said something they maybe did not say exactly the way it was reported, or just cases of members engaging in rumor mongering. When I first became a student leader, a higher ranking officer shared with me the idea that if you have a problem with someone and do not take it to that person, then it cannot be very significant. Use this principle to guide your feuding officers.
3) If the situation between the two officers is so bad, but resignation of one or both is not an option, then look for ways to keep the two apart. Seat them at separate ends of the table during meetings, or in different sections of the audience. Make sure they are assigned to tasks during projects and activities that will keep their contact to a minimum. Enlist the help of the other officers and advisors in keeping these two at bay.
Conflict can be the big “ouch” in your organization if you do not approach it directly and unemotionally. To run your club better, don’t choose sides, other than to be on the side of whatever decisions have been made either by the board and/or the group as a whole. In the end, this can be a learning experience for everyone. And if they do well? Do what I do with the cats: reward them with a saucer of milk!
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Dave Kelly is the leading authority on Student Leadership and Community Service on college campuses today. As a professional trainer, motivator, and servant leader, Dave is an expert on all aspects of running and leading campus organizations and developing the character of a servant leader. Dave has 20+ years training leaders and advisors from Student Government Associations, Campus Activities Boards and campus clubs of every kind on Campus Organization Leadership and Community Service Projects. He has trained students and advisors at more than 140 different colleges and universities and is the national coordinator for the APCA Serves! Initiative by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.