Risk Management Resources

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    Levels of Constructive Coaching Matrix

    The following is from the Volunteer Constructive Coaching Guide for MU Professionals (PDF), Appendix A.

    The matrix on the following pages serves as a guide with examples of infractions of the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct and the corresponding level of the Constructive Coaching Protocol to initiate.

    Note: The matrix of possible infractions is not exhaustive. The ultimate decision of the course of coaching falls to the county or regional specialist who has oversight of the extension program. The MU Extension volunteer specialist is available to assist in determining the appropriate course of action.

    The following considerations and hypothetical examples illustrate the decision-making process:

    • Date of incident: For example, a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) within five years of a volunteer's application may warrant adding certain restrictions to the volunteer's role (i.e., the volunteer may not be allowed to drive other volunteers or youths), or the recent DUI may necessitate removing the volunteer from the MU Extension program immediately. However, if an individual received a DUI 15 years ago and that is the only offense, the risk of accepting this individual as a volunteer is low.
    • A pattern, but not in recent years: If an individual has a record of repeated DUIs in the past 15 years, but in the last five years has received no DUIs, it might be possible to accept them as a volunteer with the restriction that they will never be allowed to transport non-family members of any extension program.
    • Habitual pattern of concern: If an individual has repeated DUIs up to the time of applying to be an extension volunteer, he or she may be considered to show a habitual pattern, which points to a denied application.
    • Severity: Certain infractions justify denying the volunteer application or termination of an active volunteer. Zero-tolerance, non-negotiables include:
      • Discrimination of any kind
      • Sexual assault
      • Threat of, or acts of, physical violence to another
    • Infractions Involving minors: Infractions involving abuse (all kinds), sexual misconduct of any kind, or neglect of a minor, necessitates the witness fulfill duties as a mandated reporter. In cases of physical or sexual abuse, the witness should call law-enforcement authorities, too. Infractions that involve providing minors with illegal substances — alcohol to an individual under 21, any form of tobacco under the age of 18, and any illegal drugs, intoxicating substances (legal or not), and non-prescribed medications — necessitate the witness call the law-enforcement authorities.
    Volunteer Code of Conduct infractions
    with appeal option
    LEVEL 3
    immediate termination
    Single instance of witnessed or verified verbal abuse X      
    Two to three instances of witnessed or verified verbal abuse within a 6-month period   X    
    Four or more instances of witnessed or verified verbal abuse within a 6-month period     X  
    Financial management error — first verified mistake (non-intentional) X      
    Financial management error — second verified mistake (non-intentional)   X    
    Financial management error — first verified intentional misappropriations (intentional)       X
    Two vehicular accidents in past 12 months while performing duties as MU Extension volunteer. (Volunteer is not at fault)   X    
    Two accidents in past 12 months when at fault while performing duties as MU Extension volunteer   X    
    Charged with DWI or DUI in past 12 months while performing duties as MU Extension volunteer     X  
    Willful destruction or defacement of property     X  
    Indecent or immoral conduct       X
    Falsification of information, including forgery, omission, or providing misleading information       X
    Physical violence or threat of violence toward another       X
    Conflict of interest between assigned MU Extension volunteer role(s) and personal business interest – For example, using MU Extension brand and logo for financial gain in unauthorized capacity; charging a fee for services rendered while acting as an MU Extension volunteer.       X
    (e.g., submitting a grant proposal on behalf of a named extension program without consent of advising specialist)
    Breach of confidentiality, unauthorized possession, use, copying or reading of any confidential information to unauthorized persons     X
    (e.g., proved to be unintentional)
    Presenting oneself as an extension volunteer in an unauthorized role, or attempting to implement management or policy decisions that are inconsistent with, or in direct violation of, MU Extension program policies       X
    Theft, unauthorized possession, use or transfer of assets, property or another person's property; or, in any manner defrauding the organization of its assets for any reason, or by any means, regardless of value       X
    Possession, use, being under the influence, sale, distribution or unlawful manufacture of illicit drugs or alcohol; or misuse or abuse of prescribed or over-the-counter drugs while performing MU Extension volunteer duties       X
    Driving under the influence while conducting business for extension, including carpooling       X
    Conviction of a felony within last five years       X
    Conviction of a felony that includes element of violence, regardless of time       X
    Listed on national or state sex offender list       X
    Listed on national or state child abuse list       X
    Willful violation of Missouri or federal laws       X
    Crime involving force or threat of force within last 10 years       X
    Any crime in which sexual relations is an element, regardless of time       X
    Conviction involving controlled substances within last five years       X
    Cruelty-to-animals conviction within 10 years     X
    (e.g. a lesser or one- time offense)
    (e.g. a felony conviction or pattern of minor offenses)
    Any criminal offense that causes direct harm to a child, regardless of time       X
    Previous dismissal as volunteer from any Missouri county, regardless of date       X
    Intentional discrimination of any kind     X X
    (intentional bias or discrimination)
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    Managing Negative Responses to Feedback

    The following is from the Volunteer Constructive Coaching Guide for MU Professionals (PDF), Appendix B.

    Feedback is important. Volunteers and employees want to know if they are doing a good job, and, if not, what changes should be made. However, people may respond to feedback on performance or behavior negatively. It is important to focus on the behavior that is negatively affecting performance, and not the person. The behavior, after all, can be changed. The table below highlights the most common negative response tactics and how program supervisors should address each response. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. The example responses given may be modified to address any number of negative responses.

    Beware of a powerful three-letter word: "but." Following a positive statement with the word "but" negates the positive statement. Doing so may make the recipient of feedback feel defensive. Instead, avoid using negating words such as "but, however" and "yet" — and use "and" instead.

    For example, consider the difference in meaning and interpretation of each of the following: "You are really great at x, but you really need to work on y," versus, "You are really great at x, and if you keep working at y, you will be even better." The stated need for improvement is the same — improve on y — and the latter of the two statements is easier to hear. It acknowledges the positive and states an attainable change to empower the recipient to grow.

    Each negative response to feedback listed below has a built-in reward. By responding negatively, the individual's self-image is protected and the person avoids focusing on changing their behavior. Note in some examples the intentional use of 'and' instead of 'but.'
    Volunteer response to feedback Suggested supervisor response

    Volunteer blocks or refuses to listen to feedback; disengages. Examples of the tactic include silence, tuning out, monosyllabic responses ("No"), changing the subject and talking under one's breath.
    Acknowledge that the volunteer disagrees: "I see this is difficult to address, and we need to before moving forward ….." or, "I want to help, and we need to communicate to make that possible."
    Restate your position: "As I mentioned, when you (engage in behavior), others cannot ….."
    Take a break. "This would be a good time to take a 5-minute break. We do need to talk about this and determine a workable solution before moving forward."

    AKA "yeah, but" — the volunteer says "yes" to acknowledge the problem but then says, "but" to discount it. They are avoiding responsibility for the problem by conveying a contradictory message.
    For example, "Yes, I sometimes get upset at meetings, but when X does Y, I have no choice." This statement serves two purposes: It sets the one making the statement out to be a helpless victim AND attempts to transfer the focus of the discussion on to another.
    Acknowledge the "yes" portion. Repeat that portion of the response, then substitute your conclusion for the "but" statement. Describe the proper behavior. Example responses might include:
    "Yes, you do/did get upset at the meeting(s), and how do you think the outcome of the meeting would have been different if you …."
    "I am with you now (X is not). I am here to have a discussion with you. How do you think the meeting would be different if you …"
    "We are not here to talk about X. We need to discuss what you CAN control."

    The retaliatory exchange
    AKA "The Topper" — The volunteer responds to feedback by criticizing the criticizer. Interaction becomes a mutual "put down" session. This tactic shifts the blame off the recipient and onto the one offering feedback.
    For example, "I would not be in this situation if you would have …"
    Remember, it takes two to play tug-of-war, and one of the two will be dragged into the mud. Don't pick up the rope. Do not argue. If necessary, acknowledge the negative statement and redirect the conversation back to the individual.
    "While it might be true that I (am/do) X, we are here to discuss what you can do/control next time Y happens."

    Avoidance and withdrawal
    The volunteer isolates himself or herself from the criticizer. This behavior deprives the individual of any benefits of the feedback. It consists of a physical distancing from the criticizer.
    Continue to attempt communication with the volunteer to initiate or continue dialogue. Examples of language to include on voice mail, letter or by email may include:
    "I need to hear from you. Together we may be able to find a workable solution. Please understand, if we cannot meet for a face-to-face discussion, we cannot move forward, and that may impact your status as a volunteer."
    It is highly recommended that facts about the incident/behavior are not put in email, letter or left on voicemail. This guarantees two things — confidentiality is protected, and what you said or wrote cannot be used against you. Encourage the person to contact you by not giving any details of the issue.

    Superficial acceptance
    Agrees with the criticizer, but no evidence of change in behavior or performance is evident. This is a distancing technique. Feigning acceptance of responsibility is a means to quickly conclude a difficult conversation.
    If no change is forthcoming, clearly state the consequences of non-performance in private, and then take action. If the superficial acceptance is followed by avoidance, address as you would the avoidance and withdrawal response.

    Interfering emotions
    Reacts to criticism through displays of anger, crying and other forms of emotion as a way to stop the criticism. These emotional outbursts may be genuine or contrived. The response to either is the same.
    Take a break, offer support, but do not stop the interaction.
    "Let's take 5-minutes, and then return to the conversation."
    "This would be a good time to take a 5-minute break. We do need to talk about this and determine a workable solution before moving forward."
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    Constructive Coaching Flowchart

    The following is from the Volunteer Constructive Coaching Guide for MU Professionals (PDF)

    Constructive Feedback flowchart
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    Initial Communications with Volunteers

    The following is from the Volunteer Constructive Coaching Guide for MU Professionals (PDF), Appendix C.

    It's important to begin the Constructive Coaching Protocol with personal communication — the first step to making progress in the right direction. If a letter is the first form of communication the volunteer receives, the chances of a positive outcome may quickly diminish. However, contacting the volunteer who is in breach of the Code of Conduct may seem daunting. This chart includes possible responses to a number of reactions the volunteer may have when contacted initially.

    Note: If communication attempts are ignored by the volunteer, refer back to the Levels of Constructive Coaching on page 4.

    Initial contact with a volunteer in a purported or proven infraction of the MU Extension Volunteer Code of Conduct is manageable if you have a clear purpose for the call and stick to the main points you seek to convey. The purpose of the initial contact is to gauge:

    • The volunteer's level of awareness of the breach of the code of conduct
    • The willingness to correct behavior, if needed

    Create a list of items you are able to talk about. This serves as a mental reminder of the things you should not discuss over the phone. For instance, we must protect the confidentiality of all secondhand witnesses to the infraction. An example of how to initiate contact follows:

    "Good afternoon, [Name of volunteer]. This is [your name]. I want your input about something that happened on [date] at [place]. I was not able to attend. After the event, it was reported that you [fill in the blank]. Can you tell me what happened?"

    If the volunteer is cooperative and forthright, a Level 1 infraction may be cleared up, or, in other cases, agreed-upon meeting date and time will be established.

    Volunteer responses that allow the conversation to continue may include: "No, I wasn't aware that was a problem," or "I will be sure that never happens again," or "Yes, I did, but I did so because of x, y, z."

    If a meeting is warranted, the advising specialist's reply may be, "We need to talk about this further. Not by phone, though. Would you be available to meet on [date] at [time] at the MU Extension office in [County Name] County? I can go over more details in person."

    At any point during the initial contact, the volunteer may attempt to shut down the conversation. The following table illustrates a volunteer's attempts to shut down the dialogue and examples of replies the advising specialist can make to keep the dialogue open. These attempts and replies are not exhaustive but may serve as a reference point for similar reactions.

    Volunteer reaction to initial contact Suggested replies for the advising specialist

    "I did not do it!"
    This is denying any wrongdoing. It may be followed by an attempt to shift the blame to another or assertions that the allegations are not true.
    Do not take the bait. Do not offer rebuttals or evidence to the contrary of the response. Assuming the allegations have been proven to be valid, continue to establish a meeting date to discuss next steps. For example:
    An example of a potential lie: "How could I? I did not have access to X." "The (phone/hallway) is not the best place to discuss what needs to happen next. When can we meet to talk further?"
    An example of shifting blame: "Y did it, not me! I just happened to be there so I got blamed." "Naturally, I cannot discuss Y. You and I need to meet to discuss what needs to happen next."

    "It is not my fault!"
    This, too, is an attempt to shift blame, perhaps to another or to mitigating circumstance. (If blame is being shifted to another, see the previous table entry.
    Keep the focus of the conversation on the volunteer. Acknowledge the true part of the statement, and avoid defending your actions if they are called into questions.
    For example, "X happened because you didn't give me Y." For example, "It is true I did not give you Y. Let's meet so we can discuss X and determine how best to prevent it in the future."

    "I am the victim!"
    A powerless person feels she or he has no ability to change the environment or personal behavior, therefore bears no responsibility for behavior.
    Turn the conversation back to the volunteer. Reply affirming that, yes, the individual does have power or control, and press forward with setting a meeting date.
    For example, "X is so difficult to talk to, so I cannot work with X." For example, "We are not talking about X. I want to discuss what you can do … what you can control in similar, future situations. When can we meet to discuss this?"

    It's more than a river in Egypt. Denial is an attempt to shut down the conversation. For instance, "If I say that I didn't do X, then what is the need to talk about it?"
    Offer expectations of what you want the individual to do, not a list of past examples of behavior. The latter is a trap and opens the door to a lengthy conversation of picking apart or justifying past actions. Keep it short. The expectations you state infer what behavior has not been seen.
    For example: "What are you talking about? I have never done X. I always do Y." For example: "For the betterment of the program, I expect that all members are welcome to do X. I would like to discuss how you can help accomplish that."

    "Who told on me?"
    If I can identify who brought up the allegation, I can pick apart their credibility or bully them into taking back what they said.
    The best response is to state you cannot jeopardize the confidentiality or anonymity of anyone bearing witness to the infraction.
    For example: "I want to know who brought this up. Was it X? Was it Y? I bet it was Z. They are all against me." For example, "I cannot discuss anything that jeopardizes the confidentiality of another. When we meet, we can discuss a detailed plan of moving forward."

    "I need to know now!"
    To short-circuit the constructive coaching process, the volunteer asks what they need to do so the conversation can end. The volunteer wants to be done with it, and feels the quickest answer is the best.
    Keep to the original plan — details, facts and past performance should not be discussed over the phone. Instead, conclude the conversation by setting a date to meet.
    "Just tell me what I need to do, and I will do it, okay?" For example, "A phone or email is not the best means to have a discussion. When we meet in person, we can discuss what needs to happen to move forward."

    Afraid of commitment
    On the surface, non-committal statements such as, "Whatever you say," or "I'll see what I can do" may give one hope that the condition or requirement will be met. However, non-committal statements should be interpreted as noncompliance. It is a delay tactic meant to sidestep the issue and end the conversation.
    Repeat your previous request. Settle only for "yes" or "no". You may have to repeat more than once so that the person understands the question cannot be sidestepped.
    For example: "I need to know for certain if you will attend the meeting on (date) at (time). It's important that we meet."
    Or, simply put, "Is that a yes or a no?"