Note:  This is a post I am writing to get out my frustration.  I will be bitching a lot, in hopes of getting it all out here instead of in a hellfire email that will probably alienate a lot of people (even though I think they deserve it).  You don’t need to read it.  Unless you want to.  You’ve been warned.

I am the chair of a committee.  There are eight of us.  I am happy to be chair;  I am bossy and I have control issues.  Because I am bossy and have control issues, I began our term by pledging to work by consensus.  Everyone would have a say, and any decision would be made by consensus;  if we failed to reach a consensus, despite working toward it, we would act by majority vote.

I know my faults;  I tried to set things up so that I wouldn’t become Super-Dictator with my crew of rubber-stampers.

We are ten months into our twelve-month term.  Many, many decisions have been made.  I can count on one hand (possibly even on two fingers) the number of decisions that were made by consensus.  Another couple were made by majority vote.  All the rest have been made by me.  Me, myself and I, alone.

This is not for lack of trying on my part to get everyone involved in the decision-making process.  Here is a typical scenario.

Our meeting schedule was set last March.  We would meet the third Tuesday of each month.  At our December meeting, the committee made one of it’s (few) decisions by consensus:  the committee decided that for the remainder of our term, we would not have a set meeting date.  At the beginning of the month, the Chair (’cause who else would do it?) would email around and find out from everybody which day of the month would work out best for the committee members.

(Brief aside for more bitching:  I take my commitments seriously.  When I am on a committee, that committee takes priority over other opportunities that may come my way, like hip-hop dance classes, or a Pampered Chef party, or a hockey game.  That is why I prefer to have a set schedule, so that when someone asks me to do something, I can look at the date and say, “Sorry, I can’t play raquetball with you that night, I have a meeting”.  Apparently, I am the only one who thinks this way.  Any-hoo, back to the scenario.)

January comes, and like a good consensus-seeking chair, I email everyone with a couple of suggested dates.  Two dozen emails later, and I still haven’t heard back from everybody.  Only one person gave me any feedback;  she told me which two dates of the month would work best for her.  No one else did;  they all wrote varieties of “well, let me know when it’s decided”.  The WHOLE FUCKING POINT is that we are making this decision TOGETHER.  Everyone bitched in December about not having a say in when the meetings would be (which they did, back in March, but whatever), but when it came down to it, all but one of them didn’t WANT to have a say in the decision;  they wanted to be TOLD when to show up.

Naturally, I have better things to do with my time and effort than repeatedly emailing people trying to coax an opinion out of them.  Two dozen fucking emails.  Eight committee members.  Two weeks of time wasted in trying to set a meeting date.

A more trivial example:  One of the folks in our organization (not a voting member of the committee, but an ad hoc member) is leaving for different pastures.  I sent out an email letting everyone know that January’s meeting would be the last one at which she would be.  I suggested that perhaps a cake was in order, and what did everyone else think?  Someone made a comment about appetizers (not that this person thought there should be appetizers, but that if we were going to have them, let them know what to bring).  The flow of endless email after that spun out into more of the same.  If the decision is to have appies, tell them what to bring.

I sent out (what I thought was) a very clear email, stating that EVERYONE needed to tell the group what their choice was:  (a) to have cake alone, OR (b) to have appies and cake, and whatever people chose, that is what we would do.  I got back not a single email for over a week.  No one offered his/her opinion.  I was going to send out an email tomorrow about it, but today there was an email in my inbox:  “What’s going on with the meeting?  Are we bringing appies or what?  Let me know once the decision is made.”


Was I not clear enough?  Was there some ambiguity to my words?  Or is it that my illustrious committee members CANNOT READ???

Am I such a Gorgon that everyone is afraid to express an opinion?  I am not aware that I have a reputation of ruthlessly crushing to bits anyone who ventures a thought.  In fact, my memory of the past ten months is of never-ending attempts by me for someone, ANYone, to offer an idea, opinion, thought, preference, something.  It has been worse than pulling teeth, worse than herding cats, worse than hell itself.  Heck, it probably IS Hell itself.

I have tried begging, pleading, cajoling, restating, reframing.  I have asked for input every way I know how.  I have asked REPEATEDLY for some indication of what these people think, on every issue.  Either these people don’t actually have opinions, or they are so scared of being blamed for the possible consequences that they are going to cover their asses with six feet of steel so there is no possible way that a decision could be pinned on them.

All term, I have done this, exhaustively sought input, only to have to make the decisions on my own in the end.  Decisions have to be made, and eventually time runs out to make them.  If I’m the only one who will express an opinion (which I don’t do until the very end of this process, because I am bossy and controlling, and I don’t want to influence anyone), goddammit, I will make the decision.

I know I have dictator-tendencies.  That’s why I tried so carefully to put a process into place that would ensure input frm everyone.  But I have a committee of extreme followers, not a leader among them.  They WANT to be rubber stamps to my Super-Dictator self.  That’s the only conclusion I can reach at this point.  They are happy for me to tell them what the decision is, and then they also want me to tell them exactly what each of them has to do about it.  I can’t even send them away with something like, “We need a poster about issue X”, where issue X is clearly spelled out in our organization’s documents.  Half-a-dozen pamphlets address issue X ad nauseum.  Unless I tell them exactly what to put on the poster, where to place it, and how to stick it on, they don’t seem able to do it.


Being a leader myself, I cannot get into these people’s heads.  A friend has offered the theory that they have no confidence in their ability to be right, or that their ideas have merit, so they are afraid to put their thoughts out there.  Well, that’s as may be.  I’m sorry to hear that they have these issues, and I can recommend a counsellor to help them through it.  Just get the hell off my committee.

That sounds really harsh.  But it’s where ten months of this has driven me.  Why are you on a working committee, responsible for implementing the programs of our organization (i.e. you are the ones who are supposed to make things happen), if you are unable to actually do that?

I’m in the midst of recruiting for next term’s committee members.  I’ve never put so much effort into trying to find new people.  Prominent words in my recruitment materials are leadership, self-starter, able to lead a sub-committee. I don’t know how successful I’ll be.  I have to call (yikes!) a woman who is interested in finding out more about the committee.

I’d rather not have a committee next term at all, than have a committee like this one.  I’m going to sit down with each of this term’s members and politely discourage them from running again.  If I’m going to be the only one doing any work, then I don’t need to waste my time with the rubber stamp process.  It will save me a hell of a lot of time.

(The ad hoc committee member commented to me the other day that all this committee had done was create a ton of extra work for me to do, just to do all the work myself.  It’s true, too true.)

Well, I’ve ranted enough now that I think I can send off a group email that is much more diplomatic than it would have been if I didn’t come here to rant and rave.  If you’re still reading, bravo.  You must be sick of hearing me bitch.  You deserve a cookie.  Chocolate chip oatmeal, if you have them.  Please don’t dunk it in the milk, though;  I hate soggy cookies.

(See?  I can be a dictator.  All my effort to avoid it has been for naught.  Perhaps I should just embrace it.)