Tired of asking for volunteers only to be met with complete avoidance? Even if you work with a collaborative team, people typically go to great lengths to avoid volunteering. This is painfully evident when a volunteer is requested during a meeting; suddenly, eye contact seems impossible as everyone finds something else to focus their attention on. It’s often not that your team doesn’t want to help, but rather that they need a nudge in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to be the one who nudges them by voluntelling rather than requesting volunteers. Essentially, voluntelling is assigning an employee to a task or responsibility that would have otherwise been filled on a volunteer basis.

Yes, some employees will resent being voluntold, which is why you should always accompany voluntelling with an explanation as to why you chose them. The following are just a few of the explanations that you can provide your voluntold employees.

  1. You need help. This reasoning is straight forward and one that any employee can understand. The most obvious reason that we voluntell our employees that they will be taking on a new responsibility is that we need help. As leaders of a team, even we become overwhelmed and need to lean on others for support. While this may be clear to us, it may not be apparent to the rest of our team. As a result, when you voluntell an employee, make sure that they are aware of the responsibilities that you have to ensure that they understand that your request is need, not want, based.
  • You know their strengths. Although we often voluntell out of necessity, the person that you choose is at your discretion. Naturally, chances are that you will seek help from a team member who already has the education, skills, and knowledge for success in order to reduce your overall involvement. To lessen the blow of being voluntold, build the employee up by reminding them of the times that they have exhibited specific strengths that are crucial for the task that you chose them for.  
  • You want to give them an opportunity to develop specific skills. The obvious choice is to voluntell someone who will not require any additional help or instruction; however, voluntelling a team member who is lacking in a specific area may be an opportunity for them to develop those skills. While this may take more coaching from you up front, the result will be an employee who is more confident and capable. Present the new task as an opportunity for growth and learning. Acquiring new knowledge and skills will make them stronger in their role and more of an asset to your company.
  • You notice that they are in a rut. Occasionally you will notice that an employee is demonstrating a lack of initiative, unwillingness to seek new challenges, and is unengaged in the workplace. While they may not realize it themselves, these are all signs of a rut- one that they will likely need some help getting out of. The key to voluntelling in this case is to be as transparent as possible. Provide them with examples of what you have observed and sell the new responsibility that you are presenting them with as the boost that their career needs.

If you are tired of asking for volunteers only to be met with avoidance, consider voluntelling as your best option. Although some employees will resent being voluntold, giving a well thought out explanation will help to foster a positive professional relationship through transparency and honesty.