Dear Goodwill Gail,
Several of our “seasoned” ALA members think they know everything. They want our unit meetings to be run strictly by the book (and new ideas aren’t accepted), and the drama has caused us to lose younger members.
Tired of the Drama
Dear Tired of the Drama,
I can appreciate why your “seasoned” members feel the way they do. Not too long ago, I was in a similar situation where I found myself holding on to outdated traditions because I was afraid that giving up those traditions meant I would no longer be useful. I had to ask myself, What am I really afraid of?
Change is hard for everyone, and sometimes fear of the unknown, or something new, presents itself in a know-it-all attitude or unwillingness to adapt. But, as Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom veterans start looking to get more involved and older veterans age, it is important to address generational differences within our organization. The way you approach conflict in your unit is really important because you have to model the good behavior you want to see. So, for starters, that means being respectful and compassionate to all people – even when you disagree – and try to understand why they feel there is no room for change during meetings. Usually, everyone just wants to feel like their concerns are heard and their opinions are validated. In this case, the seasoned members probably feel like they are being pushed out from an organization they love.
I’d suggest inviting these members to an informal coffee date and asking them why they feel the way they do. Remember: Be understanding, respectful, and compassionate, and let them air their grievances. Let them speak; don’t interrupt. Maybe there is something underlying that you were not aware of. Once these members have had the chance to speak, address their concerns and explain that although change is hard, it is necessary to retain members and ensure the American Legion Auxiliary is around to continue our mission of serving veterans. Remind them that, no matter our age, we all have a common goal – to help veterans – and we shouldn’t let arguments over protocol stop us from serving our mission. Then, work with these members to develop a win-win scenario to streamline meetings and be more inviting to new members while maintaining some traditions. It is amazing what we can accomplish together when everyone feels valued and heard.
In the Spirit of Service Not Self,
Goodwill Gail is an advice column that helps ALA members deal with conflict within the Auxiliary in support of Goal 2 of the ALA’s 5-Year Centennial Strategic Plan: Create an Internal Culture of Goodwill. Need some advice on how to approach conflict within the American Legion Auxiliary? Send your questions to pr@ALAforVeterans.org with the subject line “Goodwill Gail.” We’ll create a pen name for you so that you remain anonymous. Talk soon!