Cubicle Cultures

Volunteered or Voluntold…Is there a difference?

Illustration by Vidya Vasudevan,

The answer is…not really. There are folks that gather information for a project. They politely ask, we give them what they want and, all of the sudden, we’re on the hook for everything. Not just overnight, it’s immediate. We volunteered by default or comprehension of another.

Yesterday I spoke with someone that got my name from a colleague regarding a system my team barely touches. He asked a few things, do you know this/that/how, and then I said I’d be happy to help. I volunteered my services for the betterment of a project. Literally out of nowhere, no more than 10 minutes later, I started being assigned tasks to said project. WTF!! Because I volunteered I was on the hook, I get that. In real life, I screwed myself for being a nice person without realizing what I got myself into. After putting my own head up my own ass I pushed back asking for more project info such as a PM name a project number to put time against, etc. None of that existed. I called one of my managers to let him know what was going on. He, of course, got a different story of what’s happening and I’m surprised he didn’t blow through the roof but he’s much calmer than yours truly. What really pissed me off was one of the tasks was to come in at 0400 on a Sunday (8/6) for some testing. Today is 7/26 and they want me to reschedule my life in ten days. Ain’t gonna happen.

Image: Google

Since I opened my big mouth and pushed back, I was voluntold to be a part of this cluster. Stopping to think, which is rare for me, I wondered what volunteering vs being volunteered vs voluntold means. Contemplation doesn’t happen very often for me but this time…JACKPOT!

Volunteer/Volunteering technically means that one freely offers to do something. Voluntold means you’ve been assigned to do “x” by someone else without your knowledge and then being responsible for something that you probably know little to nothing about. There’s also a difference between being assigned and being voluntold; the former you probably know what’s coming, the latter you don’t. Easy, right? Sort of. It’s not volunteering if you get told to do something. In fact, it’s just an outright order to do it. Maybe you have a specialized skill set and your bosses offered you up as a sacrificial lamb without consulting you about your time. Happens everywhere and we all pretty much deal with it. To me, that’s the real cost of doing business.

Image: Pinterest

I did a 4 year hitch in the Navy and loved it. When I arrived at Great Lakes RTC I learned that Navy really meant: Never Again Volunteer Yourself. Seasoned Petty Officers in boot camp pretty much let us know about 5 seconds after getting there. I should have taken that into the real world. Either way being voluntold to do something is for the greater good, even if you’ve already volunteered.

Yeah, I screwed myself on this one and will be paying the price for acting without thinking it through. My hope is to come out of it with a positive experience and new contacts for later projects. We shall see. Often in the cube farms we get a bit nostalgic for being nice and unbitter by volunteering our time and resources. It may bite us in the ass once in awhile but it’s a chance for growth, at least that’s what I’m telling myself. From here forward though…no more Mr. Volunteer Guy unless it’s a friend or manager, then I’ll gladly do it again.

NOTE: I may expand on this post as things move forward just to keep track on how it all turns out. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading all of this! If you enjoyed this piece please click the heart below and comment if you wish. I’d love to hear your experiences no matter what they may be. Also, I have two books available on Amazon that I advocate you to buy, Manku and Manku Too. For more about me and what I do, here’s my website.