A couple of years ago I applied to become a paid employee at my American Red Cross chapter. While awaiting word on the hiring decision, I attended the International Association of Emergency Managers annual conference, which that year was held in Las Vegas. Several of the faculty members from my Masters program at American Military University where also attending. and I enjoyed the chance to meet and talk with my instructors in person. At dinner one evening I mentioned to one of the instructors applying at the Red Cross. He looked at me and said, “Why would you want to cross over to the dark side? You have it good as a volunteer. There is someone I want you to talk to…” The next day he introduced me to someone who had experience at the higher levels of the Red Cross, and he relayed a similar message. Although I had suspected based upon my own observations, that the world of the paid staff was much different than that of the volunteers, this was the first time anyone had stated this explicitly. I ended up not getting the job, Events of late seem to suggest I should be thankful.
In case you hadn’t heard the Red Cross is once again reorganizing and cutting down on paid staff.
For anyone keeping count, I think this will make the third or fourth significant reorganization/restructuring effort in the last six years. I only became aware of this last week when a county official mentioned hearing something, and asked if it was true. Turns out it was true. The North Texas Region is losing approximately a dozen staff at the end of the month, including some of lengthy service. Red Cross apparently gave them two weeks’ notice. Isn’t that nice?
I suppose that is a little better than in 2011-2012, when most every paid employee was effectively terminated and had to re-apply for their position. Job security does not appear to be part of Red Cross culture….unless you are one of the six and seven-figure salary employees. Successful strategic planning also appears absent, as budget issues have once again been given as the reason behind the latest changes. I seem to remember writing a blog questioning the wisdom of expanding the role of the Red Cross in disaster recovery : if you are not sure you can fund ARC’s disaster relief responsibilities, why would you think it wise to add more commitments?
I am reaching the point where I no longer can, or even want, to try to keep up with all of this internal change. By the time you figure out what is going on, it is already changing again. And the lack of transparency in how these organizational transformations go from idea to reality shows a shocking lack of respect for those below by those on high at ARC management.
I hope my guess at where ARC is heading with this latest restructuring plan is just my cynicism getting carried away. The Red Cross wants to give its volunteers more of the responsibility for what has previously been done by paid staff. I think this means that volunteers will be expected to carry out providing and over-seeing the disaster relief and recovery services that are the fundamental mission of the Red Cross. Management can rely on the fact that there will be volunteers to fill service delivery needs. I expect the “professionals” who will have paid positions will be the executives, the marketing people, the public relations people, the fundraising people….not the disaster, logistics, humanitarian relief, and emergency/disaster management professionals. Many, if not most, of these paid employees will have had no experience in the field of disasters and they will do their jobs without ever having to spend a day working on a disaster relief operation. I wonder if some of them ever will.
If this is where all of these changes are heading, it will say in clear terms what the Red Cross thinks is really important. I hope I am wrong. Because if I am right, my many years of Red Cross service will come to an end.