How to Deal with Problems in Small Groups

by Fern
(Alberta, Canada)

Example of my painting

Example of my painting

I like to volunteer and to start my own interest groups.

I have wondered how to deal with some on-going problems, such as cliques in small towns, bullying, because of old rural attitudes, myopic attitudes and listening issues. Women from the generation older than mine seem to lack basic social experience, as do those from isolated areas who have moved here. I have a great deal of both education and work experience.

In particular, recently, I found myself encountering an 'end run' where I am feeling excluded after five years of excellent work as Secretary to an art club. I was deeply hurt by one or two old men who decided to make decisions outside of the usual form (involving the executive in discussing proposed changes). But finally it was put to a vote and the membership supported the man's decision (the new coordinator of the art show and sale).

I expressed my decision not to participate further in our usual show and sale because the decision triples the cost for both the artist and the customer. It adds to the weight of the painting and I can't carry heavy weights.

My method of showing my paintings was mentioned as an example of what they did not want. So I believe I was 'targeted' in a most unpleasant way.

I am puzzled by the fact that there have been zero sales lately and no one is trying to find out why. Lack of sales is certainly nothing to do with how I display my paintings.

There are other art groups, but none any different, and often the same people are in all the groups. I've realized that a lot of my time and identity went into this volunteer work.

I am not sure I made the right decision? I stopped going to meetings but still perform the information distribution duties. Our year ends in May and I've insisted that I will not continue as Secretary. I, privately, am pretty sure I will quit the group.

I am more of an experimental artist than a trained fine artist, so have had to struggle to fit into the group.

I feel very sad when I look at the five oil paintings I had already finished for the show and sale in April. I could compromise, show only three, for example, but feel very uncomfortable now around the show organizers. Am I just giving up without a fight?

Over the years as a volunteer with this group I've been very good at keeping the various conflicts under the radar and away from the general membership. We have 55 members. I've been proud of my service and don't think I deserve what happened, but probably the show organizer doesn't fully realize my quandary because of my personal health issues.

Because I suffered abuse as a pre-teen I have trouble dealing objectively with conflict where I feel directly targeted. I know how to recover, and have managed to gain back some perspective, but I wonder what other's would do in the same situation? I don't have anyone close to ask, to brainstorm solutions or to converse with about a confidential topic.

I'd love to hear your experiences and ideas.

Comments for How to Deal with Problems in Small Groups

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by: Sherry

You are wasting your time and effort working with bullies. They will try to micromanage to you! They are controlling people because they are so insecure!! Their insecurities make them controlling!

Don't stay with this group, just go with another organization who would appreciate you. Life is short, take control of your life!

Everyday someone is trying to drag you down. Please take charge of your life and don't be around people like this.
I used to see it in the workforce all of the time.

How to Deal with Problems in Small Groups
by: Nancy

I like your painting a lot. I think you were wise to decide to get out of the group. I also think you were treated shabbily. Having said that, I also have problems with perspective from being abused as a child.

As for the group situation, I had gone to Al Anon before I retired, and the groups were wonderful, then I retired and started going to meeting close to home

I thought that since all Al Anon meetings are based on the same principles, the new group would be good too; however, they didn't stick to the same principles at all. There was bullying, advice giving, and 2 people who tried to run the meeting although this is strictly against Al-Anon principles so I bailed, and this experienced soured me on Al-Anon.

I hope you will find another experience in which you can use your artistice talents.

Small Group Problems
by: Anonymous

Dear Problems with small groups:

I would like to suggest to you that on Facebook , they will give you a free page where you can display your paintings without any charge.

I have already done this and it is nice that it is set up whereby you can also talk/write to people and get replies.

I do not charge for my paintings... I use my space
as if it were an art gallery that people can browse. If they show an interest in one of your paintings you can give them a way to get in touch with you.

Join Facebook if you are not already involved and request an art page.

As time goes by, many groups such as yours get
interested in making changes. And it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with you personally.

Change is sometimes a godsend into something new.

small groups
by: Diane / Canada

I could really relate to your story. I have experienced very similar issues. without the art.

I have volunteered for the last 6 years at a non profit organization. Originally I noticed that the place had a few people who seem to be the ones that everyone looked too as leads but they really didn't do anything. the rest of us did the work.

The Board of Directors sounds very much like yours and I would even go so far as to say that the President is a bully and seems to think he is in charge of everything that happens even though he is rarely around.

I was secretary for a few years and did a lot of work including creating an agenda for the meetings (they did not have one before). At the meetings the president would go on about his personal life and any work was sent to the manager to do.

A year ago I ran for vice president and won over the fellow that was in that role for a lot of years. I believe I then became a threat to the president as he worked and did not come to board meeting so I chaired them and by what people said I did a good job.

The president now has changed the date of the meetings and has taken over again and makes definite steps to exclude me.

For example I co hosted an event a couple of weeks ago and did a lot of work to make it a good event. He publicly thanked my partner and said what a good job she did and ignored my role. Unfortunately she did not respond with " I worked with a partner"... So i can relate to the small town , small minded old boys club and almost quit but i also am stubborn so I will try to keep my mouth shut and continue on because I believe in what we are doing and enjoy volunteering.

Artist friends
by: Wendy,

Hey Fern --

It's been a few years since we chatted... you are no quitter. I am curious if those giving you issues are younger or men who feel threatened by a take-charge woman?

First, whoever is doing this, they simply aren't your people. The rest are likely followers and don't want to stir the pot sad as that is. Online entrepreneurs often discuss issues when they are disliked, one nasty post on social media and they are thrown for a loop. Everyone says they are simply not your people. Some love what you do, others simply don't.

I am only saying this because... don't stop doing your art. I pray you don't let this community deter you. I really pray it comes around and was some silly misunderstanding - but if not, don't stop painting!

Have you considered selling online?

A gal I know recently became an artist (formerly law enforcement) and she does wonderfully. Totally enjoys it, feeds her soul, and now she sells it. She uses her new business page to post each painting and Ebay.

Here is an Ebay Paintings on Canvas search... just to see what paintings go for and the different types.

Etsy search here! Simply to view whats out there for sale and what they charge on Etsy.

by: Wee-zer

There seems to be a lot going on here. My thinking is that your artwork is on the fringe of what the rest of the artists create. Maybe your artwork is more ‘modern’ or 'progressive' and they don’t feel that your art melds with their art. This group may be impossible to change and they could be stuck in a rut as to what they think ‘art’ is supposed to be.

We all don’t fit in everywhere and even though you have given what you believe is your heart and soul into this work; they may find you annoying in ways you don’t see. It could be that you want to change things they don’t want changed. Or it could be certain traits you have that grate on them.

Personally, I would finish out the next few months for the show in April and take a break away from these people.

During this time away from the group, maybe you could consider other things. I have a friend who is into photography and he does one man art shows at various libraries around the state. The art work stays up for around 3 weeks and on the weekends he shows up to discuss his work.

There are groups you might join. Meet Ups comes to mind. They are in every state. Look up Meet Ups for your state. There may be an art discussion/appreciation group you could join. Then maybe you could join up with like minded people who appreciate what you do.

This photographer friend self publishes his favorite photo’s in books. He mostly gives them away but you might find that publishing your work in book form might be a new avenue for you. There are lots of different things you can do.

I am typically not a joiner of groups for many of the reasons you have mentioned. People become bossy and a new person is a threat because they have new and fresh ideas that don’t fit into the old way of thinking or doing things.

Like they say, there are two sides to every story. I hope things work out for you.

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