Issues and Complaints
Handling issues between members
As part of your role as a Club / Society committee member, there may be times when you become involved in handling internal member issues. Issues like disagreements, committee member absenteeism, and personality clashes are not uncommon and can normally be resolved through facilitating positive communication and discussion.
What is considered an internal member issue?
This guidance has been compiled to help committees deal with local matters such as:
Interpersonal tension between members at meetings, during Club / Society activities, or in Club / Society group-chats.
Committee members missing meetings, not completing the agreed duties of their role, or otherwise obstructing the functioning of the Club / Society (e.g. an outgoing Secretary refusing to hand over social media passwords).
Members challenging agreed plans or encroaching on a committee member’s role (e.g. a Social Officer attempting to undermine financial matters normally handled by the Treasurer).
This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other local issues which could be addressed using this guidance.
This guidance does not apply to serious misconduct, health and safety issues, or to any conduct occurring outside the remit of official Club / Society activity. You should speak to the SU Clubs & Societies department for advice on issues such as these.
How can committee members handle internal member issues?
When the committee becomes aware of an internal member issue, we advise that you follow the steps below:
Try to approach the issue in a calm, neutral way. Personal feelings may be running high, but remember that your role as a committee member is to help the parties involved work through the issue in a measured, respectful way.
Minimise any online discussion of the issue, especially in group-chats. It is very easy for tone to be misunderstood online, which can often make a negative atmosphere even worse.
Speak to the member(s) who have made you aware of the issue face-to-face and gather a summary of the situation. Be careful of comments that could be speculation, gossip, or assumptions; try to stick to the facts.
Speak to the other member(s) involved and repeat the same process. Remember that you should listen to all sides of the story before coming to any conclusions.
When meeting with members, always make them aware of what the conversation is about well in advance. Send them an email with these details and make sure they know that they can bring someone along to accompany them. You should be totally transparent around what you’d like to discuss, where, when, and with who present.
Once you’ve spoken to everyone involved, you should have a clearer idea of what the issue is. At this point, you should seek a solution and communicate this directly to all parties. Often, this will involve facilitating an open, clear discussion of the standard of conduct which is expected of all members. These conversations might feel difficult or awkward, but they can help the Club / Society move forward in a positive way.
It can feel hard to call out negative behaviour, such as disrespectful comments or inappropriate messages in a committee group-chat. However, it’s important for committee members to feel empowered to have conversations with your members about these matters. Sometimes you might just need to remind people of the value of respectful communication or polite conduct. Setting and monitoring these standards of behaviour will help keep your Club / Society a welcoming, supportive place to be.
Consistent face-to-face communication is the best way to keep things running smoothly in your Club / Society. Try not to solely rely on group-chats as a means of communication and avoid ever using individuals’ personal social media accounts as means of contacting them for Club / Society business. If communication is in writing, use the Club / Society QUB email address and the involved parties’ student QUB email addresses at all times.
What to do next
If you haven’t been able to resolve the issue by following the guidance above, please come and speak to the SU Clubs & Societies team. We can help you work through any local issues, and / or signpost you to further support resources available.
Case Study 1: An absent committee member
Sam was elected as Society Treasurer at the start of the year, but recently they haven’t been responding to emails, coming to meetings, or approving TAFs at the Finance Office. This is making it really hard to organise the upcoming Society formal as payments are being delayed. Other committee members are having to pick up financial duties which the Treasurer would normally be responsible for.
Jo is the Society Secretary. She is angry about this situation, and she speaks to the President to vent her frustration. Jo says that Sam is ignoring emails and has abandoned their duties as Treasurer. Jo wants Sam to be removed from the committee immediately so that formal plans can get back on track.
The President listens to Jo and reflects on what she’s said. They keep an eye on the committee group-chat and see that Jo has sent in some sarcastic messages about how ‘helpful’ the Treasurer has been lately. The President asks Jo to remove these messages as they’re contributing to a negative, disrespectful atmosphere amongst the committee.
The President emails Sam to acknowledge that they haven’t been very active as Treasurer lately and that this is beginning to have an impact on the functioning of the Society. The President asks Sam if everything is okay, and lets them know that they’d like to chat to them about this face-to-face in the next few days. The President reminds Sam that they don’t have to come to a meeting alone and they’re welcome to bring someone with them.
The President meets with Sam and they chat through the issue together. Sam says that they’ve had to take on more hours at their part-time job lately, as well as working through an intense period of assessment for their course. They haven’t had as much free time recently and they haven’t been able to do everything required of them as Society Treasurer. Sam lets the President know that they will have much more free time after next week when their deadlines finish. The President and Sam agree to keep in contact with each other and check back in in a few weeks.
The President lets Jo know that the matter has been discussed and an agreed plan is in place to solve the problems she identified. Thanks to some open, transparent communication, the issue has been resolved.
Case Study 2: Mean-spirited messages in a group-chat
In the Club committee group-chat, there has been a lot of discussion of a recent Pub Quiz the Secretary organised. Unfortunately, not many people came to the Pub Quiz and the Club didn’t make back the money spent on prizes.
Committee members have shared some memes making light of the failure of the Pub Quiz. Others have sent in messages criticising the Secretary directly and indirectly, pointing out that the event was planned in a rush, not promoted enough on social media, and was scheduled on a Tuesday night before a big assessment deadline.
The Secretary is hurt and embarrassed by these messages, but they don’t know how to say that in the group-chat. They know the event was planned last-minute but they’re also annoyed that no-one else on committee offered to help them. They were left to do it alone and did the best they could.
They stop participating in the group-chat as the messages continue, and they miss the next Club practice to avoid seeing people in person. Eventually they speak to the Captain privately to say that they feel they’ve been bullied by the Club committee.
The Captain listens carefully and thanks the Secretary for speaking to them about this matter. The Captain suggests that this is discussed with the group at the next face-to-face committee meeting. The Secretary feels apprehensive about this but is happy to go ahead with this plan.
At the next committee meeting, the Captain reminds the committee of the importance of treating one another with kindness and respect. They specifically refer to the mean-spirited messages in the group-chat and reminds the group that these kinds of messages are not appropriate or acceptable committee conduct. The Captain explains that Club events are a group effort, and that all committee members should try their best to support one another to run successful events in the future.
This chat helps to remind all members of the expected standards of conduct in the Club group-chat, and of the importance of treating each other with kindness and respect.
Complaints about a Club or Society
There may be times when a student or member of the public wishes to complain about a Club or Society.
Complaints must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Students' Union (Ciaran Higgins; firstname.lastname@example.org) promptly following the conduct or issue which has triggered the complaint. Complaints need to be supported by evidence of a breach of standards. Anonymous complaints cannot be considered.
Depending on the complaint, the Students' Union may carry out an investigation. The Club / Society will be involved throughout the investigation process and will have the opportunity to respond to all concerns raised. The Students' Union may also investigate without the submission of a complaint (e.g. if we become aware of a health and safety issue in another way).
The Students' Union does not handle complaints or investigations regarding individual student misconduct. Matters such as these will be signposted to the University's student misconduct procedures.