Chama meeting absenteeism is a very frustrating problem for any Chama leader. Members who do not show up at all pose obvious difficulties to any Chama and must, quite definitely, be dealt with. Don’t rush to punish absent members. It is a good idea to take time and get to the bottom of the absenteeism especially if it is happening to more than one Chama member or is a chronic problem. You will find that frequent absenteeism is a symptom of a larger problem with the member’s personal situation or with the Chama.
The first step the leader must take in dealing with a habitually absent member is to schedule a session to talk one-on-one with the member. This conversation should take place somewhere private and be planned in advance with the member to ensure both the leader and the member make specific time for the meeting. A good Chama leader should have such counseling sessions regularly with their members to judge their goals, get to know them, provide positive feedback, and address problems or conflict early-on.
When having such a session while addressing absenteeism, the conversation should be light, non-accusing, and focused on the situation and well-being of the member. For example if the member is a single mother, with no house-help they may be having trouble getting to the Saturday afternoon Chama meeting because she has to stay home with her children. Perhaps the member is dealing with a tragedy in their family, or taking care of sick parents. There are many things which may be happening with the member, and as the leader you need to create a climate during the meeting where the member will feel comfortable explaining the situation, knowing you are trying to work with them.
When there is something happening internal to the member as mentioned above, the member may be given sometime off to address their problems and resume Chama meeting attendance afresh when the issues are dealt with. Making an effort to work with the member is essential to being a good leader: it shows that the leader cares, is approachable, and creates a pleasant and motivating Chama climate. Speaking of Chama climate, sometimes the member’s problem is not their own: sometimes it is a problem with the Chama itself.
When speaking with the member, the leader just may find there is something wrong with their Chama that is causing the member to feel great discomfort. On the light side of things, the member may feel that their expectations have been dashed and their expectations are not being met, which they might be motivated to work. Much more seriously, perhaps there is something within the Chama that has made the member feel threatened. Member behavior is often a very effective tool for judging the relative health of a Chama. Absenteeism is often a symptom of negative factors in the Chama – such as formation of cliques, discrimination, or hostile fellow members – and the leader must consider that such things may be happening under their nose. For this, the leader can often find sincere thanks for an absent member as such a member may just save the leader and the Chama from loss of members.
The counseling session with the member should uproot such issues, but the leader may also need to tap into the member grapevine or conduct an anonymous survey of all Chama members to truly determine what is happening. Contrary to popular belief, most Chama members will not complain outright when they are facing a problem: if they are complaining, underlying issues have likely progressed to a point where the members see fault in everything.
No matter if the underlying cause of the absenteeism is specific to the member or a problem with the Chama, a good leader will immediately and properly seek resolution of the issues. If the member is facing personal problems and the leader, who normally is quick to punish, does nothing, other members may perceive favoritism or some other such negative view. If the leader punishes the absenteeism but does not address the root problem the Chama may crumble in chaos, or worse the leader may find they have troubles of their own. So, Chama leaders, take care of your members: without them nothing is possible.
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