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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

20 Sep '11

Redemptive responses to problematic staff

In spite of our best efforts to hire well, there are times when a staff member's behavior or interactions with others cause problems on a team. Often it is not a matter of competency but of not being aware of how their words, attitudes or actions negatively impact those around them. Or, they may have a personal ministry agenda that is dear to them but which does not fit with the rest of the team or the overall ministry. Sometimes it is an issue of a wonderful staff member who fit the ministry when the ministry was smaller but as the ministry grew their ability to keep up has lagged and their competency in a small ministry has become a liability in a larger ministry. This is not only an issue for the leader who may be frustrated but it can also become an issue for other members of the team who are also impacted.

Being redemptive wherever we can be is consistent with the character and example of Christ. Healthy ministries will do all they can to resolve the disconnects before they simply fire someone or let them go. A redemptive response can take several routes.

First, honest dialogue with the staff member in question is key. Often in ministries, we are not upfront with issues that are present because we want to be graceful. But in not engaging in honest, candid dialogue the staff member is left with a frustrated leader and team without necessarily knowing how their behavior or work is negatively impacting others. Speaking the truth in love in a dialogue form where there is give and take and the opportunity to clarify gives the staff member valuable information on the issues. This should include bottom line concerns of their supervisor along with behaviors or issues that need to change.

If the issue is one of competency in their present role there should be exploration of other posssible roles that are in "the lane" and "gifting" of the staff member. When staff are in the wrong lane they are frustrated and frustrate others. Often the issue can be resolved by getting them into a lane more in line with God's gifting and their wiring.

Where the issue revolves around EQ (emotional intelligence) it sometimes takes an outside executive coach who can help the staff member understand how their behaviors negatively impact those around them. Lack of EQ is one of the most common causes of problematic behavior and if it can be resolved the issues will dissapear. This means that we are willing to make a financial and time investment to help a staff member get to greater health but that is a far cheaper (and more redemptive) proposition than simply firing them and starting over. I will do all I can to resolve issues with staff before letting them go. But if the issues cannot be resolved I will not prolong the pain for the organization.

Where issues of competency or EQ cannot be resolved, it is clear that a transition needs to be made and even then redemptive thinking asks the question, "How do we make a transition that honors the staff member and the organization?" Of course, that requires the active cooperation of the staff member to transition well and in ways that do not do harm to the ministry. I have always believed that how we leave a ministry is the real test of our character. If we honor it on the way out, God will bless. If we try to hurt it because of our anger, God will not. As a leader I cannot control the response of the staff member but I can seek a redemptive and smooth transition.

Any time we can bring health to an unhealthy staff situation we have a win. When we cannot, the win is transition. But in all cases we seek to do it as redemptively as possible.