The funny thing about working on a church staff is most people have the perception that you sit around all day reading the bible and listening to praise and worship music. Anyone who has ever worked for a church knows how far from the truth that is. In fact I think most church employees would say their responsibilities are even greater because of the limited resources for paid employees and the dependency on volunteer labor.
Another perception is that there are no issues with employees because church staff are Christians. A serious misconception that if not managed correctly can actually accelerate problem situations. People are people, whether Christian or not, and when you put more than one person in a room issues are sure to arise. The reason for this is, we all come from different backgrounds, have different social styles and different frames-of-reference. Translated – we all view the world from a slightly different lens which can create misunderstandings and tension in the workplace.
As a manager of church employees, it is our responsibility to make sure we provide a work environment that removes obstacles, allows staff to perform their duties and assists in staff problem resolution.
4 Tips to Help With Church Staff Problems
1. Structured Communication
I am a firm believer that wars are fought and lost over miscommunication, no communication or poor communication. Communication is a tool that is used to get everyone on the same page so developing a systematic approach to communication helps to ensure that information is shared in a timely, accurate and sensitive way. For example, if church administration makes a decision to change some of their employee benefits to save on expenses, it is important to put together a well thought out communication plan to ensure employees understand why the changes will be made, what the changes are and how the change will affect them personally. This type of approach can eliminate unnecessary misunderstandings.
2. Interpersonal Relationship Training
Because we all come from differing backgrounds we all bring a different approach to managing relationships in the workplace. These differences can create conflict if there are not specific behavioral expectations established and communicated to employees. Helping church staff understand the different social styles and learn appropriate ways to interact and communicate with others can improve team dynamics and minimize conflict.
3. Confront Problems
We all want to be perceived as nice Christian leaders making it sometimes difficult to confront negative employee behaviors.We like to think that everyone plays fair but the reality is people don’t lose their human element when they walk through the door of a church and very often employee issues arise that need to be addressed. There is a theory in conflict management that the longer a conflictive situation is allowed to exist the less likely it will be to bring resolution to the issue making it even more important to address employee issues as they arise. For example, anytime I learned that two employees were squabbling, I would pull them both in a room, have them each describe the situation from their perspective and try to come to a resolution. More times than not, it is a miscommunication or misunderstanding that gets cleared up when both sides of the story are presented. The sooner this intervention happens the better the result will be in salvaging the relationship between the employees.
4. The “T” Word
It is a sad fact but there are times when an employee just doesn’t adapt to a work environment or creates so much drama in the workplace that they need to be terminated. It is our responsibility as managers to work with them and try to get them to behave within acceptable norms but sometimes that just doesn’t work. In those cases it is important to make the decision and let that person go. Employees who create drama in the workplace cause undue stress for the rest of the staff, hinder performance, upset team dynamics and affect overall morale. Christian or not, sometimes we just need to let people go for the benefit of the team-at-large.
Managing employees is not easy and addressing difficult situations and problems in the workplace is not fun but having the foresight to create systems and processes that minimize or address potential problems is what successful management is all about. The good news is that It is always fulfilling when a problem is addressed and the outcome turns into a win-win for everyone involved.
photo by: Muffet