I worked on staff at a church for 10 years. What I found interesting is that most people (who don’t work in ministry) 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 that is from the truth.
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, if not managed properly, 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, that we all come from different backgrounds, have different social styles, and have 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 job duties, and assists in staff problem resolution.
4 Tips to Help Manage Staff Problems
1. Provide 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. Take the time to develop a systematic approach to communication.
This effort will help to ensure that information is shared in a timely, accurate and sensitive way.
For instance, let’s say your church makes a decision to change some of your employee benefits in an effort to save expenses.
Think through the impact of that decision and put together a well-thought-out communication plan.
The goal of that communication effort is to ensure that employees understand why the changes will be made, what the changes will be, and how the change will personally affect them.
This type of communication approach can eliminate unnecessary misunderstandings.
Ask the question, who will be impacted by this decision, how will job responsibilities will be handled, and then share that information with affected parties BEFORE the news of the departing employee is communicated to the masses.
A simple rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “how would I feel if this decision had an impact on me and what information might I want to know?”
2. Interpersonal Relationship Training
We all come to work from diverse backgrounds. This means we bring a different perspective and approach to managing workplace relationships.
These differences can inadvertently create conflict if there are no specific behavioral expectations established and communicated to employees.
God made us all different and created us with different social styles.
Meaning we all think, communicate, and react to work a little differently. There is no right style, just different ones.
The secret is to understand the different styles and celebrate the strengths that each style brings to the workplace.
For example, an employee who is very social may be the cheerleader that the team needs.
However, this same employee may struggle with a co-worker who is not as social and more focused on the details of the job at hand.
Help church staff understand the different social styles, and teach them appropriate ways to interact and communicate with others.
This type of interpersonal skills training can help to improve team dynamics and minimize conflict.
3. Be Quick To Confront The Issues
Christians want to be perceived as nice. This natural tendency sometimes makes it difficult to confront negative employee behaviors.
We like to think that everyone always plays nice. However, the reality is people don’t lose their human element when they walk through the door of a church office.
This truth sometimes results in issues that need to be addressed.
Conflict Management Theory
There is a theory in conflict management that suggests, that the longer a conflict is allowed to exist the less likely it will be to bring resolution to the issue.
This sad fact makes it even more important to address employee issues as soon as they arise.
For example, anytime I learned that two employees were squabbling, I would pull them both into a room, have them each describe the situation from their perspective, and try to come to a resolution.
More times than not, this resulted in disclosing a miscommunication or misunderstanding that was cleared up quickly when both perspectives were presented.
The sooner this intervention happens the better the result will be in salvaging the relationship.
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 simply need to be moved on.
It is our responsibility as managers to work with employees and try to get them to behave within acceptable norms. But unfortunately, sometimes that just doesn’t work.
In those situations sometimes the decision needs to be made to 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 Always Easy
Managing employees is not easy and addressing difficult situations, and problems in the workplace is not fun.
However, having the foresight to create systems and processes that minimize or address potential problems is what successful management is all about.
The process in which these kinds of situations are addressed teaches employees that leadership cares enough to get them resolved and is committed to a cohesive and productive workplace.
Enroll in our Fundamentals of Church Administration Training course to learn more tips on managing the resources in your church.