At times, it seems as though gossip, criticism, complaining, judgments and sarcasm are everywhere. And, yes, we're talking about a Christian workplace. Employees complain about a new initiative which requires that dreaded word: change. You discover one of your staff is a major gossip. Or a mid-level leader criticizes your latest decision and posts it online. Really? At the core of most of these "unity-slayers" lie judgmental hearts.
We have to understand and expect that there will be times when most employees will struggle with being negative and judging. It is as natural as sin. And that makes it unacceptable.
So, what's a boss to do? Here's the deal: It starts with you. There is only one perfect leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, and none of us is He. But you can be humble, broken and cast your cares on the Lord, asking Him daily to examine your own heart to make sure these negative actions aren't working in your spirit (Ps. 139:23-24; Ps. 19:14). The greatest management principle in life is very simple: People repeat the behavior they see. It all trickles down. The greatest influencer in a Christian organization is its leadership.
Let's do Leadership 101.
Never complain, criticize, use sarcasm, or discuss an employee in another employee's presence. Don't let your guard down with other managers or your boss and gossip or listen to gossip. Nip it in the bud. Remember that gossip is sharing information with someone who is not part of the problem or part of the solution to the problem.
Commit to not being "the judge." Don't second-guess an employee's motivation. Only God knows what is in the heart of man (Jer. 17:9-10). Don't ascribe value to someone because he or she is more/less productive in meeting job expectations. Instead, become an astute observer. Look at the fruit coming from a person's work and life (Matt. 7:17-20). This is how you know people and make decisions.
Most importantly, choose to be a spiritual leader. A spiritual leader must pay close attention to his or her own spiritual transformation. It is only through your own spiritual transformation and learning to walk in the Spirit that you will be the leader God means you to be (Prov. 2-6:7). And if you are going to be a spiritual leader, you must be concerned about the spiritual formation of your other leaders and employees. You must be full of encouragement and creative in challenging those you lead to follow Christ.
At some point, every employee in a Christian organization is challenged by disappointment. The disappointment comes from thinking everyone they work with should act like a Christian. These unrealistic expectations are shattered when they run into a fellow Christian worker who is having a bad day. Or you make a decision they don't agree with. Their Eden is crushed.
Disappointment comes from unmet expectations. It's the leader's job to make expectations clear and realistic. Part of this responsibility includes teaching and training people. I don't believe most employees wake up one morning and say, "I'm going to go the office and gossip today." Or "I'm going to complain about everything today because I want God to know I really don't believe He has it under control."
It is your task as the leader to articulate righteous expectations to employees. It is your job as the spiritual leader to establish and maintain the culture at your workplace. Employees need to be taught that when they judge, they are in deception and playing God (not a very safe place to be). When they are critical (even just in their mind), they are destroying unity. In complaining, they are sending all of the wrong messages to God, the worst being they really don't believe God is good and has control of the workplace. Negative sarcasm rips people apart and leaves deep emotional scars. Listening to or participating in gossip destroys lives. Where there is a lack of knowledge about these vital understandings, unity perishes (see Hos. 4:6).
How do you manage from here? There is only one path that can be taken. It is the way of love and forgiveness, the love that is Christ-like, the love that is full of mercy and truth. "All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies" (Ps. 25:10; also Prov. 3:3-6, Ps. 40:11, John 1:17).
The way of truth requires an ever-vigilant and ever-encouraging watchfulness over the culture of your organization. You cannot wait until negative forces take root. If you really believe that employees should take responsibility for miscues and face up to their own issues when they gossip, complain, criticize, judge others or use negative sarcasm, then you will have to be quick to address these issues. You will have to move even more quickly to resolve conflict (which is inevitable).
In all of this, you must show mercy and forgiveness whenever possible. This is the way of truth and love. Most people in a Christian organization want to work in a positive, encouraging atmosphere. For those who struggle in being a positive force, coaching can help generate change. To be an effective spiritual leader, you must take on the job of mentoring, whether you do it yourself or assigning it to a trusted colleague.
It is your job to lead, refuse to compromise, be consistent, take initiative, articulate your expectations and teach and train people where necessary. Be full of the Spirit of encouragement and truth. Be bold. Go lead.
Tim Cameron is a passionate follower of Jesus, a father of five, with six grandchildren and two goddaughters. He graduated from Oral Roberts University, where he was a Division-1 basketball player, and completed graduate work at the University of Tulsa. Tim worked at ORU as director of admissions and financial aid. Following his tenure there, he was a public high school principal and then served as head of school at the largest private school in Oklahoma. Tim currently writes, speaks and serves in intercession and prophetic ministry at Believers Church in Tulsa. He has a great passion for prayer. He authored The Forty-Day Word Fast and has a second book coming out with Charisma this June, 40 Days Through the Prayers of Jesus: A Journey to Pray More Like Christ.
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