How To Determine If A Staff Member Is A Poor Fit
By: Brian Dunks
Throughout my twenty-two years in pastoral ministry, I had the difficult experience of releasing staff members from my team for one reason or another. Before I made the decision and navigated the rough waters of transition that come with letting someone go, I had to make sure I was being fair and responsible.
In some instances, I realized that the problem rested squarely on my shoulders and not with the staff member I had deemed to be a bad fit. Basically, almost every staff challenge can be distilled down to one of the three C’s. Here are three key areas on which to reflect before releasing a staff member:
Does the person know what’s expected of them? Do they have a clear job description and a ministry plan that has tasks, goals, and deadlines? Do they know exactly to whom they report? Do they know with whom they should be collaborating? Do they know your leadership style and communication preferences? Are they aware of staff values and cultural norms? So often we punish people for not being able to read our minds. Lack of clarity is the most common reason for frustration, and the easiest to fix. You owe your team members lots of clear communication about what is required to change their behavior.
Does the person have the skills and resources to do their work? Just because someone knows what’s expected of them doesn’t mean they have everything they need to do the job well. If you expect someone to coordinate a small group structure, for example, do they have any experience running that type of ministry? Do they have a budget to work with? Do they have the resources they need to be successful? Should they get more training or mentorship? Also, is their capacity to do work affected by factors outside of work? This one is usually the second most common reason for tension. We think people are incompetent when really, they just don’t have everything they need to do their work effectively, or they may have trouble focusing because of personal challenges.
"We think people are incompetent when really, they just don’t have everything they need to do their work effectively, or they may have trouble focusing because of personal challenges."
The first two C’s are usually the cause of most problems, and if they’re resolved, the problem often goes away. If the tension persists, it may be because of the last C, chemistry. You might also use the word compatibility. Sometimes, people are just not a good fit. They’re not a bad person, and you’re not a bad person; it’s just that this is not the right mission, setting or position for them. If everything is clear, and they have all the resources and support they need, and yet things are still not progressing, then it may simply be this is not the place for them.
" If everything is clear, and they have all the resources and support they need, and yet things are still not progressing, then it may simply be this is not the place for them."
Letting someone go can be difficult and uncomfortable, and it should never be your first option when dealing with a staff member that’s struggling. You want your team members to soar. If there is a problem, give them every opportunity to fix it. Walk through the 3 C’s. Sometimes, unfortunately, staffers simply need to hit the road, and you must have the courage to do so when it’s time for them to leave.
No matter how poor a job the person did or what they have said, always remember you are disturbing their life. They are losing their ministry position and deserve to be treated with dignity, compassion and generosity. The easiest way to accomplish this is by following the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31). Put yourself in their shoes, and then act the way you’d want to be treated if you were being terminated.
What strategies have you put into practice when contemplating on releasing a staff member?