When you think of the difficult people on your team, what do you think of? How do you perceive the problem employees on your team? Could it be that you are looking at them the wrong way?
I’m not saying that everyone is fixable. It may ultimately be better for everyone if certain people don’t work at your organization any more. I think it Abraham Lincoln got it right when he said that people are usually as happy as they make up their minds to be. Nonetheless, you may be the one to help those certain people change their minds.
Difficult people have been through difficult stuff. And hurt people hurt people. If you just pass them off as problem employees then you may be missing a huge opportunity—for them and for you.
I realize that you may not be the pastor-in-chief at your workplace, but you can develop a pastor’s heart for your team. Spiritual insight into their situation can help your team become more positive, more innovative, and more productive.
Here’s how you can get the most out of your team by training yourself in how you look at your problem employees.
1. Where do your problem employees struggle?
What is the stuff that your problem employees deal with? Don’t just say they have a bad attitude. You owe them more than that. After all, you hired them. Think through the kinds of things that they say. That will give you a clue into what they are dealing with.
Are they always putting others down? If so, then that’s what they think of themselves. If they are unkind to others—to their face or behind their back—it’s because they don’t like themselves. Even if they are Christians, they won’t be able to love their neighbor if they don’t love themselves first.
Are they bitter against someone—a parent, a child, or maybe even themselves? Does their conversation always come back to what someone else did to them—or perhaps what they themselves didn’t do? If so, it’s because they have never forgiven that person. They are still stuck at that place in their lives because they have not allowed themselves to move forward.
Do they always sound like they are afraid of something happening? Do they always seem to assume the worst of others’ motives? Are they always sounding defensive about what others say? If so, it’s likely because they don’t feel loved or safe. They are projecting into the future some event(s) that happened in the past—possibly a very long time ago.
When you look more deeply at the things your problem employees say and do, you may see someone who is deeply hurting on the inside. You may see them for who they are and not as the persona they are trying to mask their pain with. And that may help you begin to help them.
2. How can you look at your problem employees differently?
When your problem employees continue to act like they have always acted, then you can begin to see them in a different way. You can see them for the child of God that they are. You can see them as someone who could be so much more than they are right now. And you can see them as people who are limiting their potential because of the choices they have made.
When you can see people as their potential instead of as a problem, then you may be able to help them become the people they could be. Like I said before, not everyone can helped. You will not be able to help them if they are not willing to help themselves. But your perception of them as image bearers of God, and not as irritants, will go a long way to help you deal with them.
It is important that you refrain from laughing about them behind their back with other colleagues. That will not help you have the right mindset to help them. It is important to train the way you think about them if you are going to make the situation improve.
If you can begin to see them as God sees them, then you can begin to have the compassion necessary to help them get out of their stuff. And that compassion will help you have the patience to deal with them.
3. How can you help your problem employees?
Once you decide to look at them through the eyes of God, then you can begin to help them change. You cannot change them. And they may not want to change themselves. But if you give them the right environment, they may be open to the opportunity to make the change.
Do not assume that your problem employees are static characters. View them as dynamic people. Believe that they are capable of change.
When you have a conversation with them, do not presume you know what they are going to say. They may have always complained about the same things, but do not tune them out if they do. Care about them enough to challenge them. When you hear them revert to their negative ways, ask them why they think that way. Then take the time to listen to what they have to say. I’m not saying that you should become their counselor. But it’s possible that no one has ever challenged them to think about their situation before.
God has placed you in your position of leadership for the good of those who work for you—even your problem employees. Do not squander that opportunity be being just a boss.
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