Want Better Employee Performance? Then Listen!

Many ministries experience high levels of employee dissatisfaction because misperceptions often go unrecognized or unaddressed. Interestingly, the single most common employee complaint, regardless the industry or mission, is not being heard. When employees don’t feel heard, it stands to reason why misperceptions continue to proliferate an organization. It often leads to gossip (someone is finally listening) which can turn a small misperception into a harsh reality.

Reality isn’t the same thing as truth, however. Reality may have more to do with perception than truth, which is why understanding the realities of our environment is so powerful. By recognizing the darkness of misperceptions, one can bring out the light of truth with…truth! Jesus said in John 8: 31-32 that¬†If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

However, even the most disgruntled employee is reluctant to share how they really feel. After all, it’s difficult to confront others. This is why opening the floor during a staff meeting to discuss concerns is often futile, because nothing the leader says can belie the fear of retribution in a person’s heart.

This is why an employee survey that is conducted by a neutral third party where an employees anonymity is guaranteed is an effective tool, because it helps identify where dysfunction exists.

The first employee survey that I conducted was for a Christian school in California where I was the consultant for the school’s capital campaign. The longer I was at the school, the more problems I got wind of from the faculty and staff, problems that were impacting the success of the campaign. Most of the problem’s weren’t big, it was just a matter of wanting the headmaster to hear their concerns. So with the headmaster’s blessing, I conducted a survey that was informed by studies conducted by other research and from some of the issues brought up at the school.

When I sat down with the headmaster to go through the unvarnished results, which included more than two thousand individual comments to help support the data, it was a turning-point, both for the headmaster and for the school. Not only was the headmaster able to address concerns and answer questions, but he was also able to correct unfounded but highly destructive misperceptions. His standing among the faculty and staff improved significantly (as we were able to quantify in an end-of-year follow-up survey).

Most surprising for me was that very little changed as far as the organizational structure. No faculty or teachers were fired, schedules went unchanged, salaries stayed the same and work-hours were not reduced. What did change, and what had the greatest impact on the staff, was the way the headmaster listened and communicated. Where faculty or staff needed to be made aware of negative feedback, like I did with the headmaster, he addressed those issues directly with that staff member…often a department head. It also paved the way to strategically tackle those cultural mindsets that needed to change.

While ignorance can become Satan’s foothold in a ministry organization, a ministry whose leaders take their heads out of the sand by tackling the sometimes difficult reality of dysfunction within their organization allow truth to be their compass.

Buy truth, and do not sell it,
Get wisdom and instruction and understanding.

Proverbs 23:23