the shape of leadership

Four Warning Signs a Staff Member May Be in Trouble

If you know the signs, you can help them avoid trouble and get better.

Influence Magazine on January 31, 2019

As a pastor, you must be able to read your staff members. How you work with them, assign tasks, delegate responsibilities and motivate them will be determined by how well you understand them.

But reading your staff is also important for another other reason: knowing the warning signs that they may be in trouble. It could be a spiritual problem, a moral issue or a relationship that is headed south. It could also be a problem with their mental or physical health. Whatever the issue is, if you see the signs before a problem arises you can help them avoid trouble.

Here are four signs to look out for in each staff person on your team. Keep your eyes wide and your heart soft to these trouble areas.

1. Changing Attitudes
Have you noticed a change in attitude with your staff member? They were once positive and alive, and now they are pessimistic and distracted. A once bubbly personality is now withdrawn and sullen. Or a person who exhibited great self-control will now fly off the handle.

A staff member that is heading toward trouble will look for problems instead of solutions. Rather than finding the good in any situation, they will find the worst part of any good news. They are cynical and skeptical, especially of leadership decisions. They complain more than they contribute.

If you see the signs before a problem arises you can help them avoid trouble.

2. Falling Productivity
Is a staff member showing up late and leaving early? Are they missing assignments or blowing deadlines? Are they slow to return emails, texts or even phone calls?

This may not just be an issue of bad work ethic or mismatched skills. It could very well be a sign that something else is going on behind the scenes. Before you discipline them for such actions, reach out to see if there’s another problem.

3. Fading Passion
Watch out for a lack of enthusiasm and energy. Every person goes through highs and lows, and no one can sustain constant energy forever. But as you get to know your staff better, you’ll be able to interpret their cycles of work.

Take note when you sense their passion fading. There could be something deeper going on. A physically drained person may have a medical issue. A mentally down person may be going through some trauma. Find the root cause and help them address it.

4. Slipping Behavior
If you see the same problems keep showing up, check in on them. Even the smallest moral cracks can be signs of greater problems underneath.

How they behave towards others is another behavior sign to look for. One email from a complaining volunteer or member is one thing, but if you’re getting ten emails about a staff member’s behavior take it seriously. Get to the bottom of it before it becomes trouble.

The purpose of interpreting these signs is to read your staff and help them out. It’s not just about correcting behavior. It’s about uncovering the root, finding them help and getting them better. When you do that, you ensure yourself a happier and healthier staff.

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