When Leaders Disappoint Us
When Leaders Disappoint Us
How to have difficult conversations with a leader
Question from Joshua:
I have a lot of trouble dealing with decisions made by my management team that don’t necessarily go with what I’ve been taught and trained to do. It is causing me to deal with some anger and anxiety toward these decisions and I feel like I’m not having a positive influence on my coworkers. I’ve had this problem for as long as I can remember and it’s really become a burden to me. Why do I feel this way? Has God created me this way or am I overlooking the big picture? Please help.
Joshua asks a question that describes a common occurrence in the workplace.
The question deals with feeling disappointed, anxious and even angry over decisions made by leaders or a leadership team. Sometimes it’s the leader. Sometimes it’s us. Sometimes it’s a little bit of both.
Before we look at ways we can not only survive but thrive in a less than ideal work environment, let’s get this out of the way. We are all fallen creatures and we work for fallen creatures.
There has never been and never will be a perfect employee. There has never been and never will be a perfect boss or a perfect leader.
So, what do we do when those we work with, especially those who manage and lead us, make mistakes, disappoint us, or even flat out make decisions that are detrimental to employees and to the entire organization?
In order to answer this question, we will look at the relationship between David and Saul and a few other Scriptures. As we will discover, we shouldn’t stop doing our best; rather, we should adjust our expectations. God’s Word is very clear that when people fail or disappoint us—and they will—our focus should remain on the One we really need to please, Jesus.
Perspective: It’s Not About You
While serving King Saul, David did a remarkable job for his king, yet despite his loyal service we read that Saul:
- Kept a jealous eye on David
- Was afraid of David because the Lord was with David
- When he saw how successful David was, Saul was afraid of him
And so, Saul purposed to kill David—not because David did anything wrong but because David did everything right!
Because of Saul’s anger and jealousy, David had to flee and live as a fugitive for nearly 15 years. During his life in the wilderness David had unique opportunities to even the score, to teach Saul a lesson and actually kill the jealous king. But because David had already decided Who his ultimate audience and authority was, he refused to lift his hand against the king.
Tip: It’s not about you. Saul’s external behavior was a reflection of his internal struggles with ego, pride and fear. When leaders wrong you, or make decisions that seem detrimental to you and to others, do not retaliate. Being angry over injustice is not wrong, but in your anger, do not sin (Ephesians 4:26), and do not allow bitterness to take root in your heart. Instead meditate on Romans 12:19-21.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Wrong or Different?
Because all of us are unique, and because of our various personality types, we will behave, make decisions, solve problems, approach conflict etc. in different ways.
Understanding each other’s personalities and natural strengths and weaknesses helps not only shed light on why our leaders behave certain ways or make certain decisions, but it also helps us understand and extend grace to one another.
Harvard Business Review published a study, conducted on 58 teams and more than 300 leaders, that measured the extent to which accurate self-awareness was related to a team’s effectiveness. What the researchers found was really telling:
“First, when individuals were less self-aware (i.e., there was a large gap between the assessments of their own behavioral contributions and the assessments of their team members), the teams substantially suffered. In fact, teams with less self-aware individuals made worse decisions, engaged in less coordination, and showed less conflict management. These findings held even when we controlled for teams overall levels of teamwork.
“Second, the most damaging situation occurred when teams were comprised of significant over-raters (i.e., individuals who thought they were contributing more than their team members thought they were). Just being surrounded by teammates of low self-awareness (or a bunch of over-raters) cut the chances of team success in half.”
It appears that just as accurate self-awareness can have a positive impact on our teams, inaccurate or poor self-awareness can have a very disruptive impact in these same areas.
Tip: Before becoming upset at a leader’s decision, ask yourself: Is this decision wrong? Or is it simply different from what I would have done, but was the leader’s intent genuine and good? Taking a step back and tapping into self-awareness and awareness of our leader can protect us from over- reacting and misjudging the situation. One way to increase self-awareness among your team is to use tools like Biblical or Classic DISC Personality Assessment with a coach or consultant.
What’s My Responsibility?
After inspecting our own intent, assuring that our judgment is not clouded by bitterness or self-serving motives, we can now, with a clear conscious, determine whether we should approach the leader about his or her decision.
- Pray first. Ask for God’s guidance and for preparing both your heart and your leader’s heart (Matthew 7:3-5).
- Don’t attack the person. Speak directly about the issue and how it impacts you, your coworkers and the organization.
- Be gentle. The Scripture tells us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
- Be prepared for your message to be rejected. As we have seen many times in the Scripture, leaders often reject truth tellers. Remember Jeremiah?
During a very trying time for God’s people Jeremiah was asked by God to deliver the following message to King Zedekiah and his court: The King of Babylon is coming to capture God’s people and the city of Jerusalem. Do not listen to the multitude of prophets who tell you this will never happen. If you listen to my voice, if you go peacefully into captivity, then you will live. Whoever decides to stay in the city and fight will die by the sword, famine or plague.
The officials in Zedekiah’s court insisted that Jeremiah’s message was discouraging the soldiers trying to defend Jerusalem. They said that Jeremiah wasn’t really seeking the good of the people but their ruin and that he should be put to death. In this case the majority’s voice ended up costing many precious lives. Simply for delivering God’s truth he was nearly killed.
Remember, it’s ultimately about you being obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and not about achieving a certain outcome with the leader.
Tip: Once you have the difficult conversation, leave the outcome in God’s hands. Focus on doing your best with whatever small or big tasks you’ve been assigned. Bitterness, anxiety and worry are not from the Lord, so be vigilant for any signs of these taking root inside you