One of the big issues with staff evaluations is the dread . . . fear of condemnation.
How do we remove the dread that often accompanies staff evaluations?
If you are a church focused on and intentionally living out your purpose to love God and resultantly love others, you should find some relief in this. Why is that? — Because “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18). Notice that this verse doesn’t indicate there will never be fear. People are accustom to evaluations in the workplace and so no matter how well you communicate they still might come with some skepticism and fear. However, if truly loving as God loves (agape), the fear should soon be dispelled.
Here are some questions about laying the groundwork for staff evaluations in ways that minimize or drive out fear:
- Do you have regularly scheduled staff evaluations?
If you wait until there are staff problems to establish an evaluation process, it becomes more of a platform for “dealing” with people which can come across as punitive. If you already have a process in place, people won’t feel like they are being singled out as the cause for such a meeting. Remember, “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 Jn. 4:18).
- Do you have a clearly defined purpose for staff evaluations that is rooted in love for God and people?
Because you love God, you want Him to be honored in all that is done. Because you love people, you want to help them show this kind of love for God as well by effectively doing their part. Is this intent clearly communicated and even more importantly, truly the agenda once in the meeting?
If what you communicate to be the purpose differs from what people experience, dread will quickly build within the meeting and future evaluations will be held suspect. While it is important to speak the truth in an evaluation, you must do it “in love” (Eph. 4:15). When an evaluation turns to condemnation or tearing down the person rather than building them up, it is not rooted in love for God and people. Rather, make it about truly meeting needs and helping people reach their potential in Christ.
- Do staff members (paid and volunteer) know that they are loved, that they matter, that you aren’t just using their service but truly care about them as people?
Don’t expect people to go into a staff evaluation without a sense of dread if this groundwork hasn’t been laid throughout the year. Loving, affirming, appreciating, and encouraging staff needs to be a part of your DNA as a church … something that’s a part of who you are. Going into a staff evaluation should be a continuation of this kind of culture already built within the church. You won’t be using encouragement and affirmation in a staff evaluation as a manipulation tool to make them “feel” loved when you deliver the negative. People should already “know” that they are loved … no matter what. If this is the only time you encourage and affirm, it probably won’t seem real and won’t really relieve the fear of staff evaluations.
- Do you provide a healthy accountability throughout the year?
Part of the dread in staff evaluations comes in entering the unknown. However, if people are held accountable and given feedback throughout the year, there should be no surprises in what is communicated during an official staff evaluation. You are not suddenly dumping on them mounds of issues they didn’t even realize were problems.