Follow Up to Unexpected Joy

Dear Christ Church,

This past Sunday Rob Chisholm, lead pastor of Grace City Northeast, served us well by preaching on "Unexpected Joy" from Philippians 1:12-18.  I only received one question about the sermon.  Here it is:

Rob gave an example about sinning against coworkers by discussing how they are technologically illiterate.  Is it ever appropriate to talk about other coworkers' performance if it is sub par and they aren't fulfilling their job requirements?  Can I tell my boss, or discuss with my peers to confirm my experience?  Or must I only say positive things about my co workers regardless of what they are doing?

Good question.  The Bible tells us that we are not to gossip (2 Cor 12:20) and that we are only to speak about others in ways that build them up (Eph 4:29).  However, the Bible also says that we are to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and that a true friend is one who brings correction (Proverbs 27:6).  As Christians we are to do all things with excellence (Ecc 9:10) and seek the good of wherever God has placed us (Jeremiah 27:9), which certainly includes our companies.

So yes there is a place for discussing a coworkers performance.  However, before you do, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

1.  What are my motives?

Do you just want to vent?  Are you trying to put someone down to make yourself look better?  Are you being arrogant like the IT people that Rob was talking about?  What is your goal?  There really should only be two goals for talking about someone's performance.  1)  To help them improve.  2)  To help your company improve.  If neither of those goals are going to be met, then your motives are probably just about yourself and not the good of others.  So you should keep quiet and get your heart in check.  However, if these two goals can be met, then ask yourself this next question.

2.  Who needs to know?

When you have a problem with someone there are only two categories of people that should know about it; those who are part of the problem and those who are part of the solution.  Nothing is accomplished by making anyone else aware of the situation.  So if your corporate structure allows, I'd encourage you to start by going to your coworker.  Tell them your concern, ask if they need help (if you are in a position to help) and give them encouragement.  If they do not respond, or if you are not in a position to speak to them directly, make those who are in a position to bring help/change aware of the situation.  

When I worked at Canon Business Solutions we had an order processor who was incredibly slow and would mess things up about my deals consistently.  So I went to her and asked was there something about how I was doing the paperwork that was confusing?  How could we work together to get this done in a more expedient and accurate way?  After another couple weeks of no change, I made my manager aware.  I didn't need to gossip with my coworkers or complain about her to them.  I didn't need anyone to validate my case.   I spoke to people who were responsible for managing her performance as I wanted to help her and I wanted to have my company run more effectively.  She was eventually fired over her poor performance and I know that I had something to do with that.  However, I do not feel bad as hopefully that was a wakeup call to her for her need to improve and she will only get better at her next job.  Enabling people's poor performance is unkind to them.  

So yes, it is ok to talk about your coworker's performance.  But make sure you are checking your motives and only speaking to the appropriate parties.  Our words are powerful and we are to use their power to honor Christ (James 3:3-18).  Since most of our words get spoken at work, we need to be consistently in prayer and asking for the Spirit to fill us so that we might look carefully to how we are being as God's amabassadors at our jobs. (Eph 5:15-18)

- Pastor Jeff

Twitter @Pastor_Jeff

Facebook Jeff Boettcher