Organizational Stress Caused by Those We Lead: How Do We Handle That?

By Sam Voorhies and Roland Heersink

As a leader, you want your team united by a single vision.

But sometimes partners disagree. Sometimes top leadership turn against you. Sometimes talented employees start acting like rogue elephants, believing their way is better than yours.

Dealing with staff disappointments can be terribly stressful.

Moses faced it when his brother Aaron committed a serious moral lapse (Exodus 32) during the Israelites’ years in the desert. It was very painful, since Aaron had been his right-hand man as he battled Pharaoh.

Jesus himself experienced it. Remember James and John? They asked Jesus to promise them the most prestigious two spots in heaven. The ten other disciples understandably became indignant. There went harmony among Jesus’s team.

Another example: Paul and Barnabas. Paul wanted to revisited towns they had preached in. Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark. Paul said no, because young John Mark had previously let them down.

Paul and Barnabas had such a sharp disagreement that Barnabas took John Mark and sailed for Cyprus, and Paul chose Silas and left (Acts 15:36-41).

(By the way, John Mark is thought to be the writer of the Gospel of Mark, so he must have eventually matured!)

In these biblical cases, and in those you likely have faced, it’s clear that leaders under organizational stress caused by interpersonal disappointments and conflicts must address the root causes.

No sweeping of anything under the bureaucratic rug! That will only lead to irreparable damage.

So, what are you to do? Remember Matthew 18. Don’t dwell on the stress. Pray and then take thoughtful action. Verse 15 tells us to arrange a conversation and diplomatically point out the offending behavior. If they receive the criticism and vow to change, you’ve strengthened the relationship.

We all need to develop the skill of firmly but kindly confronting relational conflict – for the sake of your organization, your fellow worker, and your own effectiveness as a leader.

Here’s some questions for reflection / application:

• Have you ever been disappointed or betrayed by someone in your organization? What did you feel? How did you handle it?

• What conclusions can you draw knowing that even spiritual giants like Paul and Barnabas couldn’t reach a compromise?

• How would you evaluate your ability to recognize your relational stress and get to the root of it? What steps can you take to build up skills in this area?

And here’s some scripture to mediate on: Matthew 5:223-24, Ephesians 4:1-3

Dr. Sam Voorhies, the Center’s Director, has been president and CEO of Voorhies International Consulting since 2010. He taught numerous courses at seminaries and universities around the world from 1990 to 2017.

Roland Heersink is the founder and chairman of God & Work, an organization dedicated to training Christians from all walks of life what it is to live out their faith in the secular workplace.



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