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Well Done!

Friday, March 21, 2014 • • General
It was early in my career, and I was eager to make a mark, so I approached the first round of employee evaluations I did with great care. I already knew that nothing I said in the evaluation should be new information; that if I hadn‚?Tt pointed out something during the course of our past year of working together, then springing it in an evaluation for the first time was damaging and unhelpful. No one, in any area of their life, enjoys being blindsided.

     One of the mistakes we make as Christians is listening to other Christians critiquing our faith journey.  Similarly, one of the mistakes we make as Christians is critiquing other Christians’ faith journey.  The best mentors learn this early. Their role isn’t tweaking, critiquing and lecturing; it’s moving their charge closer to God so they can hear what He wants them to hear.

After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. ---My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.  ---Job 42:7-8 (abridged)

     It was early in my career, and I was eager to make a mark, so I approached the first round of employee evaluations I did with great care.  I already knew that nothing I said in the evaluation should be new information; that if I hadn’t pointed out something during the course of our past year of working together, then springing it in an evaluation for the first time was damaging and unhelpful.  No one, in any area of their life, enjoys being blindsided.  So I set about reviewing carefully all the discussions and conversations I’d recorded in each worker’s file, and added notes as I reflected on observations I’d made about each person’s effort, skill set and attitude.

     Then I proceeded to meet with each worker, speaking with confidence about my assessment of their past year of work.  It was a complete disaster!  Some left the conversations angry; some left feeling patronized or misunderstood; at least one left our session completely visibly devastated by my subjective guesses at their motivation and interest in their job:  All left upset that I thought I knew them well enough to make subjective observations about them and their work effort.  From that day forward I tweaked my evaluation process often and intensely, searching for the Holy Grail of evaluations---the one that leaves the worker feeling motivated and appreciated while communicating areas to grow, opportunities available to them, and agreement on goals for the coming year.  In twenty years I never succeeded. 

     Performance evaluations are an expensive, unnecessary and damaging way to annually traumatize a work force.  There are better ways to achieve evaluative goals than the annual review; and companies that do no evaluations are almost always better off long-term than those who do them ; at least in part because it’s one of the few aspects of business where the training is nearly non-existent, and every manager does them differently.

     The best experience I had with evaluations is those times when I listened instead of talked, and now as a workplace chaplain and former human resource manager, I can say that’s true in both the physical and the spiritual realm.  In fact, Scripture endorses this concept—at least in spiritual relationships—by making it clear we do not have permission to judge or reproach each other except in those rare instances where two conditions are met:

  1. We love the person deeply; and

  2. Are therefore motivated by this deep love; meaning our words and actions are carefully chosen, prayerfully vetted, and humbly offered as our feeble efforts to encourage another person in their walk with God.

      This is especially true in today’s culture, where busyness prevents us from spending huge amounts of time together in ways that help us know each other more fully.  Almost without fail, those who are critiquing your spiritual journey are doing so without all the information necessary to understand where you are in your walk with God, how much progress you’ve already made, what obstacles exist that hinder growth in some areas, and how hard you’ve already tried and failed.  As with performance evaluations, almost none of us are trained in reproof and correction and therefore we often do more harm than good, even when our heart’s desire is to be helpful. 

     As Job’s friends learned, listening is the greatest gift we can give other followers of Jesus.  In fact, as we listen, we can often discover concrete things we can do to remove barriers that are keeping believers imprisoned by circumstance and thus making it harder for them to hear from God. 

     Except in those rare instances when God ordains an authority to correct us—something I can’t recall being granted except in parental roles and receiving from pastors and elders I submit myself to—we are called to walk with each other with our ears open, our mouths quieted, and our eyes resting firmly on a shared goal of moving towards intimacy with the only Perfect Evaluator…who chose instead to pay for our sins Himself and to declare us “made righteous.”

---Randy Kilgore

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