Insights into Better Relations with Staff Members


Good supervision of labor is perhaps the most important cost control a mission has. Breaking in a new staff member may actually cost several hundred dollars. It also places additional burdens on other staff members who usually gain added responsibilities while the new worker becomes more familiar with the job.

Failure to place staff members properly and to train them adequately result in poor work quality, lack of productivity, and excessive costs. Good rescue mission staff members are hard to find and difficult to keep.

Good supervisors complain that petty jealousy, bickering, and general discontent run high among staff members. Also, minor accidents, illnesses, and abuse of sick leave add to the problems of supervision and management of rescue missions.

Good supervisors must have several qualities. They must have a knowledge of the mission’s policies, procedures, goals, and objective, and they should be experienced and knowledgeable about work to be done. They must also be able to understand and deal with people. In addition, they must keep informed of labor laws and new training techniques and opportunities for their staff members.

The Supervisory Climate

There are four key guides that a supervisor must follow in developing a healthy supervisory climate:

  1. Treat staff members like human beings.
  2. Teach them how you want things done.
  3. Make all your criticisms constructive.
  4. Harness their desires to the needs of the job and the situation.

All of this takes insight on the manager’s part. Test yourself—how much do you really know about the people who work for you? Are the happy? Are they free from job tension?

Remember that recognition in work gives people a sense of pride and a feeling of personal fulfillment Deny staff members this opportunity for recognition, place them in work the provides little recognition, and you will create an atmosphere of boredom and frustration.

Boredom is not simply a lack of interest, it is more often a gnawing hunger for something interesting. Boredom breeds frustration, and this may finally erupt into destructive behavior.

Humanizing Supervision

Management theory today places emphasis on humanizing jobs. Surveys show that today’s staff members are not interested primarily in more and job security. They are more apt to state that appreciation of the work they are doing is of greatest importance.

Rescue mission supervisors must try to be more responsive to staff members’ needs. Staff members’ concerns must be transmitted to higher management are must be represented at problem-solving sessions. Including the staff member in the mission’s planning and policymaking has also proven successful. When the staff members are given an opportunity to see and appreciate the positive end results, they are more apt to place a higher value on their personal contributions. When staff members derive emotional satisfaction from their job, the turnover rate goes down.

Supervising New Rescue Mission Staff members

People who are working for the first time at a rescue mission present a special challenge to a good manager. Their potential is as great as their enthusiasm. They usually come expecting a better quality work environment, since the mission is a Christian organization. And, if they are new to Christian work, they tend to view their work at the rescue mission as more than simply "a job." For them it is often "a calling" and an opportunity to serve the Lord.

Still, it is important for supervisors to understand their need for recognition. New staff members are often unsure of themselves in their new roles. A smart manager will be able to encourage them while working with God to mold them into good and productive servants.

Techniques of Maintaining Discipline

The most difficult aspect of supervision is controlling the staff member’s performance. This is known as "discipline." The most important factors maintaining a well-disciplined rescue mission work environment are the day-to-day relation ships which are established on the job. You can reduce the need for corrective discipline by

  1. Properly instructing staff members and making sure they understand, their place in the whole organization.
  2. Properly orienting them to their jobs by using job descriptions, work schedules, etc.
  3. Explaining codes of ethics or requirements that they must adhere to.
  4. Giving them positive leadership on the job.
  5. Setting an example of behavior that you would like them to follow.

Your leadership makes the difference. The importance of effective leadership cannot be overemphasized. A manager who is arrogant, who is inconsistent, who uses threats and fear as a way to discipline is not well respected by the staff members. Blind obedience should not be confused with good discipline. Force can serve effectively for a short time, but with this type of discipline the results are short-lived.

Good discipline exists when co-workers regularly come to work on time, handle their responsibilities with care, and when they turn out satisfactory work. When they follow the prescribed, written procedures of the mission, then their attitudes and work are good. These are the conditions that every rescue mission manager strives to achieve.

Techniques of Reprimanding

The ideal situation scarcely ever exists. Some staff members develop poor work habits, and they need to be trained in a more positive way. Most often rescue mission staff members will respond to sound leadership by example, and they will thus develop good work habits. However, some staff members may need special attention, and a few will need to be dealt with firmly.

When you find that a staff member has developed a bad habit, it is best to discourage it by discussing it with the staff member. Looking the other way will encourage that individual to continue to commit the violation. Surveys indicate that the frequency and severity of violations always increase when the leader looks the other way. If you permit staff members to "get away with things," you are encouraging them to continue bad habits. The thing to do is to correct a staff member the first time an offense or violation occurs and to help him or her to establish a good habit. This means that you must work closely with your staff members, especially the new ones, to make sure that bad habits will not go unnoticed.

For example, if a staff member who is usually prompt suddenly begins coming in late for work each day—not terribly late, but ten or fifteen minutes each time—the manager should speak directly. The manager might say, "You have been late three days in a row. What seems to be the problem?" The staff member might say, "My husband has a new job. As you know, we only have one car, so I must drop him off before I come to work. We didn’t realize how long it would take, and that’s why I’ve been late every day since he took the new job. Tomorrow we’ll start fifteen minutes earlier so that I can get to work on time."

If the manager had not corrected the staff member about being late, she probably would have continued to be late because she was getting into that habit. The method of handling such a problem is to bring it out into the open.

When managers correct bad habits, they must explain to staff members the good habits they expect the staff members to learn. It’s not enough to "That is a violation." You must tell them what you expect, and then must make sure that they are able to meet the standards that you set.

Explain the policies and procedures of your mission thoroughly a to make sure that each staff member has been carefully oriented to h her job. If there is any question, review what is expected, the job description, the work schedule, etc. When doing so, remember to commend staff member for those aspects of the work that are being done well.

George S. Odiorne lists the following "deadly sins of reprimading":

  1. Failure to get the facts
  2. Acting while angry
  3. Letting an individual remain ignorant of an offense
  4. Failure to get the other person’s side of the story
  5. Backing down when you know that you are correct
  6. Failing to keep adequate records
  7. Holding a grudge

Solving Grievance Problems

It is important that the rescue mission manager take the time and to listen to staff member’s complaints or grievances. A staff member concentrating on a grievance is not a productive staff member. A grievance whether real or imagined, will block a staff member from being a w staff member. Until you have investigated the grievance and the under causes, you will be losing productivity.

It is human nature for some people to complain often. However, if a staff member does complain, you must give him or her your undivided attention and show that you will look into the situation carefully. By keeping staff members well informed of what is going on—by keeping "in the know—you can eliminate many unreal or imagined compliants.

Grievances are most likely to occur when:

  1. Something is wrong with the staff member, with working conditions, or with your supervision. A grievance or complaint is often a symptom of a wrong policy or procedure.
  2. Staff members are worried about situations which threaten their security, such as a new work assignment, a transfer, a promotion, layoffs, performance evaluations, etc. When such occasions arise, it is important that the rescue mission manager deal with it in a fair way. When staff members know all the facts and know what to expect from changes, chances are they will feel far more secure and there will be fewer complaints.
  3. The manager has failed to analyze trouble spots in departments where there have been complaints. For example, if in the past six months, you have had four complaints about the diet-aide position or there has been a constant turnover of staff members in this job, you had better look into the situation and reevaluate the position.

    The manager needs to reexamine the method of assigning work. When work is unfairly distributed, you need to take immediate remedial action to eliminate future complaints.

If a complaint goes unsettled, the staff member will tell friends, family, other staff members. Thus the chain of dissatisfaction will continue to you detect discontent within the rescue mission, investigate right and take corrective action. Maintain a record of complaints or lances in your department. Analyze past grievances. If one particular position or department is a sticky problem, analyze the reasons. Have you had a tremendous turnover there? If so, why? What is wrong with the job? If records show that in the last six months you have had four complaints about one particular staff member, look into it. Such a record can a great help to you in working through these problems. By searching causes and taking immediate action, you may eliminate similar complaints in the future. Here are some helpful hints for solving a complaint:

  1. Be fair.
  2. Allow the staff members to express their point of view thoroughly.
  3. If you have made a mistake, admit it and correct it. In such a case you may have to change your way of doing things.
  4. If a staff member has a legitimate complaint, correct the situation. If he or she does not, then say so. Consider each case on its own merits.
  5. Collect all the facts and say to the staff member, "Give me a day to look into the situation," or "I’ll have time to talk this afternoon." Be specific with the staff member about when you will discuss the complaints. When exploring the facts, take time to think about the individual employee personally. Has he or she changed jobs? Is he or she having home problems? What is affecting this staff member? Is this the basic cause of the complaint? Records are helpful in gathering all the facts and in helping you to make your decision.
  6. Be businesslike in your discussion with the staff member when you have reached a decision. Talk with the staff member in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Treat the grievance or complaint as a private matter and never discuss it in front of other staff members. Keep your discussion on a friendly basis. Avoid discussing personalities and show the staff member that you wish to settle the complaint in a fair and just manner. At all times keep cool, even if the staff member loses her or his temper. Avoid an argument at all costs.
  7. Be definite in your answer. State your decision so that there is no mistake about what you mean. Use simple, clear, concise language. Make sure the staff member understands the specific reasons for your decision.
  8. Once the decision has been made and discussed with the staff member, follow through on any necessary corrective actions promptly. Give it your undivided attention. Otherwise you will lose the goodwill youhave built up.
  9. Maintain a friendly attitude while settling the complaint. A staff member should feel that grievances can be expressed openly and will be dealt with fairly. If the manager makes the staff member feel uncomfortable for having brought up a problem, the staff member will resent it. Also, if the manager seems to show annoyance at being faced with the problem, the staff member will be reluctant to complain openly in the future.


Adapted from Food Service Management—A Human Relations Approach by Carole Okeefe and Myrna Breskin, 1976 by McGraw-Hill, Inc.