A dear friend and a 20+year veteran of pastoral ministry received a hate-filled, vitriol-laced unsigned email today from a fake Gmail account. He resigned 2-weeks ago, after serving the parish for 10 years. The two pastors preceding him served six and three years. In church/pastoral circles this church has the reputation of being a grinder, and I’m being kind about that. If you have served in any kind of leadership position for 10+ years, whether for-profit companies, or non-profit organizations you are gonna receive this garbage.
These anonymous, toxic critics are dangerous. They spew hate behind a veil while never having face-to-face conversations. They are weak, divisive, mean-spirited and toxic to any organizational culture. If you are a leader, keep in mind that these armchair QB’s DO NOT represent the whole! The irony here is that it’s a church where people are supposed to be kind, respectful and loving even in disagreement per the Bible and the teachings they espouse. Their mantra is “disagree in love.”
I really wanted to cut and paste the email and then I thought, heck no that’s what they want and you never give ignorance a platform. They disparaged my friend and other leaders in the church without even having their facts right. And the grammar was horrendous, but that was part of the attempted cover no doubt.
A very wise leader once taught me to not entertain anonymous critics. He advised that I let my assistant open my mail and look for a signature. If there was no signature the assistant passed it on to those above me and I never saw it. Now in the digital age it’s harder because email comes straight to you and in this case there was a name, “John Smith,” in the email address line, but no signature.
If you are in leadership this stuff happens. Anonymous, disgruntled clients, members, staff, or former employees have an arsenal at their disposal. My advice, take the high road and let it roll off your back. Whatever you do, do not take it personally. These are usually sick and at the least toxic people. If you are in a company hand it over to security. If there is a threat, turn it over to authorities because it is a Federal offense when it comes to the #USPS.
Be blind to anonymous, back-door criticism, but be open to constructive, face-to-face, or signed criticism. Anyone who signs his or her name deserves to be heard no matter how much you disagree. But request an eyeball to eyeball meeting with a 3rd party, HR representative, or boss to be present. Unfortunately, in today’s climate you have to exercise discretion and caution regarding your safety and the safety of the people you lead. If you think about it this is a great interview question: Have you ever sent an anonymous email, or letter? If so, why? If they lie, it doesn’t matter because you’ve got a record of it.
For years I kept a signed, vitriolic-laced letter of a man after my resignation from a leadership position. I don’t know why I kept it. Every 4-5 years I would come across it in the closet, but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. Finally, 15 years later and long gone from that position we decided to open and read it. We laughed and burned it. It was tempting to publish it and embarrass the individual many years later. However, it was more therapeutic to burn it and laugh. One last thing, keep your sense of humor! Life is too short to suffer fools.
Monty Carter, Storyteller
102 Trade Street
Greer, SC 29651