Do you remember the story of the Tower of Babel? Most remember that as a negative story where people were misbehaving and God came down and scattered them, but there is an interesting and positive verse in that story. Genesis 11:6 says, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” That is a statement about unity. The impact you can have when you are people of one mind is amazing.
Few organizations—churches included—experience true unity. There are five main enemies of unity: poor communication, gossip, unresolved disagreements, lack of shared purpose, and sanctioned incompetence.
Poor communication can take many forms. When the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, conflict sets in. If somebody doesn’t know what someone is doing and why they are doing it, they are misinterpreted and seen as competition. This creates inter-company strife. You get the Youth Department mad at the Children’s Minister because they are both trying to use the same resources. They start competing instead of understanding those things should be connected.
Gossip is degrading and will destroy an organization. By definition, gossip is when a negative is discussed with anyone who can’t solve the problem. A leader should develop and maintain a culture in which negatives are handed up and positives are handed down.
At our organization, I will fire you for gossiping. You are told this during the hiring process. I will warn you once and fire you the second time. It’s a big deal! We can do anything if we are of one mind, but gossip will destroy this. Hand negatives up and positives down. Don’t go complain to your coworker about your boss. This is a sanctioned and tolerated evil spirit in Christianity today. I have no sympathy for this spirit at all.
It’s interesting to me that people would never consider committing adultery, but they gossip all the time. In Galatians 5:19–22 they are in the same list. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (NIV). “Dissension” is another word for gossip.
There are people who would never consider coming to work drunk, but right after they step in the door they’re gossiping. Galatians 5:15 says, “But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don’t consume one another ” (WEB). How many of us have been in organizations where this is the philosophy of life? This does not create unity—this destroys unity.
No gossip is a cultural icon at our organization. If you formed a habit at your last organization of gossiping, it can be hard to break that habit. Our team values unity so much that once you are with our company, you will begin to self-reprimand. If you sit down and start gossiping, someone else will stop you.
This happens when a leader doesn’t know a disagreement exists or avoids confrontation. If you know there is a disagreement and you don’t deal with it, it just brews and forms into full-blown warfare. People are allowed to not like each other, but they are not allowed to question the integrity of a person. That needs to be solved, or there will be some kind of an issue. A little confrontation cleanses the wound and allows the parties to go forward in a spirit of unity. When you are aware there are hurt feelings and/or disagreements, act quickly and decisively.
Lack of shared purpose
This is caused by the leader not stating the goal, vision and mission statement early and often. Andy Stanley says you have to tell people 10 times what the vision is before they hear it once. You have to tell the story and the vision so much people start to make fun of you. It’s a repetition process.
If there are two people who do the same thing and one of them doesn’t work or is just incompetent while the other is always on time and working hard, the incompetence of the one will demoralize the hard worker. When you sanction this incompetence or behavior by not dealing with it, you demoralize the rest of the team. If you don’t sanction it, everyone on the team will get fired up and take that person with them.
A leader must go to battle early and often with any of these five enemies of unity. And when your organization has made it clear unity is a strong value, the team will also act to keep these enemies away from the gate.
I need to know everyone in our organization is on the same team. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, and I take it personally when people aren’t united together. Building unity within an organization can be difficult. But if your team sticks together, you will survive and achieve results that will blow you away. The spiritual, emotional and practical power of unity is amazing when put into motion.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of Neue.