This topic of perennial - I could open any Christian magazine over the course of six months and I’d find an article of wisdom on this subject. Difficult people sneaking through to key roles in church and mission life is as old as there are years and the issue on the one hand is what to do with them, and on the other, the nature of the issue pervades every area of life.
We might discuss what exactly is a perennial difficult person. A difficult person is not a whistleblower. A whistleblower is someone who identifies what they consider to be a clear breach of some law that adversely affects a wide range of people – and whistleblowers is a matter of good conscience.
A perennial difficult person exhibits a very different agenda and what is more, may not even realise their social capital is lacking some very basic courtesy manners and moreover tend to be overly focused on themselves.
This is a broad based cursory list of such
A perennial difficult person may find fault with everyone they encounter and express these opinions.
A perennial difficult person tend to undermine not only their colleagues but work procedures / projects and are very clever about it all.
A perennial difficult person will get into positions of power whereby they can exercise an authority that will disrupt, bring to bear, be hurtful to specific people, and be sweetness and light until their true colours are revealed.
There are countless television shows and series where the author of the original book has such characters where the script writers then bring to life these people and the actors involved express these characteristics brilliantly.
We can think of the characters in Downtown Abbey, Dad's Army, Lost in Space, Foyle's War, Midsummer Murders, One Foot in the Grave, The Office …. in point, the very nature of television drama thrives on the perennial difficult person.
What can be done
Ultimately they go too far, what they have been doing in their undermining comes to light, sometimes they get moved out or even promoted ….
But in the meantime the rest of those engaged with them have to put up with them and their antics and the question is, how to survive it and in the meantime, curtail it all.
There are several strategies can may be employed to handle the perennial difficult - troublemaker.
Be proactive and make them a friend for there may something else going on in their lives and that this is the reaction to such. Be careful regarding clinging ….
Make a careful audit of their antics where such behaviour has detracted from the task at hand, making money or the smooth operation for the business. That will bring it out into the open.
In meetings, clarify very carefully the proposals put up by the troublesome person and identify the weaknesses and potential to create unwanted attention to the business and its staff peace and calm.
Never allow yourself to be bullied, stand up to the bullying behaviour as the perennial difficult person thrives on it. The Dad's Army program illustrates how Private Godfrey the very elderly gentleman is hard to say in a number of programs: “I don't like that type of thing”, and “I've never been persuaded by such talk” and inevitably he stand his ground and the others rally round.
Moving them out
More often than not it is much easier than one might think. If the entertainment value goes out of the situation, the perennial troublesome person often leaves of their own accord as it becomes boring and some work might come their way.
Other mechanisms is to isolate them whereby the numbers will always be in favour of the process and their influence becomes consistently diminished.
Threaten to send in a minority report to the management. It will become very quickly evident that the group is being persuaded in one direction and serious questions will be put. Positions may be lost.
In Churches and Missions, the same principles apply. I do not know how many sit-coms I have viewed over the years involving a church / parish committee, and the running of the committee is governed by one overpowering difficult person.
These are practical issues that require mundane, boring, soul searching and difficult practical answers. Sometimes they end up in splits. Like Paul and Barnabas, the two ideas cannot be reconciled. We live in a real world where tough questions, sometimes require even tougher responses.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at