How to Avoid the Savior Syndrome

Posted by admin on Aug 10, 2018 7:47:23 AM

Many times in the life of an organization, recruiting just the right match of experience, skills, and attitude is a tricky, if not downright “your guess is as good as mine” process. Much concern and anxiety is likely to accompany the decision-making.

When the selection process is complete and your top choice has committed to joining you, there’s a tendency to start rejoicing. You've likely taken some time to make what you feel is the right choice, so you’re ready to celebrate a victory and hail the advent of the company’s latest major acquisition.

If you find yourself at a similar point, pause for just a moment before completing the statue and shrine honoring your soon-to-be newest employee or associate. You’re about to fall into the trap of the “savior syndrome.”

The savior syndrome has some obvious and not-so-obvious symptoms. Here are just a few:

    • The boss runs from office to office heralding the coming arrival – This is often the person who has spent the most time lying awake at 3 a.m. wondering how best to fill the vacancy in question. Therefore, it seems a natural response to do a bit of celebrating on a job well done, as well as keeping everyone in the loop on the new team member.
    • The office grapevine starts the buzz – Peers and those who will report to the new arrival are most prone to participate in the talk and gossip. They quite naturally wonder who the new superhuman is and how much of a pleasure it will be to work alongside or for this person.
    • Concern grows quietly about the expected productivity of the new arrival – Avoiding the holiday rush, some start immediately to turn their energy and attention to looking over their shoulders, wondering if this new team member or coach will make them and other, existing associates look inept or inefficient in their performance and productivity.
    • Cynicism comes from at least one corner – For some team members, this is prime time to rehash all those “lost saviors,” each of whom was also supposed to single-handedly rescue the organization from the depths of poor performance or take it to the next level of sales, margin and profits. Many of these people whose arrivals were heralded are either no longer with the organization or are mired in a spot where their performance is sub-par, discounted due to mitigating factors or a poor match of skills to job requirements.
    • Current team members feel like yesterday’s newspaper – For every comment anticipating the new person’s arrival, there are likely to be five or so reactions of “What about those of us who have been carrying this organization for years?” either spoken or unspoken. Resentment can easily grow into complaints about inadequate compensation and related issues.


Prevention provides the cure. Nearly all of the symptoms of the savior syndrome are self-inflicted and therefore easily prevented. Steps to take in announcing and welcoming your new hire:

1. Make it an item on the agenda – If the timing is right, you can inform your team members of the new hire as another piece of new business in your team meeting. This puts it in perspective with all other relevant news.

2. Get one-on-one – This can be a very important event in the professional life of several of your team members. Give it that level of importance by speaking with each of them. Do more listening than talking. Allow them the opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns about how the new person may handle a certain situation or how long it will take for him or her to be productive in the current environment. This is valuable information for you as you observe interaction in the new hire’s early days.

3. Be positive rather than ecstatic – You have may indeed pulled a great coup with the addition of this new hire. Keep your game face, however, by reserving visible celebration to private moments. This will help you and others keep things in perspective.

4. Take the opportunity to compliment others – Know that a little appreciation goes a long way. Find a good time to say, “Joe, I hope she’s able to contribute as quickly and valuably as you did when you joined us” or “Helen, if he does half as well as you have with this tough project, I’ll be delighted with the selection.”

5. Be attentive, not overbearing, in those first days and weeks – Team members are likely to watch closely as you interact with the new hire in the early going. Be sure to pay sufficient attention to give that person a productive start. Also be certain that you don’t overdo it and generate jealousy and pettiness across the team. Remember, you’re responsible for the overall team welfare. The addition of a new person is a critical factor in this realm.

The savior syndrome is an unnecessary phenomenon for your organization. Keep the team, its productivity and your organization’s overall objectives clearly in mind and you’ll be better able to welcome new hires and enjoy added productivity from all involved.


Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is one of the most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada.  If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to

Topics: campaign leadership, Capital Campaigns, organizational development, professional development, Professional Skill Building

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