Tag Archives: Employer

When “Love” is Hard

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight….
Philippians 1:9 (NIV)

Along my journey I have managed individuals who were in the wrong position. They weren’t suited for the tasks they were given, they didn’t enjoy the work, and the fruit of their labor was often rotten.  The fact that we had good person in a bad position was obvious to me as a front-line manager. I have two very vivid memories in which I argued with my boss that an individual needed to be terminated. This was not so much to alleviate the problems felt inside the system (though it would certainly do that) but because the individual needed to be freed to find something for which he or she was better suited. In both cases I was told that the best thing to do was to “show grace and love” by continuing to work with the individual, keep encouraging the individual, to keep overlooking their failures, and to perpetually give them another chance. In neither instance did the this course of “grace and love” succeed.

Love is a simple word, and very often love is a simple concept: a random act of kindness, going out of your way to assist a person in need, an encouraging word, or a thoughtful gift.

As I read the opening chapter of Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in the town of Philippi, I was struck that he prayed, not just that the Philippian believers’ love would abound, but that that it would abound in knowledge and depth of insight.

I have found along my life journey that love is often not such a simple concept. In fact, sometimes love is hard:

  • Coming clean, owning my own shit, and getting help.
  • Forgiving, knowing you’ll never forget the injury and/or the perpetrator will never admit, own, or repent of what he or she did.
  • Refusing to rescue a child; Allowing him or her fail as you watch and pray.
  • Choosing to make a child responsible for earning his or her way rather than freely providing all things.
  • Severing relationship with a crazy-maker.
  • Walking away from a toxic relationship.
  • Telling an addict, “No.”
  • Terminating an employee who isn’t a good fit for the job.

Just as Paul wrote that Satan masquerades as an angel of light, I’ve learned that sometimes what looks like love on the surface of a situation is actually not love at all. Quite the opposite. Often, the loving act is misunderstood in the moment. It requires knowledge to realize that it’s actually the best thing for the other. The truly loving act can initially illicit anger, bitterness, and lashing out. Depth of insight is required to see how things will play out in the long run.

This morning I’m thinking about the two individuals I referenced at the beginning of this post. I’ve learned that they moved on, found a better vocational fit, and appear to be successful in their chosen fields. I’m happy for them. They taught me an invaluable lesson. Showing “grace and love” sometimes means making the difficult, uncomfortable, even unpopular decision with the knowledge and insight that it’s actually the most loving thing to do.

 

10 Ways to Make a Positive Impression on Your Employer

source: gangplankhq via Flickr
source: gangplankhq via Flickr

All these were descendants of Obed-Edom; they and their sons and their relatives were capable men with the strength to do the work—descendants of Obed-Edom, 62 in all.
1 Chronicles 26:8 (NIV)

“Good help is hard to find,” it is said. Even with todays job market, in which I hear more people complaining “a good job is hard to find,” I can tell you as an employer that a capable employee with strength for the task is a valued find. When I was a kid I was taught that being capable was only what got you a foot in the door with an employer. It was what you did with it that made you indispensable and worthy of promotion or advancement.

10 ways I learned to make a positive impression on my employer:

  1. Arrive a few minutes early. Be on site ready to start when your shift begins.
  2. Don’t watch the clock. Work all the way to the end of your shift, and if you’re in the middle of a task, work a few minutes late until the task is done.
  3. If there’s a lull in the action, find something to do. Keep yourself busy, and don’t wait to be told what to do.
  4. Don’t be difficult. If there’s a dress code, don’t press the issue to see what you can get away with, simply adhere to the policy and don’t make an issue of it.
  5. If in doubt, ask. Better to ask than to do it wrong and create problems and irritations.
  6. Pay attention so you don’t have to ask again. Asking once is a good thing. Asking the same thing multiple times, or asking a million questions about things that should e common sense, is a sign of lack of listening, comprehension, ability, or responsibility.
  7. Don’t consider anything “beneath you.” Don’t balk at the small, difficult, boring, or dirty tasks. Do them willingly and do them well, and you probably won’t have to do them for long.
  8. If you make a mistake, be honest about it and take responsibility for making it right. An employee who covers up, obfuscates, and/or blames others is untrustworthy. An employee who is willing to take responsibility shows rare character.
  9. Be willing to go the extra mile without complaint or demand.
  10. Think like an owner, and if your employer asks you to make a decision then make the decision as if you owned the company and were responsible for its long term success. An employee who can think in those terms is capable of being placed in charge of many things.

If you do these things consistently without reward, recognition, gratitude and/or promotion, or if your employer consistently takes advantage of you, then keep looking for another job. There’s another employer out there waiting to reward someone who is “capable with strength to do the work.”

A Mysterious Tension: Personal Initiative and Divine Timing

david with saul's spearAs surely as the Lord lives,” [David] said, “the Lord himself will strike [Saul], or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed1 Samuel 26:10-11a (NIV)

Last week I shared a sliver of the story of how I began working for the company of which I am now a partner owner. It happened in the summer of 1994. I had been working for a parachurch ministry for a year, and had been raising financial support from friends and family to do so. The agreement I had with my employer had been that I would raise financial support for one year. It had been a good year in many regards and I enjoyed what I was doing, but as the end of that year drew closer my employer remained silent regarding the plan for what was going to happen next.

Months before the end of our one year agreement I began to ask my employer for a plan. I even offered to continue raising support if we could sketch out an agreement to reduce the amount I had to raise over a period of time. The answer I received multiple times was “I’ll put it on the board agenda for next month.” After the board meeting I would hear “We didn’t get to it. We’ll talk about it next month.” Finally, my year ended and I still had no answer from my employer. I felt a responsibility to my financial supporters who had faithfully sent me money that year to support me and the ministry I worked for. Many supporters had asked me about it, but I had nothing to tell them because my employer refused to talk to me about a compensation plan.

Suddenly, I felt a stirring inside me. While I wasn’t unhappy with my job and hadn’t really considered another job change, I realized that I could not trust my employer. There was a principle involved here that I needed to heed as it wasn’t just about my employers integrity, but also about my own. I had asked my supporters for a year commitment and the year was over. I felt dishonest asking them to continue their support. The problem was, I had a family with two small children and no earthly idea what I was going to do. I had no job prospects. I didn’t even have a resume put together.

Nevertheless, I knew in my heart that I had to make a move. One morning just after the one year anniversary passed, I began calling my financial supporters and telling them not to bother sending another check. On the list of supporters was my old employer and mentor.

“What are you going to do?” he asked me on the phone.

“I don’t know,” I answered, then explained my reasoning. I shared that I felt I couldn’t in good conscience ask my supporters to extend their commitment when my current employer wouldn’t even talk to me about extending his. I admitted that I had no plan and no job prospects.

“Are you really going to leave? Have you told your employer?” my friend and mentor asked.

“I haven’t said anything yet, but I really think I’m going to leave,” I answered.

There was a pause on the other end of the line. “Make a firm decision by noon and call me back,” he said abruptly. When I called him back an hour later to let him know I had decided to leave he said, “Meet me at 2:00 at Village Inn.”

We met that afternoon and he offered me a job. Within a few hours of deciding to leave, I had another job. Of course, my old mentor made a step of faith in asking me to join his consulting firm, but he also felt the divine timing of events. He did not have enough work to pay me much and had to trust that there would be new projects coming that he couldn’t see. The new opportunity was not a slam dunk or a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. I was leaving a tenuous position to an even more tenuous position, but it was the right timing and I knew it in my soul. As I drove home that day, and I pulled into the driveway I heard Holy Spirit whisper clearly in my soul:

“Take this job and stick with it. You will be blessed.”

I took the job, stuck with it, and have been immensely blessed. That was 20 years ago next summer.

Along life’s road I have found a mysterious tension between taking personal initiative and waiting on divine timing. I even struggle to define it well, yet I can look back and see how certain circumstances and life decisions happened at what I know to be a divinely appointed moment in time. Had I attempted to make something happen by force of personal will it would not have worked out the way it was supposed to happen. Yet, it was important for me to be sensitive to God’s hand moving in my circumstances and listening for Holy Spirit’s whisper in my soul.

Today we read about the second of three opportunities that David had to take the life of the man who was hunting him: King Saul. His men even encouraged David to take personal initiative when the opportunity to do so presented itself. David, however, was sensitive to the tension between personal initiative and divine timing. David understood that Saul, despite his flaws, had been God’s choice to be King and God alone should end Saul’s reign.

Today, I’m grateful for God’s perfect timing which I see in many different experiences along life’s road. I want to continue holding that mysterious tension between personal initiative and divine timing, as elusive and ill defined as it seems.

Chapter-a-Day Matthew 25

"You're fired!"
Image by gwilmore via Flickr

“The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.'” Matthew 25:22-23 (MSG)

After meditating on the parable of the workers this morning, I find myself unable to stop thinking about the parable as an episode of The Apprentice. In many ways, the parable is an “Apprentice” episode. The boss has three apprentices and wants to see how they will do. Who will he ultimately make partner? Who does he need to fire?

As an employer, I love to find people who approach their work as if they were an owner. That’s basically what the first two workers in Jesus’ parable did. They were entrusted with taking care of their master’s money and they thought about what their master would do and want done with his money. They had learned from watching their master’s investment strategies. They knew how he thought. They managed the money entrusted to them by thinking like the master. It paid off.

[cue Donald Trump: “You’re hired.”]

The third person in Jesus’ parable said he thought about what his master wanted, but really he was thinking about himself. “How can I accomplish the task with the least amount of effort and the least amount of risk?” 

[cue Donald Trump: “You’re fired.”]

(btw: I’m quite sure that the third worker immediately filed a wrongful termination claim. Walking out of the boss’ office, the third worker mutters: “It’s so unfair. I did exactly what he asked me to do!”)

I hate to be cliche’ but there really is value in asking “What would Jesus, my master, do in this situation? How would Jesus want me to respond?” The boss and Master of the universe has blessed me with so much. I have time, I have life and limb, I have resources and energy that are entrusted to me. How am I investing myself?

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Chapter-a-Day Matthew 20

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard: Worker...
Image via Wikipedia

“He replied to the one speaking for the rest, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn’t we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can’t I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?'” Matthew 20:13-15 (MSG)

As a business owner, manager, and consultant working on-site in a plethora of different operations, one of the most fascinating things I’ve witnessed over the years has been the way different people respond to time, work load, and earnings.

I’ve witnessed those whose mindset is like the workers in the parable of the talents. They take what they are given, invest themselves in being responsible and earning a return for their employer. Rarely complaining, they work hard and regularly go the extra mile for customers, coworkers and employers trusting that, in the end, they will be duly rewarded for their efforts.

I’ve witnessed others who are like the workers in Jesus’ parable from today’s chapter. They have an eye incessantly on the clock, their co-workers, and their paycheck. Regularly feeling they’re being taken advantage of, they constantly compare their compensation package and work load to others. Effort is made to get away with doing as little as possible for the maximum amount of money, generally complaining at any and every perception of inequity.

Is it possible, even probable, that the type of worker we are on the job translates into the type of worker we are in God’s kingdom? When the Day of Judgement comes, will I be one content when God says “Well done, here is your reward” or will I be getting in queue at heaven’s HR office to file a complaint with the management that the guy who squandered his life and muttered a deathbed confession got a better reward than me?

[Pondering this aside today: Are Lucifer and his fallen angels roughly equivalent to a labor union in the economic system of God’s kingdom?]

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Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 37

The boss' office. Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messengers and read it. Then he went into the sanctuary of God and spread the letter out before God. Isaiah 37:14 (MSG)

In earlier years, as an employee, I would have different types of interaction with my boss. Sometimes, as with team meetings, I merely listened to the information or marching orders. There might be the occasional small talk conversation or pleasantry in passing. I might pick up the phone to call with a quick question. There were times, however, when I had an issue which required a deeper conversation. I might make an appointment so I could have my employers dedicated attention for a period of time. I would prepare and spread out my issue or question in great detail.

Our relationship with God is often like that of any other authority figure in our lives. Sometimes I sit back and take in what God has to tell me. Sometimes my conversation with God is not much more than small talk. I might call him up in a popcorn prayer to ask a quick question. And then there are times when I find myself in Hezekiah's position. My situation calls for more earnest conversation.

I like the way Hezekiah approached God. He went to the sanctuary and "spread the letter out." I'm reminded of Jesus going to the mountain side in the early morning hours. Sometimes it's good for me to physically go to a place where I can have a private appointment with God. It's good to take the time to "spread out" my thoughts and feelings in detail.

If I made an appointment with my employer and spread out my issue in a private setting, I think I received a better hearing than if I tried to say something in passing or catching him in the hallway. The quality of the response I received was generally better as well. Why would it work any differently with God?

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and seaworldsa