February 16, 2011
Interesting ideas here. Layoffs, firings, downsizing, and other changes to a team are a reality of leadership--whatever form those changes take.<br><br>As I read this, Cal, I was wondering what specific termination experiences you had when you were at AMDG or Domino's Farms.<br><br>The idea about not fearing your employees reminded me of an interview with did at The High Calling with the president of Southern Company. His organization is big. Removing people quickly and somewhat abruptly became a matter of stewardship for the rest of the organization. There was simply too much risk from disgruntled employees trying to take revenge on the company before they left.
A very interesting post. It is good to see Christians recognize that our faith and ethics must inform every area of our lives. (Not that others disagree, but it isn't often talked about.) I wanted to comment on one specific point.<br><br><i>Is there a way to perform layoffs thatâ€™s in line with Godâ€™s kingdom or is it a process thatâ€™s rotten all the way through?</i><br><br>I think this is what philosophers call a false dilemma. Layoffs <i>are</i> rotten all the way through. They show that we think of employees as a tool to maximize profits and when they no longer let us do that we have to let them go. Perhaps for the good of our own families or our other employees. It may even be necessary and ethical in some sense. But it points to something rotten at the heart of our business structure, because it is a bad situation and <i>businesses are doing precisely what they should be doing</i>.<br><br>That said, Christian managers can and should be, well, Christians about the whole thing. This involves the things you mention, and also perhaps some other things geared toward maximizing the ex-employee's dignity, minimizing their discomfort in the coming months and affirming their worth. Layoffs <i>are</i> rotten, and being a humane manager does not change that fact; you shouldn't act like it would. But just because that's true, it doesn't mean you shouldn't do the best you can in a bad situation.
I liked what Marta said about Christian managers being Christians about the fact of laying off workers ( sacking we call it in N.Z.) I never employed many people in my 30 yrs in the baking trade but as a Christian employer I found sacking someone a matter of much prayer & in all cases the Lord helped both me & my ( soon to be) ex employee. In most cases we remain friends many years later. Do unto others as we would have them do to us, & those of us who have gone through the trauma of losing a job can use the experience dealing with others.
i think a better question is how a company fits into god's kingdom, how said company values it's employees, what social good is it offering, etc. most corporations exist for one reason, to make money. that model is the part of layoffs that 'rotten all the way through'. change that [which is starting - look up b-corps : <a href="http://www.bcorporation.net/" rel="nofollow">http://www.bcorporation.net/</a> ] and we will go a long way toward incorporating business into kingdom work. <br><br>merely providing jobs doesn't qualify as kingdom work, in my book.
With Christian managers, they should always be looking for the best in their employees. When they see a strength in an employee that is being held back by their job with the company (they are not working in your company as well as they could be elsewhere), a great way when termination is necessary is to encourage them in their strengths, thank them for their contribution, and maintain a friendship (as best as possible).
In general I have found that Christians in Christian non-profits have done this fairly well. But Christians in non-Christian world are a fairly mixed bag. My wife was a teacher for a very overt Christian principal in a public school (read scripture and did devotions in staff meetings all the time, clearly favored Christians in hiring and staff positions, etc.). But the principal was a horrible boss. She was mean, alway trying to play gotcha with people she didn't like. She held grudges and did not like anyone to contradict her, ever. <br><br>Now this is not a normal circumstance, but given that Christians are human and there will be bad Christian managers, I think teaching on Christian principles for leadership and teaching on how to integrate your faith in a business world is important. My wife and I have spent years trying to undo the damage that this boss did to the opinion of many of the non-christians that work/used to work at that school.
Yes, this.<br><br><i>But it points to something rotten at the heart of our business structure, because it is a bad situation and businesses are doing precisely what they should be doing.</i><br><br>At what point do Christians have an obligation to stand up against the dominant ideology of the capitalist market, which is that the only stakeholders whose interests actually, ultimately <i>matter</i> in a business are those who own it?<br><br>At what point do Christians stand up and say that a business's primary obligation is <i>not</i> in fact to its owners, but to its community, to its nation and world, and to its employees - and that a truly moral and just business will follow Jesus's Kingdom vision that "the last be made first, and the first made last" - that owners will think of themselves <i>last</i> of all, and those their business is truly there to serve (the poor, the oppressed, the workers) <i>first</i> of all?<br><br>More to the point, at what point will Christian <i>leaders</i> start demanding this of their congregations? At what point will we see pastors getting small groups together from the church to confront, as Jesus commands in Matthew 18, church members who own or are part of businesses that put profits before people? At what point will Christian leaders start leading protests, boycotts, and other prophetic and moral acts against businesses who serve their owners before they serve their workers or the public at large?<br><br>In other words - when will we accept that the entire contemporary ideology of the American marketplace is inherently corrupt, selfish, and greedy, and that the only truly moral stance towards it is prophetic confrontation and resistance?
Although many people consider the main, chief or even only goal of business is to maximize profit for its shareholders, perhaps one Christian perspective might be that businesses are primarily to be used by God for providing helpful, useful and redemptive products and services that serve other people and improve the world while also providing meaningful jobs since work was created good before the Fall although work and business are also clearly touched by sin and brokeness as are all areas of life, and that profit is more of a necessary byproduct not as much for maximizing personal wealth as it is for making a business sustainable (similar in some ways to a not for profit whose primary purpose is serving others in other ways but still requiring a "surplus" in order to continue its mission)?<br><br>Perhaps business can also be a fine Christian calling and vocation, but (as with any group or institution including schools, hospitals, governments, not for profits, and "ministries") it definitely does require taking clear stands and the willingness to go against some of the more typical approaches and inviting Christ to redeem all areas of business including marketing, operations, finances and management (particulary human resource management in which layoffs often are involved)?<br><br>Layoffs are always difficult as are all forms of separation, but can also be used by God to lead people to other opportunities, positons and organizations where their gifts and talents are better utilized and more meaningfully productive, one way in which God can make all things work together for good despite hurt, loss and evil.<br><br>My inclination is that Godly wisdom and balance needs to be used when having to layoff employees, that everyone should not necessarily be treated exactly the same but wisdom and compassion used to help make decisions about what the best approach is for each individual while still being fair and just and taking the good of the remaining employees into consideration. I wonder if the approach of treating everyone being laid off as a potential major threat to the the other employees is warranted as often as it is sometimes made out to be? Ideally, the relationships between employer and employee would be founded on trust, mutual benefit and clear communication and understanding as that would be a better way to provide an environment and basis for relationships to avoid at least most of the potentially vengeful laid off employees, although likely not every one?<br><br>I have had to lay off employees at both AMDG Architects (thankfully only a very few) and at Domino's Farms (unfortunately quite a few), some of which were handled very well and resulted in better positions elsewhere and ongoing friendships to this day, and others which were much more difficult and resulted in longer periods of unemployement and damaaged relationships, sometimes handled well and compassionately and other times bungled and poorly.<br><br>I think this is one area that we need to share God's Word and wisdom amongst Christian employers, managers and employees to learn from each other, to be willing to really ask the hard questions, to help hold each other accountable, while also encouraging and supporting each other in whatever vocation God has called each of us to be redemptive agents of His in loving Him and loving others.<br><br><br><br><br>
Business is to Christian faith what moneylenders in the Temple were to Jesus. The words "Christian" and "business owner" do not coexist honestly in the same sentence. Of course there are business owners who have faith in Jesus Christ, but the market does not allow a business to run in a Christian manner.<br><br>Let's go back to a more macroeconomic level. For what purpose does a human culture need an economy? To provide the physical means of life. A hunter-gatherer economy organizes the effort necessary to obtain meat, grains, fruits, vegetables, edible leaves, make clothes and tools. A setlled agricultural economy does the same, through a different process, requiring more cooperation, legal sorting out, administration, and providing more occasion for conflict.<br><br>A modern industrial economy exists to provide more people with more food, shelter, and clothing, and with a whole lot left over, diversion and opportunity to learn more. We mostly choose diversion, or are sold more diversion than learning.<br><br>There is a place for a market economy in all this, because if everyone specializes in what they do best, there is a need for trade, and there are simply too many human variables to entrust to some administrative apparatus. But, the modern market economy is not geared to providing for the needs of all, it is geared to providing for the enrichment of those who own. Thus, when times are bad, economics dictates layoffs, rather than, we all share the pain equally.<br><br>Christian socialism 2.0 anyone?
Wow, good luck if you are trying to find somebody to live in a commune with...<br> <br>"Business is to Christian faith what moneylenders in the Temple were to Jesus. The words "Christian" and "business owner" do not coexist honestly in the same sentence. Of course there are business owners who have faith in Jesus Christ, but the market does not allow a business to run in a Christian manner."<br><br>Which Bible are you reading? There are more parables about money than anything else. In the parable of the talents, servants properly stewarding their money were put in charge of 10 cities. Abraham was a successful and wealthy business owner-with armies. In Jewish custom Jesus would have learned the family business and that includes keeping books. He even had Judas in charge of the money which means they probably had some degree of a budget. Even in Eden God said "have dominion over the Earth" which eventually would involve an economy. The entire Christian walk comes down to stewarding what you have and more will be given. We were meant to have dominion and bring the Kingdom into every situation. He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world. <br><br>If we as Christians are not willing to stand up and take responsibility for the world around us in some fashion and be Light and Life, if we only want to run away and avoid the things that intimidate us by retreating to "a simpler way of life" then God in his goodness will never give us more. The world market will continue to be run by the lost because christians are not willing to believe that they can make a difference.<br> <br>Sorry to rain on peoples parade, but we do not come to a round table in the Kingdom. It is rectangular and there are degrees of order and honor. Jesus himself says "to him who has, more will be given, and he who doesn't what he has will be taken away" That does not sound like Socialism to me. It is free enterprise for those willing to step up and take chances and not wallow in cynicism.<br> <br>Christians not willing to take responsibility to bring their own degree of transformation, will always make excuses for why the "world" is running us over and not playing nice.<br><br>Finally, if there are too many human variables to entrust to some administrative apparatus than why are you advocating socialism? That is the pinnacle of an administrative apparatus running everything and pretending we are all the same! Yes, sharing burdens in love is great, but we are not all the same. We are each unique and gifted. God is good, God is powerful and he made you that way too. Please think again about the flavor of faith you are advocating. Whether or not you meant it, this does not sound like Bible based Christianity.
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