February 16, 2010

Which Businessman Am I?

Filed under: Loving Thy Neighbor,Yours, God's and Caesar's — Katryna Starks @ 11:23 am

© Copyright 2001, By Jan Wallen

Two businessmen each had a small grocery store. The first businessman only had five workers, and the second businessman had twenty. Although there was always a great deal of work to be done, the first businessman’s employees worked more happily and effectively than the second businessman’s workers. The twenty workers constantly fumbled and grumbled as they went along with their daily tasks. The first businessman was more successful, and his business more profitable, than the second businessman. The reason? The first businessman led his workers using the “Jesus management” style while the second businessman led his workers using the “carrot and stick” style.

The first businessman, who had a good relationship with his employees, looked upon himself as a servant too –

“But Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. And whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.'” – Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV)

The first businessman was owner and head, and yet, he treated his workers as if he were their servant. And because he led by good example, his workers worked out of genuine love for the tasks given to them.

The second businessman’s “carrot or stick” style showed a measure of effectiveness in the beginning — Every time he dangled a monetary benefit (the carrot) for a job well done and issued a threat to fire them (the stick) if they didn’t work well, his workers worked diligently. But only for a short time. After a while, the workers realized how their employer was abusing the authority he held over them. With the threat of being fired constantly looming above their heads, they were forced to work, but not out of love for the work they did.

As Christian employers, we are given a huge responsibility on how we are to manage our employees. We cannot be called Christian employers by mistreating and abusing our exercise of authority over our workers. There is nothing Christ-like about having a relationship with our workers that is driven by abuse of power and authority. Nor is it Christ-like to be driven by profit while ignoring the needs of our employees. Are they over worked? Are we paying them much less than what they should receive? Are they safe while they do their work?

It will serve us well to remember that there is more to making profits and keeping the pockets of stockholders fat. True success is achieved when our workers give us their full commitment and loyalty because they believe we have and are treating them fairly. We are also responsible for giving our employees equal treatment. Thus, there is no reason for us to show that we favor one worker over the other just because he or she is a relative or a member of the same organization.

“And masters, treat your servants considerately. Be fair with them. Don’t forget for a minute that you, too, serve a master – God in heaven.” – Colossians 4:1 (The Message)

As Christian employers, our responsibility to our workers goes beyond paying fair wages and providing good working conditions. We also have the responsibility of leading by demonstrating good examples every day. It is the principle of leading by serving.

To go back to the story of the two businessmen, the first businessman with the five happy and content employees created a daily schedule of putting one person in charge of opening and closing the store, sweeping the floor and cleaning the toilet. Instead of excluding himself from the schedule because he owned the business, he listed his name too. When it was his turn, he did the tasks just as all his other workers did. In the process, he was able to communicate with his workers that he was “one of them.” That simple act reinforced a positive working environment for his workers because they felt at ease knowing he did not resort to using his authority over them.

This is the essence of what the first businessman in our story did for his workers:

“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” – 1 Peter 5:2-3

As Christian employers, it is also our responsibility to care for our employees – to train them, to be sensitive to their needs, and to develop their skills so that they may be better workers and individuals. Not only are we morally responsible for our workers, we are also mentally and spiritually responsible for them. True, fair wages and good working conditions are essential, but we should also provide more. Allowing workers to initiate and organize Bible studies during free hours and encouraging them to practice their religious beliefs in the workplace without letting it interfere with their work are some ways we can promote a sense of openness and trust among our workers.

As a Christian employer, examine yourself and your relationship with your employees. Ask yourself one simple question: Which businessman am I?


Jan Wallen is the owner of http://www.straightpaths.com a site dedicated to helping Christian business people conduct their businesses based on Christian principles. Her free bi-monthly newsletter, the Straight Paths Ezine, is filled with sensible, practical advice to help you in the work place. Subscriptions are available by visiting her website or you may send a blank e-mail to straightpaths@aweber.com