"My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, do not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in; if you show favor to the man wearing fine clothes and say ‘Here’s a good seat for you’, but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts"? – James 2:1-4
Bob arrived at work that morning at 7:30, just like nearly every morning for the past fourteen years. It was the only thing normal about that day. Greeted at the door by a human resources representative, Bob was shepherded (he says ‘herded’) into a large room where about 30 of his coworkers were already gathered. For the next half-hour, he and a growing group of workers milled about with increasing anxiety as they waited for someone to tell them what was happening. The human resources reps were obviously uncomfortable, but offered no details. Clearly bad news was coming, and nearly everyone guessed it was layoffs. Shock and disbelief mixed with lingering hope, though, that it might be something else. At precisely eight o’clock, a senior human resources official entered the room, gathered the group together and solemnly confirmed the layoff. She ticked off the details, then stunned everyone in the room with her next words: “Because of security concerns, each of you will be escorted to your desk where you will be allowed to pick up your personal items, and then will be escorted out of the building. Please turn in your badges as you leave.” The insult of the layoff was magnified by the indignity of mistrust.
In another part of the building, five senior managers were hearing the results of the cutback in a decidedly different manner. Though the message was the same–and the fiscal packages were roughly equivalent to the larger group on a percentage-of-income basis—each senior manager was given the opportunity to return and clear their desks later, “at their convenience.”
There was no mistaking the message, intended or not: People in more responsible management positions are more trustworthy and can therefore be treated with more dignity.
Most of us have heard the arguments for why this needs to be: Potential for sabotage, disruption and discomfort of the remaining workers, and the possibility of violence, to name just a few. None hold water when the standard is applied differently based on position or influence. And robbing a person of their dignity at the same time they’re being deprived of an income carries with it no honor.
If you’re a Christian in a management position, the admonition in James applies to your treatment of your workers as much as your regard for your fellow churchgoers. In this and other difficult circumstances, our faith can stand out if we step forward with ways to treat people equally, and with dignity. Naïve, you say? Being prudent need not mean being callous. We must recognize that the dignity of the worker supersedes the protection of our products. That recognition further demands risk-taking and creativity on our part in discovering new ways to manage tough situations. If we’re unwilling to walk that second mile, to wrestle to discover ways to communicate even the worst of news with dignity, we shame ourselves and adversely affect the tenets we profess to believe.
Loving our neighbor is hard sometimes, but we can start by offering them dignity—from the bottom up—even in the worst of times. If you think it doesn’t make good business sense, then you haven’t read the minds of all the remaining workers, who peek quietly from their cubicles at the embarrassment of their coworkers and mentally note the character of the culture, and the person, doing this to their friends.
Written by Randy Kilgore, Senior Writer and Workplace Chaplain for Desired Haven Ministries. Used by permission. Content distributed by WorkLife.org > Used for non-profit teaching purposes only.