I am fortunate. I love my job….except for days like a week ago Monday when a new employee gave me his resignation. I had spent months trying to find a person with his skill set and potential. He was young and enthusiastic and I thought he would make a good employee. His reason for leaving was because he could not get along with the experienced employee under whom he had been assigned to train. In addition, he made several serious allegations about the behavior of the tenured employee, one of the hardest working and most dependable employees I have.
I spent the next two days preparing for individual meetings with them and HR. We would meet on Thursday and Friday. Much of our preparation was about disciplining the experienced employee. In business, at least in the world of corporate Human Relations, an employee who allegedly offends another employee is usually considered guilty until proven innocent. This is because, in the hierarchy of things, the offended employee’s perception matters more than the offender’s intent.
These situations require time and immense concentration. As such, it stole personal time away from my daily scripture reading and reflecting. Thus, when Wednesday night arrived, I desperately looked forward to the bi-weekly get-together of my men’s faith sharing group. The topic for the night was the Gospel from the previous Sunday, Matthew 18:15-20:
“(15) If your brother sins go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. (16) If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’”
I thought this passage fit my issue at hand and reaffirmed my decision to approach the accused employee and discuss his many ‘sins’. I planned to gather a couple witnesses who could corroborate the allegations, too.
Later that night I read the first reading from that same Sunday’s liturgy, Ezekiel 33:7-9:
“(8) When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked, you must die,’ and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. (9) If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life.”
I read this several times to let it sink in. I had an inkling God was trying to tell me that, as a leader, I have a little skin in the game. Before I convict an employee, I first need to give him a chance to defend himself, and coach and counsel him so that he can consider changing his behavior.
Continuing to catch up on other missed scripture readings from the week, I read Tuesday’s passage from 1 Corinthians 6:1-11:
“(2) Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world? If the world is to be judged by you, are you unqualified for the lowest law courts?
This was getting interesting. I was, indeed, expected to wear the judge’s robe in this ‘case’. Was I judging fairly and acting as a judge should act? Or, was my mind already made up?
Thursday morning I awoke early and read the Gospel for the day from Luke 6:27-38:
“(31) Do to others as you would have them do to you. (35) … love your enemies and do good to them…. (36) Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (37) Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”
For sure, God was speaking to me through this passage. Could I be open-minded and not convict until I had the facts? Shouldn’t I be hoping I would not find evidence of wrong-doing? Was I in a state of mind to be merciful? Would I be willing to give the employee a second chance if he was remorseful?
After reading the daily Bible scriptures, I normally read from my devotional of writings by St. Augustine. On this Thursday morning the passage was from his Letter 22, 5:
“Be assured that abuses are not done away with by harsh or severe or autocratic measures, but by teaching rather than by commanding, by persuasion rather than by threats. This is the way to deal with the people in general, reserving severity for the sins of the few.”
Okay, this was getting uncanny! God was driving his point home! He was reminding me to be kind and respectful to the experienced employee, instead of accusing and confrontational, and to paint a clear picture of my expectations for his behavior around other people.
That day the HR rep arrived and we interviewed the resigning employee. His allegations were serious. We corroborated parts of his story with others. We planned our strategy for the next day’s discussion with the ‘offender’.
On Friday morning I again woke early and read the daily Gospel from Luke 6:39-42:
“(41) Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? (42)….You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.’”
Wow, this week was all about judgment! Smiling, I looked upward and said, “Okay, God, I get it. Thank you! For three days You have taken my hand and shown me the way.” I thought who among us hasn’t, at some time, behaved unprofessionally and been just a little ashamed? Don’t we appreciate a friendly warning, some sound advice and a second chance? And, could it be that I helped cause the employee’s behavior by overlooking a tell-tale sign or by overworking him?
We met with the employee on Friday. He was surprised about the allegations. He agreed his actions were, at times, less than professional, and explained that it was never his intent to offend anyone. There seemed to be some truth to each story. I let him know I would consider his responses and I would follow up with him in a few days. I also knew I would probably let this consume me and otherwise ruin my weekend.
On Friday afternoon I went to my regular Adoration hour where I frequently pray for God to help me understand what He has in store for me. Occasionally, I pick up on little things but too often I’m blind to them. Not this week. No, this week He left no doubt by telling me not to be too critical in my judgment, to be fair and respectful in my approach, and to be temperate with any discipline I may hand out. I thanked Him and prayed for the Grace to handle this according to His will.
On Saturday morning I read from another devotional, Jesus Calling. I had not read from it all week and missed its inspiration. After the “God-moments” of the last few days, I wasn’t surprised when I read the following passage for that day:
“Come to Me and rest. Give your mind a break from its habitual judging. You form judgments about this situation, that situation, this person, that person, yourself… as if judging were your main function in life….When you become preoccupied with passing judgment, you usurp My role.”
If this wasn’t the exclamation point at the end of His lesson for me, I don’t know what could be. I knew I could trust Him and I knew He will grace me with the wherewithal to do the right thing. All I have to do is listen and follow His lead.
“Dear God, thank You for being here, for speaking to me and counseling me when I need You most. Thank You for drawing me to You and helping me understand Your word. Thank You for Your persistence – You knew I needed it to convince me to trust in You. Lord, I pray that I will honor You by exhibiting the Grace You have bestowed upon me. Amen.”
(The post You Speak To Me was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)