Extending Grace in the Workplace
By: Robert J. Tamasy
From time to time we hear people discussing the relative merits of different religions and belief systems, but one of the truly unique aspects of Christianity is the concept of grace, which is defined as “unmerited favor” or “unconditional acceptance.” The idea is that “grace” is not something that can be earned, nor is it something we can receive because it is deserved. In fact, it is receiving what is not deserved.
Grace, as described above, is a concept basically foreign to the workplace. We talk in terms of “earning a living.” Many professionals, especially those in sales, receive compensation on the basis of performance – how much business they generate for their companies, or how well the company performs under their leadership. How often have you heard of an employee being retained even though he or she was “unworthy” or “deserved” to be terminated?
Fortunately, reflecting over my career as a journalist, I can recall several times when I was the beneficiary of grace, occasions when if I had been my own boss, I probably would have fired myself.
In my first year as a newspaper editor, for example, I grew frustrated by a discussion at a city government meeting and stood up to offer some comments of my own. Being very inexperienced, I had not yet realized my job was to report the news, not to create it. As a result, a complaint was expressed to my supervisor. He graciously chose to overlook my journalistic misstep, attributing it to youthful exuberance and naïveté. He did warn me never to repeat this error.
Years later, at another newspaper, I was woefully failing in my first attempt at overseeing production of the morning edition. At the last minute, the managing editor arrived and came to my rescue. Rather than berating me or, even worse, dismissing me, he simply took me aside, affirmed his confidence in me, and offered some suggestions that would be helpful in the future.
Another time was when I was hired to join the staff of CBMC, even though my expertise was lacking in some areas. A psychological profile on me termed me “a diamond in the rough,” and my boss at the time chose to focus on my potential rather than my track record to that point. Once again, I was the recipient of “grace.”
In the Bible we find numerous examples of grace: Jacob, who cheated his brother, Esau, out of his birthright; Joseph, who flaunted being his father’s favorite before his brothers; Moses, who killed an Egyptian labor supervisor; David, the king of Israel, who engaged in adultery and then tried to cover up his sin by murdering the husband of the woman he had seduced. Yet each was used by God is unusual and extraordinary ways.
Jesus frequently extended grace to His own “workers.” In John 15:16, He reminded his rag-tag bunch of followers, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.” Later, after Simon Peter had betrayed Him three times, Jesus forgave his impetuous disciple and simply instructed him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). With those few unadorned words, Peter was restored to service.
Obviously, an employee might be clearly unsuited for a specific job, or unethical or immoral behavior might make termination the only option. But sometimes when a person is not “measuring up,” the extending of grace might make all the difference in whether the individual become a valued, productive member of the team.
Until next week!
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit corporation based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran of more than 35 years in professional journalism, he is the author of Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press) and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring: 10 Proven Principles for Developing People to Their Fullest Potential (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or www.rivercitypress.net.