Throughout the Proverbs, we find references to how the poor are to be treated. When we recognize that the Hebrew word for “poor” in many of the passages refers not to the destitute but to the working poor, the class that struggled day by day to survive, it becomes clear that the way we treat those under our authority and influence is a true reflection of our heart toward God. God cares about how we treat those of lower station.
Here are Six principles for people in authority at work:
1. We should pay our employees what they are worth.
We should know what the going rate for a job is and pay accordingly. I make it a habit to survey regularly the community to know the market rate for the positions in my office, and to make sure that my employees are paid at the high end of the range. I recently hired a new employee through a temporary agency. By her third day, she had demonstrated she was worth significantly more than the hourly rate I had been quoted by the agency. I called her aside and told she was getting a 10% increase because I would not pay her less than she was worth. That act helped her realize she was working for a different type of boss. As a Christian employer, I do not underpay to improve my bottom line
2. We should treat employees as equals in personal value.
While my salary is higher, and my economic value to my practice is much higher than that of my staff, my value as a person is not. We should seek out ways to express this. My employees are women who have young children. On Halloween this year we had cancellations late in the day, which meant we were finished with patient care 30 minutes before our phones were scheduled to be forwarded to an answering service. I told my staff to go home, and I stayed and answered the phones for 30 minutes. Why? Because their time with their children was important, every bit as important as my time with my family. This simple kindness demonstrated their value in my eyes.
3. We should be models of grace.
Those of us in authority may at times find ourselves interacting with people who do not share our credentials or educational background. This should increase, not decrease grace. When understandable mistakes are made, we should be slow to anger and quick to extend grace. Years ago I had an office manager who consistently pointed out every error made by our front office staff. I called her aside and asked her what an acceptable error rate was. Puzzled, she said, “Zero.” I told her that perfection was expensive and that we were not going to get it for what we were paying! Forgiving understandable mistakes and offering encouragement reflect to others the grace that we have received from God
4. We should allow no room for anger when we deal with employees.
Anger does not accomplish God’s purposes (James 1:20). If we yell, demean others or lose our temper, we are not reflecting the character of God, even if we are correct.
5. Whenever possible, we should strive to elevate those under us.
Jesus did this repeatedly, bringing honor to those considered unworthy. God does this to us, calling us His children and making us joint heirs with Christ, in spite of our sin and shortcomings. I try to model this in the office. When patients thank me for working them in to the schedule, I give credit to my staff for caring about their need. I praise their efforts and accomplishments publicly, in conversations with patients and on the office Facebook page. Lifting people up is a Christian act.
6. We should defend them against harm.
We who are in authority are shepherds over our places of work, people have been entrusted to our care, and it is our job to protect them. Over the years, I have treated a number of patients who were respectful to me, but disparaging to my staff. I make it clear that this is unacceptable. Recently a patient called demanding immediate attention for a mild problem. When told I was in a room with another patient and was not available, he raised his voice and used foul language. When I learned of his behavior, I returned his call and addressed his concern, but then calmly asked him to find another physician for his ongoing care, informing him that abuse of my staff was unacceptable. In so doing I let him and my staff know that they were valued and deserving of respect.
The God who does not differentiate between rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, Jew and Greek, but who sent His Son for all, desires us to display that attitude in all of our relationships. Especially with those entrusted to our care and supervision. We need to be visibly different from our non-believing peers.