Some friends were talking about frustrations on the job. In both cases, worker error led to continual faulty workmanship or late deliveries which caused problems from mild annoyance to a factory crisis. Though upper and middle management has its flaws and problems, in these particular cases, it was the rank and file employees’ mistakes or carelessness that caused ripple effects. It doesn’t matter what slick ads or CEOs promise if the person on the nuts and bolts end of a product fails.
Employment issues are far beyond my purview, since I have been a stay-at-home mom for 30+ years. But I couldn’t keep my “fix-it” mentality from exploring different causes and helps that I might have proposed if I worked for either of their companies. Perhaps the employees lost sight of the big picture of how important their contributions were and they were just “punching the clock.” Maybe they needed inspiration to remind them that every little piece, every little step in the process is a vital one, that customer satisfaction and the success of their company rests on their shoulders. Maybe picturing the customer holding their product in his or her hands and delighting over it would motivate working with that end result in mind. Perhaps the employees were distracted by coworkers or problems at home. Perhaps recognition for good work would help transform and elevate mediocre efforts. Perhaps a pay raise might help them feel more encouraged about their jobs. People are only human and user error happens, but we should learn from our mistakes rather than excusing them. We do need to understand that customer dissatisfaction leads to a loss of customers which leads to a loss of business which leads to a loss of income which leads to a layoff or even a company closing.
Such problems come up in areas besides one’s job. I’ve worked on ministry projects at churches where we couldn’t use everything we made because some weren’t put together well. We have to extend grace: none of us performs at 100% all the time and our standing with God and our fellow Christian is not based on performance. There are times to overlook flaws. On the other hand, we shouldn’t have the attitude that our work doesn’t matter because we’re saved and sustained by grace. At one church where we ministered, I privately expressed dismay that several “wordless books” made of felt by the ladies to send to one of our missionaries had the pages out of order. The lady I was talking to said, “Well, they’ll get the idea.” This lady wasn’t commending careless workmanship: she was a missionary daughter whose family, I am sure, had to “make do” with materials of various quality sent by well-meaning supporters. But we should do our best to create and send excellent tools rather than ones that the recipient will have to “make do” with or adapt in some way.
For Christians, we have a higher motivation to do good work and a bigger picture to keep in mind. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Proverbs commends the diligent man: “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (22:29); “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty” (28:19). Luke 16:10 says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”
Exodus 31:1-6 tells us of two men appointed to be workmen for the tabernacle furnishings:
The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you.
Even though these men were doing physical labor rather than preaching or teaching, they needed to be filled with the Spirit of God for their work. And so do we, whatever our place or function in our company, organization, or church. Our abilities and talents come from the Lord: let’s use them for the pleasure and glory of our Father and King.