Monday, March 1, 2010

What Is a Person Worth?

At the end of chapter 11 of Loving Mondays: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul, John D. Beckett says this:

“I’m convinced most employees want to see their companies prosper. They know their success depends on their employer’s success, and they will work hard to contribute. But they must be provided a dignified and supportive work environment. They must be viewed as valued, important, worthy. They bear God’s own image. If they are of infinite worth in his eyes, they certainly deserve no less from us than profound respect” (page 92).

Years ago, when I first became a “people leader,” I had all of three days to prepare for a people review session coupled with succession planning. As we gathered together for an all-afternoon meeting, things went much as I expected them to, except when we began to discuss one of my two new direct reports.

“Big Boss wants John fired,” my boss said.


“He thinks he does mediocre work at best. We have to do something.”

Then the person John had reported to for five years before me spoke up. “Yeah, John’s a real problem,” she said. “It’s probably best that he leave.” Other heads around the table nodded in agreement. The HR person sat quietly, not saying a word.

I first had to resist an urge to reach across the table and slap John’s old supervisor. Then I said, “And how many times has John been told this in his performance reviews? How many times has he been told his performance is lacking? How many times over the past five years (a figurative instead of a literal slap) has he not gotten a bonus because of performance problems?”

Silence. An uncomfortable silence.

“The answer to all of those questions is zero, right?”

“It doesn’t matter,” my boss said. “He has to go.”

“I’m not going to fire him until he’s been told he has performance problems and is given the opportunity to improve.”

“I think that’s the wisest course,” the HR person said.

“You’re wasting your time,” my boss told me.

“You’re probably right,” I said. “But I have to do it this way.” I knew John’s performance problems as well as anyone. I knew them better, in fact, because I had done that kind of work and job before.

So I had a conversation with John, and explained the problem. He was surprised but not shocked. He had felt people’s expectations for him were low. And he struggled to do things better but was never given any guidance.

So we agreed on a 90-day plan. Part of that plan was for him to get himself familiar with a radically new approach to the work – which was one of the reasons I’d been put in charge of the team. There were other things he had to do as well. We had weekly check-in meetings to look at progress.

At the end of the 90-day plan, we had a talk. And I asked him how he thought he did. “I feel like I did great on some things,” he said, explaining. And I agreed. “But on others, like the new way to get the work done, I feel like I missed the boat. I see what you’re asking for, but it’s just not me.” And I agreed with that, too, asking him what he thought the next steps should be. “I need to find another job,” he said, “either here or elsewhere. But I expect you’re probably going to need to get someone in this job pretty quickly.”

Three weeks later, John left the company. We worked out a severance package of three months pay and medical benefits until COBRA kicked in. A few months after leaving, John found a job he was much better suited for.

The HR person asked me why I went through all the hassle, time and trouble when everyone, including me, knew what the outcome was going to be.

“You won’t like my answer,” I said.

“Try me,” the HR person said.

“Because I believe every one of us is made in God’s image, and because of that, we each have the same inherent value in God’s eyes. It doesn’t mean that our skills and abilities and talents are the same. And it doesn’t mean we all perform the same. But it means that I have to value people like God does, and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. And John deserved dignity and respect.”

HR didn’t know what to say.

Over at the High Callings Blogs, we’re discussing Beckett’s Loving Mondays. The discussion is led by Laura Boggess. This week, we’re focused on chapters 12 through 14, covering the ideas of individual value or worth, the blueprints for our lives, and trouble finding us at work. Check here for last week’s discussion.

Related posts:

High Calling Blogs: Blueprint (this week's discussion on Loving Mondays)
Monica Sharman's Snowflakes and Fingerprints
L.L. Barkat's Loving Mondays: Blueprints
Lyla Lindquist's Loving Monday: What are we doing here?


Laura said...


You resemble your Father. And wow, you sure look beautiful. Doing the right thing isn't always easy, but you are an example that leads us all to that place.

Love this story.

Anonymous said...

yes, we are all so very different in some ways, and much the same in others.

this leaves me with thoughts of how how need to be understanding in a different way than of the world, even though i live within many rules of the world.

katdish said...

Okay, sniff...sniff...

You da man, Glynn! That was awesome!

L.L. Barkat said...

Loving at work. That's what you did. It's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

What an awesome example you set, Glynn.

Wonderful post!

Unknown said...

An excellent decision
plus a godly reason
equals wisdom
Or so I think, anyway. I really enjoyed this story.

Billy Coffey said...

Good for you, Glynn. What a great example you set (both past and present tense). Regardless of one's abilities and gifts, we all have an inherent dignity. I'm glad you allowed him his.

S. Etole said...

thank you for providing an environment that enabled this person to come to his own conclusion and move into something he was better suited for and do so with dignity ...

Kathleen Overby said...

Even though it sounds like something you would do, it is Beckett's story, right? Or did I misunderstand.

Great thing to share. We all hope someone will give us this grace. Powerful, amazing grace. John could move on without shame because he was given respect.

Lyla Willingham Lindquist said...

It seems we don't often have the stomach for helping people reach their potential and find their place -- not if it means being honest with them about deficiencies and even that perhaps they need to look for something else.

What an honorable way to approach this difficult situation.

Monica Sharman said...

And now you can look back with peace and satisfaction at doing the right thing, instead of regret at taking an easier way out. John, too, can look back and thank God for that hard time, because in the long run it turned out best for him, too.
Very nice.

Marcus Goodyear said...