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WORK ETHICS

INTRODUCTION

God is a worker; God created heavens and the earth (Genesis 1: 1); God commanded the existence of light, and He separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1: 3- 4); God commanded the land to produce vegetation and living creature (Genesis 1: 11, 14), filled the water with living creatures and the sky with flying birds, and God blessed them (Genesis 1: 20- 22). God created the first human being, Adam, and from him, a suitable helper was created, Eve. God created man according to His image and gave the first privilege of working to man by having the authority over the earth and every single creature living within it (Genesis 1: 26).

Since the fall of the first human beings, God-human relationships were interrupted. Humans’ nature of working lingered, but it transforms to be burdensome and painful. “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3: 17- 19).

The evangelical job that Jesus did was burdensome and painful in the physical ways, but His understanding of His own purpose made Him joyful making work almost like a pleasure. Jesus’ purpose was doing the will of His Father. Jesus’ occupation was serving others; Paul described Jesus as God who took form of a servant (Philippians 2:7). Jesus said that it is better to give than to receive (Act 20:35). Jesus’ motivation is love to His Father and one another. Jesus wanted us to be the light and salt of the world, and we want to obey Him.

At this time there are two different contradictory states of perceiving work. The first state is working for God, and the second state is enslaved by sins. The example of working for God is Solomon. At one night when Solomon slept, God appeared before him and promised to grant whatever Solomon wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom. Solomon wanted wisdom so he could do his God-given job as the King of Israel to govern The God’s Great Nation (1 Kings 3: 9). The example of enslaved by sins is Pharisees. Although Pharisees lived a “Godly” life, they couldn’t accept God Himselves, Jesus Christ, because of enslavement by the sin of pride. It is just similar to the fall of Lucifer.

Right now, we can choose to be either in the first state or the second state mentioned above. If we choose the first state, we can’t be in the second state at the same time, and vice-versa. As Christians, we always want to be in the first state, and it is hard. It needs prayers, courage, fellow supports, wisdom, and creativity.

Could a Christian soldier kill in the situation of war? One of the Ten Commandments orders humans not to kill each other while the war itself may stop the killings of innocent people. Could a Christian work in a destructive industry such as a cigarette manufacturer? Cigarettes can be destructive, but the closing of the plants causes unemployment. Could a Christian lie because of superior’s orders? Again, one of the Ten Commandments orders humans not to lie, but on the other hand, Bible says that we need to obey our worldly superiors (Colossians 3:22). There are many gray areas where discussions and collective learning will take benefits, and today is the day to discuss that matter.

THE MEASUREMENT

A conflict within an organization arises when a company’s pursuit of profit collides with its obligation to its community. This conflict happened, as we are fallen nature, our conscience cannot differentiate between purely serve the community or making profits for the company itself. The community may include the company’s employees, the environment, the consumers of its products and service. This leads to the issue of ethical and unethical behavior within an organization. There are several conditions or situation in the workplace that some people might think that it is not ethical but there is some people that might think that it is ethical. Well, sometime it happened in the gray area that people couldn’t directly judge whether it is ethical or unethical. So, how do we measure it? Is there any specific measurement to accurately able to measure whether it is ethical or unethical? What measurement do we have to use? There isn’t any specific measurement that we can measure whether the actions is ethical or unethical, but there is some consideration that we can use to evaluate the actions. The factors are our motivation or attitudes, our values and the ethical framework.

Value

            Honesty is a fundamental value. We have to be honest in everything that we do, but sometime, there are some circumstances that we will face in our workplace that challenge our honesty. Without our conscience, we fall into the trap of being dishonest and we even might not realize it as most of the other workers are doing it. So, what do we have to do? Can we just follow as what the others are doing or…??? As once workers are socialized into an organization, ethics seems to lose its grasp on conscience and on one’s ability to dare to stand up on what is right. How can we encourage honesty to other colleagues without mentioning that it is biblical? As since honesty is a fundamental value for the world, can you imagine the world that everybody cannot be trusted. What a chaos this world be!

Some of the other value that we need to cultivate in our workplace is obedience. “Whatever the task, work heartily, as serving the lord and not men.” Colossians 3:23. Obedience means the submission to the commands of others, submission to authority. However, we have to avoid the phenomenon stating that obedience is a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying another person’s wishes, and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions. It is very common to hear someone made an excuse of any business scandal or unethical behavior by saying “ I was only obeying orders.” We should obey the authority, but it is still our responsibility of any actions that we made. But we have to remember that the ultimate submission is to God! The highest responsibility of every action that we made is to God! We have to know the big picture of the orders and the purpose behind the orders that made by the authority not just blindly follow the orders.

Motivation and Attitudes

            An important issue that we have to look at is the worker’s relationship to work. It is not about the issue whether the job is ethical or unethical as every works can be done to glorify God, but the attitudes of the workers are more important than the work itself. Because work itself is not a person, it is easy to overlook it as an ingredient in the morality of work Yet the worker’s relationships to it at once makes it a moral issue. Some of moral virtues the Bible prescribes for workers are:

a)      Commitment to excellence in work

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed.” 2 Timothy 2:15

All of us are called to excellence because the God that we serve is excellent. People might think that a person’s life is divided into the time he spends on his work and the time he spends in serving God, the dualism thinking. Thus he regards his job as just a secular work. But the truth is that we have to serve God in our work and the work itself must be accepted and respected as the medium of divine creation.

b)      View our workplace experience as a calling instead of as a career

Adopt a calling orientation toward work by considering the job is inherently valuable and motivating. Job is important but it is not the all-consuming passion of one’s professional life. Pursue what is our calling in contrast to pursue only a career. Career is like the position that we are in the organization, the future promotion, our prospects for advancement and our earning potential. We want to get something out of it. But calling is beyond career. We are called for something (market driven in who need us).

c)      Avoid making it an idol

“ You shall have no gods before me.” Exodus 20:3

Without our conscience, indirectly we idolize our work. Workaholic might be the example. It is not saying that workaholic is bad, but if it really caught us up, such as it take our time to socialize with others, takes out our time with family, etc, we might have to consider it

d) Attitude of seeing our job in a big picture

An account of a brief interchange in a medieval stone mason’s yard is good example   

for the emphasis on the worker and his relationships with the work. “What are you 

doing?” a visitor asked the first stone mason. “I’m cutting the stone,” the man replied.

A second stone mason replied, “ I’m earning my living.” A third stone mason replied,

“ I’m building a cathedral.” As these suggest, out attitude toward our work is what

matters most.

e)      Attitude to contribute

We might not just merely do our job and that’s it. But look beyond it and think about what can we contribute to our organization?

 

Ethical Framework

            The increase competition and the greed that people wants to gain more and more profits has resulted in tempting executives and employees in unethical or immoral behavior which can have a lasting impact on public trust and internal morale.

            The conflict between business and the environment involves maintaining the difficult balance between jobs and environmental protection. Although God has given us the dominion over the creation, as in Genesis 1and 2, but it is still our responsibility to be a good steward over that, which has been entrusted to us. But greed has replaced legitimate self-interest and dominion over the environment and has repeatedly motivated mankind to rape environment, thereby abandoning the human being’s rightful place as a steward and caretaker of the creation for the sake of benefits. Clear cutting of forest and the pollution are examples of greed-motivated neglect of the environment.

            The misleading of the packaging of a product. Some products packages made claims such as “98% fat free”. Most of the health-conscious consumers assumed that this meant that only 2% of the calories came from fat, the standard dietary interpretation of this claim. Some products were deceptive because the 2% of fat referred to was measured in terms of volume or weight. The companies might argue that it is the consumers fault for not carefully read the nutritional information. Is it rue that it is all the consumer’s responsibility? How about the responsibility of the manufacturers? What should we do if we are in the position of the manager of the company?

 PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

Spring Bed Affair

This case is based on a true story. Jeff, a manager of spring bed plants in Indonesia, acknowledged a competitor company starting to make low cost spring beds. The setoff behind these cheap beds was made by replacing numerous small coils with four big coils inside the bed. The cheap bed was a hit. Should Jeff make the same low quality bed to compete?

Things to ponder about:

-         Was there market for this kind of cheap-low quality beds?

-         Who were the consumers of these cheap beds? Were they in low, middle, or high level of income?

-         Were the consumers smart in term of informed customers?

-         What was Jeff’s motivation in working for his company?

Secretary’s Secret

This case is based on a real story. Chyna, a secretary, was told by her boss to tell people that he was not there during the lunchtime while he was actually present.

Things to ponder about:

-         One of the Ten Commandments prohibits us from lying while Jesus said that we ought to obey our worldly lords.

-         Does lying for good reasons counts? Consider the story of Germany soldiers who were in search for Jews during the World War II.

-         What does constitute good reasons? Consider the story of Abraham when he lied about his wife to Abimelech king of Gerar in order to save his life. (Genesis 20: 2)

-         Why does Chyna’s boss want her to lie?

-         Can Chyna change her sentences to fulfill his boss’ order and at the same time glorifying God?

Conclusion of the Spring Bed Affair

Although the four coiled bed was a hit, there wasn’t market for such cheap beds. Low-income households who lived in villages bought the beds with assumption high quality beds with less money. Later, it was found that the villagers were dissatisfied, and they started to commit hostile acts by attacking competitor company’s truck for cheating them. The competitor company lost not just the truck, but also its consumers.

A manager motivation can be various. It can be money, recognition, position, and it can be love. When someone is motivated by love to God and to one another, he will be motivated to serve one another well. He may be motivated to do research about the villagers’ needs and consumers’ expectations. Understanding the situations of our working environments is an important aspect in maintaining our work ethics.

Conclusion of the Secretary’s Secret

After committing research, Chyna found out that her boss simply didn’t like to be bothered when he was eating and having a quality break time. Chyna told people that her boss was having lunch and would rather be left alone. Chyna also asked the guess or the caller to leave a message so her boss can contact him after eating. Again, Understanding the situations of our working environments is an important aspect in maintaining our work ethics. We shouldn’t be stiff Christians who are tied to mere regulations. We need to keep praying to follow dynamic Christian living. We need to check our intentions and practice our creativity too. We need to be sincere like a dove as well as intelligent like a snake.

More things to ponder about

-         What is our motivation when doing our job? Are we motivated by love? Consider this passage: 1Cr 13:13-And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.

-         In case of traffic violation in Indonesia. Should we bribe a police officer instead of following the legal procedure that may take days to resolve? Are we willing to pay the price? For he who wants to follow Christ has to pay the price and pick up the cross. Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

-         Proverb 4:5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget [it] not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.

-         Proverb 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own 

      understanding

Small Cases to Ponder and Discuss About

In discussing the following cases, please consider these measures: motivations/ attitudes, values (individual and surrounding/ corporate), and ethical frameworks/ context/ situations and conditions.

-         An interviewer came to the point of asking, “How do you project yourself within five years?” What would be your answer?

-         Could a Christian soldier kill in the situation of war?

-         Could a Christian work in a destructive industry such as a cigarette manufacturer?

-         Could a Christian open his email during the working time?

-         Could Christian bribe to earn a contract or smooth bureaucracy process? Consider situations in Indonesia.

-         Could Christian flatter his supervisor in order to get attention that might end up with promotion? Consider if most of his coworkers flattered the supervisor since he liked it.

-         Could Christian compete in his work place while the competition itself could beat his colleagues? Consider competition for company advancement. Consider the collective learning.

-         Could Christian work for more money?

-         Forced to cut costs within his regional manufacturing facilities, George Berner is faced the imminent need to reduce his workforce by 10 percent. How should George make this decision as a Christian manager?

Case Study

 

A machinist is someone who works in the plant (manufacturing facility) to make parts out of steel or aluminum. The job is classified as a labor (kerja kasar). This position is lower than engineers who work in the office. "Cold wars" between office people and plant people/labors are not unusual in a typical manufacturing company.

 

Bill is a machinist in TRW Automotive, producing automobile brake systems. Engineers submit work orders for the machinists to work on. Lately, the work orders submitted to Bill are more than he can handle in normal work hours. As a result, he intends to work overtime (lembur). The conflict arises when the human resource does not allow Bill to work overtime. The reason is simply because they don't want to pay the overtime rate (about 1.5 or twice the regular payrate) for Bill. Since Bill is not allowed to work overtime, he cannot finish all the work order the engineers submitted. Because of this, the engineers start talking behind his back about Bill's laziness and irresponsibility.

 

In the future, some engineers send the work order to be done by someone else outside the company. Bill is upset because he does not feel appreciated and respected. While it is quite true that Bill is a little slow and too careful in doing his tasks, it is not completely his fault that the jobs are not done. He refuses to talk to the higher management because he will not be heard.

 

You are a coop who works under the supervision of an engineer, but also hangs out a lot with Bill during the project. Bill, to a certain degree, trusted you with about the conflict by sharing his thoughts and feelings. You also have an access to the daily engineers meeting where they talk about projects and any miscellaneous stuff. Although you are not an engineer, you are one of the "office people". At the same time, you are not stereotyped by the labors (pekerja kasar di plant) as bad as the other engineers. You are in the middle. What are you going to do?