Search This Blog

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why Politics Has No Place in Christian Workplaces

When I joined the Church some eight or nine years ago I was fortunate enough to go through several months of classes in moral theology. While I was an occasional guest in Sunday School as a child, this was the first time someone intelligently laid out for me the relationships of God to man, and man to his fellow man. For the sake of brevity I'll summarize it like this: we have a responsibility for our own personal moral conduct as an example to our children, families, and community; we have an equal moral responsibility to the greater world around us in helping the least among our fellow man and to be good stewards of the world given to us.

When I learned this I immediately recognized a fact of organized politics; that both major parties have developed their own civil religion that is about half of moral theology. Each uses its civil religion as its own moral high ground against the other party while ignoring the moral whole.

On one side we have a Republican civil religion that seems intensely interested in peoples' personal moral conduct, less interested in charity (outside its Evangelical wing), and looks the other way on matters of environment so as not to offend its Big Business donor base.

On the other side we have the civil religion of the Democratic party. Very interested in people's responsibilities to each other and to society, dedicated to government as an instrument to achieve charity, but it looks the other way on matters of personal conduct so as not to offend the activist wing of its party that includes NOW, NARAL, and various gay and lesbian activist groups.

Realizing the moral vacuum of professional politics, I dropped any political party affiliation and became a politically independent Christian. By that I mean that I decide which candidate's direction best promotes the common good regardless of party. I've not voted a straight party ticket since and find that very liberating.

The fact that each party claims part of Christian values sets the stage for endless conflict over who represents God. The answer is, of course, both and neither. Remember that politics is the art of consolidating your base and splitting the other party's. Nothing splits people like religion, and its become the number one wedge issue in American politics. The presence of that wedge remains after the election is over, and the lingering divisiveness works counter to teamwork, cohesion, and the harmony necessary in effective workplaces.

This election cycle adds another reason to keep it out of the workplace; people need some place to get away from it! By election day we will be two years in the process and sometimes work is the only place where you're not bombarded by political news.

On my way home from work last Tuesday I saw a bumper sticker in traffic that said, "God is not a Republican or a Democrat". Driving to work Wednesday morning I saw another bumper sticker that said, "God may not be a Republican, but Satan is surely a Democrat". Last night when I checked my home email account I had 51 emails from family and friends, about half of which were anti-Obama prayer requests and one unique interpretation of Revelation that "proves" Obama is the Anti-Christ. What prompted the post you're reading now was an immediate sense of thanks that I don't have to see this base and contentious content at work each day.

During these next seven days, I encourage all of us to keep it this way. Let's keep politics out of our workplace and especially off our email system. Let's use our values at the polls to inform our vote. If we don't divide into political teams now we can still play on the same business team when the shouting dies down. I took advantage of early voting last Saturday and am thankful that, for me at least, its over for another four years.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What I Did On My Work From Home Day (and what it means)

As part of the Work From Home (WFH) project test I have tried to work from home every Thursday morning unless I was out of town. This was a great time for me to get "head space", but also to test how you lead a staff while not there. Today was different; I started out planning to just work the morning and, by lunchtime, was in such a groove that I stayed home all day. There are those in our company, and outside it, who don't believe you can be productive from home. There are others who think that its fine for staff members, but not someone in leadership. To all of you I offer my day today. Some details are generalized for confidentiality.

Because I didn't have to commute in I was in the kitchen when my wife and daughter left for their respective jobs. I never get to see them in the morning and this was nice. After they left, I went upstairs at 8:30, fired up the VPN connection, and the day began. Roughly in this order my next eight hours were:
  • Took care of my overnight email
  • Long conference call with the leadership team of one division regarding a major project
  • Follow-up call with staff member to redirect their work for today in support of that project
  • While on the same call, took time to catch up with staff member on status of another project
  • Placed follow-up call to another staff member and left instructions in support of same project
  • Reviewed documents on Web Ex site set up for this project
  • Resolved an expense report issue
  • Corresponded with colleagues on 401(k) issue (unclaimed former employee assets)
  • Mopped-up relocation reimbursement documentation issue
  • "Met" via email with various colleagues to approve on-site vendor solicitation (we monitor these carefully)
  • Consulted with staff member on a job offer; to make it or not to make it.
  • Reviewed and approved Predators Faith Night offer for distribution to the workforce
  • Consulted with staff member on benefits cost analysis research and how to conclude task
  • Drafted disciplinary action for VP to administer to one of their staff members
  • Consulted with SVP on special recruiting project, status, candidates, and next actions
  • Conducted call with staff member on tomorrow's actions needed for that SVP's search.
  • Fielded a series of questions from a member of management regarding a proposed promotion for one of his staff.
  • Collaborated/edited follow-up survey from all-employee meeting before it was distributed
  • Consulted with SVP on short-term sales incentive program.
  • Consulted with staff member on "on the floor" feedback from yesterday's all-employee meeting
  • Fielded data request from CEO/CFO (to be completed tomorrow)
  • Polled ELT members for alignment on proposed policy change

In the midst of all this, I managed to walk the dog twice, meet the lady who delivers the dry cleaning, the mail man, the UPS man, finalized arrangements for Saturday night's monthly guitar circle, and made dinner. I ended up the day with my inbox at zero, one unreturned phone call (the caller was gone home by the time I could return it), and two items undone but queued-up for tomorrow morning. During the course of the day I directed the work of or at least spoke to five of my six staff members and corresponded a half-dozen times with my CEO.

What does this all mean? It means that those of us in leadership can leverage the technology we have to direct the work of our teams and service our internal customers from somewhere other than our offices. Some of the same members of our leadership team who don't believe this travel extensively and do believe they effectively lead their teams from hotels and airports. I propose to them, and to you, that all of us can lead more effectively from our home office than from Hampton Inn. This means that we can include certain members of the leadership team in the space sharing program, which we should expand as quickly as we can without disrupting our business.

Given this capability, its time to leverage WFH to drastically reduce our space costs, sublease LVP and the ground floor of the Plano office, and put that money on the bottom line.