The Emoloyer Mandate
Everyone wants respect, and everyone wants to be treated fairly. I think one of the most difficult things for an employer to balance in a tough economy is taking care of the employee and taking care of his business. The catch phrase thrown around today is "livable wage". But what is a livable wage? There is an online calculator that computes livable wage by US county and then compares it to the minimum wage. What it reveals is amazing. For one thing livable wage changes depending on the number of people in a household. So trying to tie the minimum wage to what is livable is deceiving.
How does an employer balance his responsibility to build a thriving company that can sustain itself during difficult times, achieve personal economic goals, and deal fairly with his employees? For those who have never been on the side of the employer will have difficulty understanding the struggle that they go through because often times the employer is living a higher lifestyle than the employee, who thinks the inequity isn't fair.
The other problem is that large corporations skew the statistics for businesses. Large corporations pay exorbitant wages to CEOs that skew the disparity in wages. Most business are small and the profit margins small. The employer strives to make a certain standard of living, which may be two, three or four times that of his average worker, but he also takes all the risk. The bottom line is that the discussion isn't simple and painting broad accusations of employers as greedy people who only care about their profits and not paying living wages isn't fair or helpful.
So what does the scriptures say? The Apostle tells the Ephesian masters that they are to treat their slaves in the same way that they would like to be treated.
1. Respect. Every employee wants to know that they are invaluable to their boss, and compensation is part of that. My employer has regular monthly employee meetings where the owners go over the company's financial situation. All employees have profit sharing, so when the company does well so do they, when the company doesn't then there are no bonuses. They also strive to pay wages that area commensurate to their work, competitive in the work place, and reflects the livable economic situations of their area.
2. Stop threatening. This was the typical motivating technique in the first century. "Work hard or I will kill you." "Work hard or I will sell you or your family." "Work hard or I will beat you." It can be effective, but it is morally reprehensible.
In the work place today threats and intimidation is a common practice. It devalues people. In our office a young man was hired right out of college to do CAD work. Early on he was inputting information and turned two numbers around that ended up costing the company 10s of thousands of dollars. The owner brought him in and calmly talked to him. His first questions were "what have you learned and how can we correct it?" The young man burst into tears. He had never been treated this way and thought for sure he would be fired. Of course if he continued making this kind of mistake he would be out of a job, but this work environment is one where failure is not met with punishment. Encouragement, training, forgiveness, and responsibility are the foundation for motivating workers.
3. Employers have a master. When employers understand they will be held accountable to God for the treatment of their workers attitudes and actions change. God doesn't show partiality and neither should the employer. Treating everyone fairly and justly should never be compromised. That doesn't mean everyone should be paid equally. Compensation is based on skill, responsibility, longevity, and the companies economic health. It does mean that in the end the employer will have to answer for how he has treated the people in his care.
The fight in America over capitalism, socialism, wage equality, distribution of wealth, minimum wage, and a host of other economic controversies will be on going. However, the foundation of respect, kindness, and accountability on the part of the employer should be non-negotiable. I'm just saying.
Ephesians 6:9 "Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him."