Friday, June 9, 2017

The Theology of Hiring and Firing

the theology of hiring and firing hire and fire well

If you are running or managing a business, you will need to hire and (hopefully only on the rare occasion) fire an employee.  As a follower of Jesus, how do you approach these scenarios? How do you make the right decision? Is there such thing as hiring and firing well? These are massive topics and there are countless books written on each subject. Both have its unique challenges.   In reality, every hiring or firing situation is different from the next.  Today's post on the subject is not intended to be a set of rules to follow or does it include everything that is needed when faced with the decision; rather its intention is to help us make better decisions and be faithful to who we are as Christians and leaders in the workplace.   I will also do my best to succinctly highlight the theological implications.

In beginning, we need to remember who we are as our identity matters. We are loved by God and His grace is enough. God has given us the ability to think, reason and discern--we are empowered to decide and decide well.  We are vice regents in God's Kingdom; again empowered to make decisions with God and to be stewards of God's resources. More, we work in participation with God in the world, and in our businesses, to maximize God's shalom. 

It is important that we ourselves are committed to making the decision as managers or business owners; while you may consult others, we need to make the final decision ourselves as responsible, accountable, mature adults and mature followers of Christ. To not make a decision is an avoidance and abdication of responsibility as a manager. Good management requires us to decide well since we represent the company. Further, when we demonstrate good management, we demonstrate good stewardship not only of the company's resources but also God's resources because we also represent God in the world. 

It's key to remember that it's not about being or making the perfect decision.  The reality is that it is impossible to make the perfect decision--we can only do our best for the moment we're in.  And once the decision has been made-made in and at peace and joy with our decision- we commit to it, and accept it as the best decision; we cannot at a later time regret our decision as it is almost always an imperfect situation. Remembering also that hindsight is always 20-20.  Importantly, the Holy Spirit (along with our business community) is with us throughout the decision making process--we are not alone in making the decision.  The goal, in most decisions is to aim for a win-win-win situation where you, the other party, and God win and win together.

As an aside, I think our culture has adopted a false understanding of love where we accommodate and tolerate inappropriate behavior because accepting their behavior is the "loving" thing to do.   However, the loving thing to do may in fact be to correct and reprimand the behavior--including firing.  It may be the right thing to do because you love the person.  As a father, I will put my boys in time-out or restrict television time if they disobey mom or dad; To ignore or tolerate their disobedient behavior would in fact not be the loving thing to do.  In fact, when I am impartial, they definitely know and will behavior differently knowing that I am.  Maybe a post on minding children some day.   

We also need to be reminded that the person we are hiring or firing is also made in God's image--someone God deeply cares for.  He or she is also on a journey to discover who God is, and who and what God has called them to.  We get to journey with aiding that individual in that journey--it is a indeed a privileged and why it is such an important task for us as managers and employers to do our best to discern well. As such, we must always treat him or her with respect, dignity, and agape-love.  We are to always act justly, fairly, honorably and with grace. 


Hiring is about building a flourishing community where individuals can flourish.  Hiring is also bringing along side others who are committed to serve a mission and purpose. 

It is often helpful to begin by understanding what are the budget constraints for the position. Most positions have a limit; if there isn't a limit I'd like to know what company doesn't.

I prefer an interview process that involve multiple interviewers--it helps alleviate biases and potential conflicts of interest.  As the hiring team, it is important to talk before the interviews to understand what is required and what are nice-to-haves in a candidate. Also, certain positive or negative characteristics may be observed by other interviewers that we miss which may be important to determining who you hire in the end. More, as hiring is about building community, the interview process should involve those from the community-managers and future team-members. 

Hiring often is about looking for potential and possibilities--not only what and who they are today, but what they can become in a few years time in both skills and character. Hiring someone strictly based on skills for the job may give the team temporary relief and lighten the workload; however, from experience hiring based on character, integrity, virtues, teach-ability is of more importance--skills you can teach, character (being) is much harder to shape.  That said, we also believe that the Holy Spirit can transform anyone; so i'm not saying its impossible, just takes longer and patience. What i'm also not saying is to ignore skills and competency and hire only based on character; we want to hire those that have relevant skills and demonstrate competency, however, we want to ensure the candidate we're hiring is a fit for the team and community--specifically, culture fit.

Building community requires finding the best candidate who will best serve the customers, the team and company, and the community.  Will the clients trust him? Will she be capable of building relationship and collaborating with the team?  Is she interested in their personal success only or are she interested also in success of others and the client? What are the motivations for getting the job? A suggestion would be to look for individuals who are interested in investing in others and the success and flourishing of others in addition to achieving personal success.  Furthermore, look for candidates who exemplify the company's culture and can add to the existing culture--a person who can flourish in the existing culture, and reinforce the existing culture and promote a culture that is consistent with the vision of the culture and where you desire to see culture become. 

If possible we also want to understand the person's purpose and passions, their strengths, and talents so that we can do our best to facilitate them in fulfilling their vocation. We want to hire someone who will thrive in what they do, and also elevate the flourishing of those that he or she works with whether its with people inside or outside the company. It's a great feeling to see a person who we hire succeed, grow, and become who God created them to be. 

There is no perfect candidate and we need to be reminded that we are to do our best.  As a cautionary note, do not hire simply to fill a position; there may be challenges later which will impact the team dynamics or morale.  There is always (at least there should be) the option to not hire at this moment and wait with the intent to continue searching for additional candidates.  Again, being aware of the reality that we must decide and cannot delay our decision indefinitely; Also being aware that when we delay the process we could be negatively impacting the team productivity and team morale.  Unfortunately, we can also loose the position due to budget or business changes.  

Hiring is two ways; the person being interviewed is also looking for a match.  As you are getting to know the other person, they are doing the same.  Don't be disappointed if he or she turn your offer down--it happens. And if you find a candidate, congratulations! Celebrate and welcome them--seriously welcome them! 

While we hope to hire someone for the long term, there may come a time where they may leave the business for another opportunity, or lay the person off. Sometimes, it means we need to fire them.


There comes a point when a manager needs to decide whether to terminate the employee from the company. Firing is never easy--if it's easy, something is wrong.  As a Christian, we often are unsure of what to do in these situations because the Bible says that we should love our neighbors and we should have grace.  Right? At the same time, we are also stewards of the resources of the company and it is our responsibility as managers to represent the interest of the company. But we also want to be faithful and loving follower of Christ.  We can be stuck between these tensions.   As managers of the business, we can experience decision-paralysis around firing. 

Firing often has a negative connotation and being fired is often associated with failure. Firing someone is neither a reflection of your character nor connected with your identity.  Neither is a person who is fired a bad and evil people--people are intrinsically valuable. There may be all sorts of reasons why the person is not performing at the level expected for the job. Sometimes the reason is a poor choice in making a decision. We won't go into all the possible reasons for firing in this post.   

Again, good management is good stewardship of the company's resources as well as God's resources. 

Whether its negotiating a deal or firing, we need to prioritize the relationship; at the beginning, during, and after the process, the relationship between the the manager and employee (or those involved in the process) must be maintained or better.  Grace and dignity matter profoundly in these situations. 

Alright, here are some considerations:

1) What is the reason for firing? Are laws being broken? Breach of contract? Breach of work relationship?

Is the individual not meeting the requirements of the job? Is the employee aware of the requirements of the job and have those requirements been communicated clearly and understood?  As managers, we need to confront the issue as soon as possible.  If possible, collect data to substantiate the reason and to eliminate any subjectivity.  Some reasons are immediate grounds for termination, some are not; consulting or getting a second opinion is always a good idea in these situations. 

2) How has this employee performed in the past? Is the behavior out of the ordinary for this person? Is he going through a transition outside of work that is affecting his performance? 
Is their performance improving just slower than expected--they may be struggling to learn something.  Be sensitive to cultural differences as some people from other cultures are more vocal about expressing their challenges--some not as much. Some employees will be satisfied with meeting the requirements of the job and it is possible that she peaks at some point; remembering also having such individuals on the team bring stability to the team.  Coaching the employee may help them break-through the hurdle. 

3) Check your emotions.
Consult with another manager colleague who you trust to understand if they are observing the same behavior.  The intent is not to gossip, but to have a trusted colleague give feedback and shed any wisdom on the situation.  Is there data to substantiate the problem you are observing.  Make sure you are at peace before addressing the concern with the employee and/or when making the final decision; if you are not at peace, wait or take a break.  Take a walk, make sure it is not "emotional leakage" from some else that's happening in your life or from a previous incident.  Understand the situation at the moment.

4) How is the individual's behavior impacting the rest of the team. 

If you notice a problem, the rest of the team is definitely aware of the problem.  They are observing your leadership and how you address the situation.  How you address the situation (or if you choose to ignore) will positively or negatively impact the morale of the team.  Once trust is broken with the team, it will be very challenging to regain trust with the team which will be a challenge on its own. 

5) Is there a position in the company where the individual may thrive?
There are people that I've worked with who thrive once they move to another team.   This should always be considered especially if the person demonstrates commendable character, integrity and work ethic and is a positive impact to the culture of the company.

6) Do they need additional training and coaching?  
Listen and try to understand why the individual is under-performing; it may be an opportunity to pastor.  Do they feel they are contributing to the success of the business? Do they understand the business and the purpose of the business.  Are the goals of the company clear?  Do they have S.M.A.R.T. goals? Setup a performance improvement plan for the next few months and plan to coach them to achieve the level expected. If she continues to not meet expectations, your decision to terminate their employment should not come as a surprise. Opportunities to coach and mentor,and discussions around their performance should have been exhausted before going forward with firing. 

7) Is the job they are doing the individual's calling? A job isn't necessarily their calling; they may be experiencing a transition point in their life.   Future post coming on calling.

The decision to hire or fire is never easy. There is great honor in participating with God in His work in the world.  It's also important to remind ourselves that we still work and live in the messy middle between the now and not yet.   Colossians 3:22 states that "Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord."  We may very well need to obey our bosses, even with great reservations, their orders to hire or fire--we need to follow through. Lord have mercy for we redeemed-sinners.  In addition, we can have having faith, hope, and love because the Holy Spirit is with us at each moment as we maximize God's shalom in the world.  Do your best.  It will require boldness and courage as we integrate faith and work and life. 

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