The “Golden Rule” in the Marketplace

2019-05-16T09:30:57-07:00 August 26th, 2016|Tags: , |

Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.

Recently, I read a commentary by Lee Strobel on “the Golden Rule”. The Golden Rule (hereafter “the Rule”) is based upon Jesus’ directive: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Strobel, a former atheist and lawyer, became a follower of Jesus as a result of his sceptical examination of the Bible and its claims. He is a prolific author and one of his books, “The Case for Christ”, is a New York Times bestseller.

Many believe that the Rule is common to all major religious and secular worldviews. Strobel makes a strong case, however, that this is not true. While many other worldviews espouse philosophies that superficially resemble the Rule, they are in fact profoundly different.

In essence, Jesus is instructing us to engage in selfless generosity. Put differently, he is encouraging us to put the other person’s interests ahead of our own even if it may disadvantage us in some fashion. The most common variations of the Rule focus on reciprocity, which means that we put others first only if it is to our personal advantage. Upon reflection, I have concluded that the Rule often clashes with current marketplace culture. After all, how does one square maximizing return on investment and profitability with putting the interests of others first?

I suspect one could write a book on this topic – maybe I will! In the meantime, I will comment on the application of the Rule as it relates to dealings with two distinct marketplace stakeholders – employees (today) and customers (next week).

The Golden Rule is about putting other’s interests ahead of our own, a concept that often clashes with marketplace culture.

Per the Rule, Jesus challenges us to truly look out for the best interests of our employees. Let us consider this approach in the context of regular employee performance reviews. Every business in which I was involved followed this practice.

From experience, this review could sometimes become an uncomfortable conversation about unacceptable performance. As a result, there is often a bias in business against transparency during performance reviews motivated by conflict avoidance. In addition, fear of losing employees whose work, while not fully satisfactory, is acceptable overall is sometimes a motivator. A common outcome of this thinking is “halo reviews,” where one would be hard pressed to find a corrective comment even when one is warranted!

Untruthful halo reviews are inconsistent with the Golden Rule. If we are actually interested in helping our employees grow, candid feedback may be precisely what is in their best interests. After I became a Christian, I decided to regularly pray for my employees and my interactions with them. My goal (not always achieved!) was to provide feedback that would help them succeed, recognizing that candour carries risk. To be effective, of course, such feedback must be accompanied by trust between employee and supervisor.

Here is a challenge for all of us. Let’s pray that God will help us put others – including our employees – first. Without God, this is an impossible challenge but the Bible reassures us that with Him leading us, all things are possible.

More next week on the Rule as it applies to dealing with customers.

Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.