20 Sep #191 – Integrity Idea 032: Adopt a “77” Policy
ESSENCE: Integrity Ideas are specific actions a faithful leader can consider in leading faithfully through business a better way.
INTEGRITY IDEA: Adopt a “77” Policy
COVERT-OVERT CONTINUUM (six Continuums for action): Policies
COVERT-OVERT RATING (several levels from Highly Covert to Highly Overt): Overt
STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees
Most Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization. “Adopt a 77 Policy” is about adopting a policy of forgiveness and second chances in dealing with employee performance and problems. It recognizes not only that the God of the Bible is a God of forgiveness and second chances but also the Biblical command to forgive not 7 times but 77 times. Leading with faithful integrity through business a better way requires cultivating an organizational culture that aligns with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities. “Adopt a 77 Policy” helps people recognize the Imago Dei in others and live the commandments to love others as God has loved them, to forgive others as God has forgiven them, and to treat others as they would like to be treated. It also encourages a culture of compassion and empathy in which people listen, try to understand, and respond with Biblical EQ, giving each other the benefit of the doubt and believing that everyone is doing the best they can, given all the givens in a broken world. “Adopt a 77 Policy” sends a message to employees that relationships, community and human dignity matter, and they are valued as creations in the image of God and not merely tools of production to be managed, manipulated and discarded in the pursuit of Profit as Purpose. It reinforces the organizational WHY of business a better way–maximizing human flourishing, which involves loving people where they are, helping them grow, and finding the best place for them to use their God-given gifts to glorify God by loving others through service.
Integrity Ideas are specific actions a leader can consider during the Re-Align step of Integriosity®–actions that will begin to Re-Align the organization with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities. You can find more Integrity Ideas at Integrous | Integrity Ideas (integriosity.com)
Integrity Ideas are practical actions toward implementing a bigger WHY for the organization. We believe some are critical (and necessary) steps in the RENEW/RE-ALIGN/RE-IMAGINE/RESTORE process. Others are just ideas to be considered if they feel like a good fit based on what leaders prayerfully discern is best for stewarding the organization toward its WHY.
“Adopt a 77 Policy” falls into the “if it fits” category. While leading a business with faithful integrity through business a better way requires cultivating a culture that reflects and prioritizes Biblical concepts of relationships, community and human dignity, a “77” forgiveness initiative is just one idea for implementing that goal.
INTEGRITY IDEA: Adopt a “77” Policy
Adopt a 77 Policy” is about adopting a policy of forgiveness and second chances in dealing with employee performance and problems.
It recognizes not only that the God of the Bible is a God of forgiveness and second chances but also the Biblical command in Matthew 18:21-22 to forgive not 7 times but 77 times:
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Leading with faithful integrity through business a better way requires cultivating an organizational culture that aligns with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities. “Adopt a 77 Policy” helps people recognize the Imago Dei in others and live the commandments to love others as God has loved them, to forgive others as God has forgiven them, and to treat others as they would like to be treated.
It also encourages a culture of compassion and empathy in which people listen, try to understand, and respond with Biblical EQ (which we explored in post #185), giving each other the benefit of the doubt and believing that everyone is doing the best they can, given all the givens in a broken world.
In her book Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution, Brene Brown digs into the idea that everyone is doing the best they can, no matter how bad we may think they are doing and how much better we believe they can do. She links giving people the benefit of the doubt to generosity, which is one of the two key principles embedded in the word Integriosity. She explains:
This doesn’t mean that we stop helping people set goals or that we stop expecting people to grow and change. It means that we stop respecting and evaluating people based on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing. It means that we stop loving people for who they could be and start loving them for who they are.
This idea is captured in the old phrase “There but for the grace of God, go I“, which has been attributed to 16th Century preacher John Bradford as he watched men being led off for execution. Only God knows all the circumstances, experiences and brokenness that contribute to a person’s behavior. If we were subject to all the “givens” in a person’s life, we might well act just as they are acting.
Brown emphasizes that believing people are doing the best they can does not mean we shouldn’t create boundaries to protect ourselves–the serial killer may be doing the best they can but they still need to be incarcerated. Likewise, “Adopt a 77 Policy” does not mean that the employee who is underperforming in a particular job needs to be kept in that job or that an employee who violates a policy doesn’t need training to help them understand the policy and how to comply.
It means they are given a second chance and possibly a 77th chance. It means taking the time prayerfully to listen and try to understand the reasons behind the problem and then prayerfully considering how to help the person realize their potential within the organization. And that may mean training, counseling or moving them to a different position.
“Adopt a 77 Policy” sends a message to employees that relationships, community and human dignity matter, and that they are valued as creations in the image of God and not merely tools of production to be managed, manipulated and discarded in the pursuit of Profit as Purpose. To quote James Hunter yet again:
To manage a business in a way that grows out of a Biblical view of relationships, community and human dignity before God has divine significance, irrespective of what else might be done from this platform.
For an organization operating in alignment with the kingdom of the world–business as usual–the easy answer to an underperforming employee or an employee who violates a policy is termination. It is “reaction” rather than compassionate “response” based upon listening, trying to understand and empathizing. It is seeing the person as expendable or replaceable rather than trying to understand their performance or behavior and help them grow. To once again borrow from Rising Strong:
Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.
Or in the words of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series (Goblet of Fire, to be precise): “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”
“Adopt a 77 Policy” reinforces the organizational WHY of business a better way–maximizing human flourishing, which involves loving people where they are, helping them grow, and finding the best place for them to use their God-given gifts to glorify God by loving others through service.
Giving an employee a second chance or giving them the opportunity to experience (rather than just hear about) forgiveness may be the first time such grace has ever been extended to them. It may change their heart, give them hope, heal a wound, make them feel understood, or let them experience belonging. It embodies the “Value” piece of the Vision/Value/Voice formula Michael Stallard identifies in his book Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work as necessary for a healthy culture of connection in which employees are engaged.
To be clear, “Adopt a 77 Policy” is not about excusing, condoning, tolerating or ignoring poor performance or bad behavior in the name of “grace”. It is about responding in a restorative manner rather than reacting in a retributive one. Culture is critical, and a 77 initiative must be done in a way that reinforces rather than undermines the Re-Imagined vision, values and culture of the organization. It can’t be perceived as tolerating the bad behavior of a star performer or rewarding poor performance. Seth Godin rightly warns:
The attitudes you put up with will become the attitudes of your entire organization. Over time, every organization becomes what is tolerated. If you reward a cynic merely because he got something done, you’ve made it clear to everyone else that cynicism is okay. If you overlook the person who is hiding mistakes because his productivity is high, then you are rewarding obfuscation and stealth. People are watching you. They’re not listening to your words as much as they’re seeking to understand where the boundaries and the guard rails lie, because they’ve learned from experience that people who do what gets rewarded, get rewarded. Be clear and consistent about how we do things around here.
The Integriosity model organizes “heart change” along six Covert-Overt Continuums. There is nothing magic about these categories, but we believe they are helpful in thinking about practical execution of a Re-Imagined Purpose, Re-Imagined Values and a Re-Imagined Culture. The Continuums are Prayer, Proclamation, Policies, Practices, Products, People.
Each Continuum represents an area in which leaders can begin to think about, plan and institute Re-Alignment changes to the heart of the organization.
“Adopt a 77 Policy” is on the Policy Continuum. It is a policy the organization can adopt to reflect and reinforce its purpose and values. Policies are guidelines, whether written or merely understood, that define and shape aspects of an organization’s culture by providing both expectations for behavior as well as procedures and consequences for behavior that undermines the desired culture.
“Adopt a 77 Policy” embodies Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities that an organization must seek to embed in its culture if it is committed to operating with faithful integrity through business a better way.
COVERT-OVERT RATING: Overt
The Integriosity model breaks the Covert-Overt Continuums into six gradations–from Highly Covert to Highly Overt–that we believe are helpful in beginning to pray and think about what is most appropriate for an organization at a particular moment in time.
Most Integrity Ideas will have one place on the scale. Some can vary depending on how they are implemented. “Adopt a 77 Policy” is at the Overt end of the Continuum because it is a practice that is noticeably counter-cultural in a business as usual world in which maximizing profit is the “end” and people are, by definition, merely tools of production. “Adopt a 77 Policy” could also be moved toward the covert end of the continuum if the leaders decide to explain it purely in terms of giving people a “second chance” without explaining the Biblical command to forgive. Whether it is Overt (An overtly faith-based action known generally within the organization), Very Overt (an overtly faith-based action involving suppliers, vendors or customers) or Highly Overt (an overtly faith-based action involving community, website, sales/marketing materials) depends upon how widely it is explained.
STAKEHOLDERS SERVED: Employees
When we categorize faith-based actions, we also consider the stakeholders principally impacted by the action: Employees, Customers/Clients, Owners, Suppliers/Vendors, Community and Kingdom.
“Adopt a 77 Policy” is aimed at loving and showing compassion to Employees.
There but for the grace of God go I. (John Bradford)
Every faithful leader seeking to lead with faithful integrity through business a better way should be praying and thinking about how to cultivate and reinforce an organizational culture that prioritizes relationships, community and human dignity.
One way to do that is by adopting a policy that calls for forgiveness, compassion and second chances (or even 77th chances) when dealing with employee performance or behavior problems. The parameters of what we are calling a “77” policy will vary from organization to organization and must be determined through prayerful discernment by faithful leaders.
At one extreme is the approach taken by a company in the Philippines called Human Nature, which has implemented what they call a “No-Firing” policy. They will never fire an employee. The story behind the policy is fascinating and actually served as the inspiration for this post. It started with forgiving and continuing to employ a person who was stealing from the company. It required listening, trying to understand and then compassionately responding to the person’s history. It also involved setting boundaries.
As faithful leaders prayerfully discern if and how “Adopt a 77 Policy” could be implemented in their organization, these are some questions to consider:
• To whom will the policy apply? Just the HR department? All managers? All employees?
• How will the policy be rolled out? Just to those involved in employee reviews? Will all employees be told about the policy?
• How will the policy be tied to the organization’s vision and values?
• Will the Biblical basis for the policy be explained? If so, how widely? On the organization website?
• How will HR, supervisors, managers, employees be trained? Is Biblical EQ training needed?
• Will there be a limit to the number of “second chances” a person can receive? If so, what is the limit and how will it be expressed?
• Are there certain offenses that must be considered at a higher level in the organization?
• Are there certain “unforgiveable” offenses? Theft? Sexual misconduct? Violence? Protected class discrimination?
• What boundaries can be established to protect the organization, other employees and customers?
• What trainings/counseling may be needed to help people overcome problems?
• What process will be used to determine a suitable job to be offered to someone unable to continue in their current position?
• How will the organization respond to objections by people who think a problem should not be forgiven?
• How will the organization respond to press or social media criticism of particular offenses that are forgiven?
You may be reading these questions and thinking that “Adopt a 77 Policy” is just too difficult and fraught with potential complications and problems. Faithful integrity requires doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons. We go back to the words of Brene Brown: “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”
As a faithful leader, the choice is yours, but it is a choice that carries the promise in Ephesians 4:7: “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.” In his book Why Business Matters to God, Jeff Van Duzer rightly suggests that the same God who calls leaders to faithful integrity through business a better way will be present to equip those who are called:
We are not expected to fulfill the creation and redemption mandates in business relying solely on our own wisdom, judgment and perseverance. The same God who calls us to these high standards provides us with access to the discernment and power that will enable us to fulfill them.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): As mentioned, this post was inspired by hearing about Human Nature’s “No-Fire Policy”. They were one of the organization’s profiled during last week’s Faith Driven Entrepreneur global conference. When I heard the story it reminded me of one of the most powerful theatrical scenes I have ever seen. It is the scene from Les Misérables when Jean Valjean steals the Bishop’s silver and is caught by the police. The Bishop implements a “77” policy and a heart is changed. If you don’t remember this scene, below are two clips from the film version starring Hugh Jackman.