FIFA Mania: “Gooooooooal! What, me step down? No way!”

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When students return for Fall Semester, many of them will have followed the events surrounding the FIFA World Cup competitions in Canada. This summer FIFA is in high-gear as Canada hosts the FIFA World Cup for women’s soccer. The games have been exciting. By the time Fall Semester rolls around the outcome of the competition will be known.

Just as exciting were the events occurring off the pitches during the weeks leading up to the games. Several stories have appeared in the media carrying news that in May, 2015 the FBI arrested seven FIFA officials on charges of corruption. Allegedly, officials had received kick-backs, engaged in racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

After seven FIFA officials were arrested, many people called for the resignation of Sepp Blatter, the 79-year old Swiss CEO. He was not one of the executives that had been arrested. Blatter refused. He accused US Justice officials of interfering in his bid for re-election as FIFA top-level leader. He and others insinuated that because the USA had lost its bid to host the FIFA world cup in 2022, it was trying to pay FIFA back.

Then just three days after he won re-election as FIFA president, things changed. On June 5 Blatter appeared before news cameras in Zurich, Switzerland and announced that he would step down from his position and that a new election would be held to choose a successor.

Rumors began developing that perhaps Blatter was himself had become a target of the FBI probe. People began wondering if one or more of the seven officials who had been arrested would rat on Blatter.

Think about having a conversation with your students about some of the management issues from a Christian point of view.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the difference between an action that is unethical and one that is illegal?
  2. If Mr. Blatter knew he was not guilty of any corruption crime, should he have caved into the outside media pressure and stepped down even if he had not been arrested?
  3. What might have happened inside and outside FIFA as an organization if Mr. Blatter had decided not to step down?
  4. How much responsibility must a manager, at any level, take for the unethical or illegal actions of subordinates if the superior manager truly has no knowledge of subordinate actions?
  5. Should a superior resign only if the unethical / illegal actions of subordinates gain high visibility?
  6. How can a manager know that it is time to step aside when his or her continued presence becomes a distraction?
  7. What Scriptural principle is at stake when a manager is faced with the decision of whether or not to voluntarily resign because of the actions of subordinates?
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Reminder: My Monthly Goal

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We have a few new subscribers to this Blog who may not have read the very first blog posting from several month ago. Thank you for subscribing! I hope you are finding value here for your teaching. As always, I welcome your feedback and questions. You can email me at mcafferky [at] southern.edu.

Just to remind subscribers: The purpose of this blog is to support the efforts of other Christian management scholars who desire to bring issues of faith into their classrooms, those who have adopted my textbook and those who have not. Accordingly, the plan is to create two postings per month that contain information on selected management issues, debatable questions, current events in organizations that deserve thinking about (with students) from a biblical worldview, scriptural themes relevant to management and leadership and teaching ideas.

I realize that some Internet bloggers are prolific, blogging every day or even multiple times per day. Blogging every day is far outside the scope of what I can produce given my other academic responsibilities and publishing projects. Like many business professors who work full time at small colleges and universities that are affiliated with a religious organization, my teaching load has been pretty heavy. My postings tend to require a lot of time spent in study and thought before writing them. Add to this the fact that the past two years I have been writing other papers for publication or presentation and writing another textbook, this new one titled Business Ethics In Biblical Perspective: A Comprehensive Introduction (forthcoming in August this year from InterVarsity Press). Beginning in the Fall I will become the new Editor of the peer-reviewed Journal of Biblical Integration in Business. Thus, the discretionary time available for blogging on teaching ideas probably will not increase.

Accordingly, expect no more than two posting per month. Thanks!

THE IMAGE OF GOD, THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST AND THE PURPOSE OF MANAGEMENT – PART 6

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This posting is a follow up on some of the “grand themes” of Scripture relevant to defining the purpose of business and the work of the manager. In a previous posting I shared with you how the themes were identified. When I looked at Bible passages that describe the character of God, and a second set of Bible passages that describe the identity of Jesus Christ and still a third set of passages that describe the conduct of the faithful follower of Jesus, several themes emerge. In a recent posting I covered the theme of Truth.

This posting focuses on the biblical theme of Wisdom. Notice what we find in Scripture:

Character of God = Wisdom

  • LORD, how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all; The earth is full of Thy possessions. Psalm 104:24
  • For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, 8 Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. 9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; Proverbs 2:6-9
  • To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known…  Ephesians 3:8-11

Identity of Jesus Christ = Wisdom

  • …but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1Corinthians 1:24
  • His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. 1Corinthians 1:30

Our conduct = Wisdom

  • The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7
  • Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom. Psalm 51:6
  • How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding. Proverbs 3:13
  • Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding. Proverbs 23:23

The question now is what is this idea of Wisdom all about from the Scripture point of view? At a superficial level some tend to think of wisdom as being smart or clever. A wise person is someone who knows just the right thing to say or the right thing to do in a particular situation.

The Hebrew concept of wisdom (and the related idea of prudence) means being firm and well-grounded first of all in faithfulness to God and second in the business of living life celebrating all the good that God has given for our life in community. “… it is by wisdom that God creates. Wisdom brings blessings. God’s action of redemption shows his great wisdom. Ultimately, wisdom comes from God, who continues to be active in the creative process when he creates wisdom offering it as a gift. Wisdom cannot be understood apart from its relationship to covenant relationships. In this regard wisdom is not merely a psychological trait. It is an action in the context of relationships!

Biblical wisdom is interwoven with faithfulness, justice and other dimensions of moral uprightness. Accordingly, humans on their own are limited in their ability to gather true wisdom for all of life. In this regard, the nature of wisdom is similar to the nature of shalom: it encompasses all dimensions of life envisioned in covenant relationships.” (Cafferky, 2015, p. 103) In other words, wisdom is not merely about being smart in knowing how to make money. It’s about being smart with covenant relationships and moral intelligence.

Scripture contrasts the wise person with the foolish person. The fool is the one who is destructive of covenant relationships. The fool is indiscrete and reckless. Fools ignore counsel from others who are attempting to follow the principles of a flourishing life modeled after the Ten Commandments.

From this Bible perspective we can begin to understand the purpose of management:

  • To keep our own hearts with diligence.
  • To help others be morally smart.
  • To help our organization be a repository of insight regarding covenant relationships.
  • To share not only practical wisdom but also wisdom about how life in the community can be improved.

Application:

  • Offer training to employees to improve their skills, the training can range beyond just the technical dimensions to include other things represented by the biblical themes.
  • Be careful! Protect yourself and those around you from being taken advantage of. There are foolish people in the marketplace that will try to take advantage of you and your organization. Minimize this risk.
  • Improve your legal and ethical understanding of key business situations. Wise people are morally smart.
  • Improve your own capabilities and skills regardless of what position you have. God made us with a variety of abilities. The more we develop these, the more useful we can be in service to others.
  • Help subordinates to progress from uselessness to usefulness to others.
  • Get counsel on the more complicated ethical issues that you encounter. Be available to others who seek your counsel.

Questions for Discussion with Students

  • Who is a wise person that you know? What gives evidence that this person is wise?
  • What does the word wisdom mean to most people?
  • How does a person get wisdom?
  • On what basis can the writer of Proverbs claim that the Ten Commandments make a person wise?
  • If wisdom is primarily being smart about ethical issues, how do we gain this type of wisdom?
  • Given what the Bible says about wisdom in all of its dimensions, what is the role of the faithful manager who desires to imitate Jesus Christ?

ENGAGE STUDENTS IN THE CONVERSATION ABOUT CALLING

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A few weeks ago near the end of the Winter Semester I asked students to write a personal essay regarding their calling.

The description of the assignment is worded like this: “Write a three- to five-page typewritten paper describing your personal calling. This paper should include a discussion about your early life experiences, choices you have made regarding your career path up to the present, feedback from family and friends regarding personal gifts, how your calling serves the greater good of society, what dimensions of your calling you are able to fulfill inside the context of your current (or recent) job, and what dimensions of your calling you are able to fulfill outside the context of paid employment.” (Cafferky, 2012, p. 509)

A section in Chapter 15 of our textbook provides students with an orientation about the issues related to calling.

Some students started their essay by saying that they are still trying to figure out their calling. Then these students continued by exploring some of the influences in their lives sharing insights about themselves they have gleaned.

Other students attempted to tie calling to a career or job. This provided the opportunity for us to have a conversation about the nature of calling and the degree to which calling needs to align with one’s work.

All in all, this was one of the richest professor-student dialogues I had during the whole semester!  This provided an opportunity for an amazing conversation with students on a much deeper level than most conversations about faith and business. Students are genuinely interested in the issues. Calling and the hope that they will find and use their calling is deeply personal.

Here are some of the discussion questions that can be useful during the conversation:

  1. Is calling the same thing as your job?
  2. Is calling what you do or who you are?
  3. Does calling have to be used in your job?
  4. What should you do if you find yourself stuck in a job where your personal gifts, personality traits, temperament and abilities are not being used to their fullest?
  5. Can two people who have similar personalities, temperaments and abilities have the same calling?
  6. Does the person with a disability (and cannot work) not have a calling?
  7. Do you have only one calling?
  8. Might it be possible that your calling changes as you journey through life?
  9. If you make a career choice and realize that you are in a job that is not a good match for you, does this mean that you have left your calling?
  10. Have you had a clear sense that God has called you to a particular function so serve society (e.g., to help people learn; to advocate on behalf of the needs of others – especially those who are vulnerable; to bring harmony to social relationships; etc.)?

CEO PLEDGES TO CUT HIS PAY DOWN TO $70k AND RAISE MINIMUM WAGE UP TO $70k

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I pause in the short series on the image of God, the grand biblical themes and the purpose of business because I just could not resist this story that broke earlier this week. It is a story that is worth having a conversation with students.

Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, a firm in Seattle, Washington that processes credit card payments, announced a few days ago that he pledges to raise the minimum annual wage of all 120 workers up to $70,000. To offset this increase he is reducing his own salary from something near $1,000,000 down to the minimum $70,000. The implementation will be phased in over a three year period starting by raising everyone’s pay up to a minimum of $50K. A year later the minimum wage will be %60K. The third year the minimum wage will be $70K.

The issue of the disparity in compensation between the top-level executives and front-line employees has been hotly debated for a few decades. Every year, it seems, stories about disgruntled workers and their opinions on CEO pay are published in the media.

The story along with interviews of Mr. Price can be found on several internet sites. Here is one example:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/14/business/owner-of-gravity-payments-a-credit-card-processor-is-setting-a-new-minimum-wage-70000-a-year.html

CEOs in some firms make 400 (or more) times what the front-line employees make. One of the arguments in favor of high pay for CEOs is the issue of supply and demand. Market rates reflect the value of the person to the shareholders’ ability to earn cash on their stocks in the future.

Discussion Questions

  • After hearing this story, how interested are you in applying for a job at Gravity Payments?
  • What are some of the other arguments to keep CEO pay much higher than that of front-line workers? Are these valid points?
  • Is this a good thing for the company?
  • Is this a bad thing for the company?
  • After the plan is fully phased in, will Mr. Price ever be able to sell his company?
  • Should CEOs of other companies do the same as Mr. Price has done?
  • What biblical principle may be at work in this story?
  • Is there an opposite biblical principle that is in jeopardy as Mr. Price implements his plan?

THE IMAGE OF GOD, THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST AND THE PURPOSE OF MANAGEMENT – PART 5

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The next few postings will highlight a few of the “grand themes” of Scripture relevant to defining the purpose of business and the work of the manager. First, I want to share with you how the themes were identified. I didn’t just dream these up. I saw them emerge out of Scripture.

When I looked at Bible passages that describe the character of God, and a second set of Bible passages that describe the identity of Jesus Christ and still a third set of passages that describe the conduct of the faithful follower of Jesus, several themes emerge. One of the themes that emerged is the theme of Truth. Here are sample Scriptures that I noticed.

Character of God = Truth

  • Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth. Exodus 34:6
  • For Thy loving kindness is great to the heavens, and Thy truth to the clouds. Psalm 57:10
  • But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth. Psalm 86:15
  • Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Thy throne; Loving kindness and truth go before Thee. Psalm 89:14

Identity of Jesus Christ = Truth

  • And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
  • For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17
  • Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. John 14:6

Our conduct = Truth

  • …O Lord, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. Psalm 15:1-2
  • Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3
  • Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding. Proverbs 23:23

The question now is what is this idea of Truth all about? At a superficial level we tend to think of truth as meaning telling the truth instead of deceiving. For others it means a set of theological propositions that are accepted as orthodox. Truth involves this, but also has a deeper, more profound meaning relevant in business.

The Hebrew word (emeth) translated into English as Truth really means faithfulness in action when tested by time and circumstances. Truth means being authentic (in terms of the Ten Commandments) and reliable. A person can say a lot (and that is part of truth, too), but it is what the person (or organization) does in action that reveals Truth. Accordingly, Truth is an action idea. We only know that a person is Truth in retrospect. Truth is an important element in God’s government, i.e., he is faithful in action!

Truth as a leadership idea means advancing the cause of faithfulness to commitments in and around the whole community. Truth seems to be the opposite of hypocrisy and if this is true, it is connected with the third commandment. Truth suggests that if a discrepancy is found between an espoused value and a value in practice, the manager will work diligently to take corrective action and close this gap in reality.

Application:

  • Coupled with the biblical idea of loyalty, Truth is the foundation idea for managerial control function and all performance improvement efforts in management. Unless the manager of a process can get to the reality of what is happening, process improvement efforts will be limited.
  • Managers who seek Truth will accept and even look for information that disconfirms their personal biases.
  • When leading an employee through the progressive discipline process the manager of Truth will focus not on ambiguous attitudes but rather on specific, observable behaviors that are relevant to the overall purpose of the organization and its ability to be faithful in its commitments to others outside and inside the organization.
  • The purpose of business, and by extension business managers, as seen through the lens of Truth is to provide one of the structures in society that encourages faithfulness in action, trustworthiness and consistency when values are exchanged.

Openly advocating for Truth can be done in any organization even when it is not appropriate to talk openly about Jesus Christ or religion. When emphasizing Truth, the faithful manager is advocating on behalf of the Character of Jesus Christ. Emphasizing truth shows the plausibility that God’s way for a flourishing life actually is practical. It works!

Questions for Discussion with Students

  • What does it mean to hoard Truth? Could hoarding Truth ever be a bad thing?
  • Where have you recently observed Truth in action in a manager or someone in authority?
  • Where have you experienced the opposite of Truth in a manager? What did you want most in that situation?
  • Where might you apply the principle of Truth in your own experience as a student right now?
  • What role do fellow students have in encouraging Truth in each other? What can you do to help a classmate in this course to hoard Truth?

THE IMAGE OF GOD, THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST AND THE PURPOSE OF MANAGEMENT – Part 4

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Compared with the secular perspectives on management (managerial functions, skills, roles, culture, processes, and organizational level), the biblical perspective sheds a completely different light on the purpose of business.

Last month I introduced the idea that the purpose of management is associated with the image of God and the character of Jesus Christ. Management is an important setting where God is at work restoring His image. Faithful managers become co-workers with God in the process of the restoration of His image in other people, too.

In this posting I will review the various ways that the restoration process is described in Scripture.

The most succinct conceptual description of God’s character to be imitated is the Ten Commandments. (Psalm 119:18, 97, 105) The clearest visible expression of God’s character is Jesus Christ, his identity and his work (John 12:45; 14:9; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 1 John 5:20). It is by beholding God’s character, as shown through God’s actions in Christ in history, that our own characters become changed.

The restoration of the image of God is described in various ways:

  • Establishing a relationship with God by faith (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24)
  • Letting the transcript of God’s character (His Law) restore us (Deuteronomy 6:6; Psalm 19:7)
  • Letting the word of Christ dwell in us (Colossians 3:16)
  • Having Christ live in us (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:20)
  • Putting on the clothing of Christ’s character (Isaiah 61:10; Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27)
  • Beholding his character (Hebrews 12:2)
  • Imitating God; imitating Christ (Leviticus 11:44-45; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:16; 2:21; 1 John 2:6)
  • Having a new heart/mind (Psalm 51:10; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 11:19; 36:25; Romans 12:2)

Think about it: If the restoration of the image of God involves the process of character transformation, surely this process is not relegated merely to the time we spend in worship in church one day a week or to the time we spend in personal or family devotions. This process must also extend to the activities of the marketplace.

This suggests something radical in terms of the role of the Christian manager, i.e., the work of a manager is to contribute to the restoration of the image of God not only in ourselves but also in those with whom we associate.

Additionally, this suggests that the core biblical values the faithful manager will foster or advocate will be centered on the character of Christ and his work.

In the next few blogs I will take this thesis one more step by exploring how elements of Christ’s character that are explicitly mentioned in Scripture might be applied.