You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
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First Hired, Last Fired shows readers how to use the valuable wisdom found in the ancient text of the Bible to avoid becoming disposable in this challenging marketplace. Through timeless wisdom, simple solutions, and easy-to-apply principles, readers will find meaning in their work lives, and deep satisfaction from committing to a job well done. Through practice, the reader will learn to look deeper into the Bible for relevant help with current issues.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (August 13, 2013)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
“Anyone can be replaced.” Often quoted, but is this an irrefutable truth? Or can someone become so valuable at work it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing the job? I asked these questions in a two-year investigation to find out why some employees are favored and why others are easily discarded.
As part of my search, I considered my own experience as a manager. I’ve encountered a few rare employees who demonstrated integrity to such a degree they became irreplaceable to me as a supervisor. I’ve fought to keep these people in my workforce, and, when they left, things weren’t the same. Whether they knew it or not, these savvy folks set themselves apart by following centuries-old patterns.
There are formulas for success proven through millennia of practice.
Irreplaceable employees dare to be different in a systematic way.
My examination of facts took me deep into the heart of the Bible. Whether you believe in this ancient text or not, it’s hard to argue against its time-proven wisdoms. In my research, I discovered more than eight hundred passages related to work or labor. I believe if we studied and applied them today, a powerful and united workforce could result.
Where debt buries us, untold riches await our unearthing. Instead of giving jobs away, nations would rise to a place of leadership in the world’s commerce. Pride would fall prey to humility rooted in a commitment of integrity. But it starts with the individual.
Let’s face it, many people believe they work smarter, harder, and better than their peers. But do their ethics, their productivity, and their attitudes support this belief? In today’s cynical world, can individuals still impact their job, family, community, nation, and the globe for a greater good? Can you become irreplaceable? I’ve seen the difference when people work God’s way and when they don’t. You get what you give.
Gary’s story is a prime example. For this book, I interviewed more than one hundred employees in various fields. The following fictionalized account portrays a compilation of a sad reality played out in businesses around the world. Let’s peek inside the mind of a man who believes he’s underappreciated and justifies his weak behavior.
The powerful scent of imitation leather and sandalwood caused Gary to sneeze. First Capital Mortgage Company’s board members were meeting tomorrow, which meant someone overdid the commercial air fresheners. Gary didn’t need cologne today. His clothes would smell of the earthy concoction by lunch.
He tried to smooth his rumpled shirt while he clocked in. The sound of male laughter caught his ear, so Gary made his way to the small group of huddled coworkers. He circled the group with a few friendly back-slapping and how-are-you greetings. Each man rewarded him with a varying degree of smile.
“Hey, are you putting money in the football pool or not? Everyone else is in, and the big game’s tonight,” Tom said.
“Yeah, I’ll stop by your desk before I leave today, I promise,” Gary said.
“As usual, a man of many words, I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Gary’s hazel eyes sparkled and he cocked his right eyebrow, “Hey, I keep my promises.”
Tom opened his mouth to respond but shut it just as quickly. Their chief financial officer, Mark, stormed up the hall wearing a focused frown. The huddled mass broke, and most of the men scurried to their posts, hoping Mark wouldn’t note the inactivity. Gary wasn’t fast enough and stood frozen in position, waiting for the assault.
When Mark caught you doing anything but work, punishment followed. It might not be formal, and Mark might not address the situation directly, but his reactions said you were on his blacklist.
Sensing danger, Gary offered Mark a verbal to do list.
Red-faced, Mark said, “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, just do it. I’ve been waiting on that report for three days now, and it had better be on my desk by 3 p.m. No excuses this time.” He barely broke stride as he marched off to find his next victim.
After Mark left, Gary shrugged his shoulders. He muttered while he walked, “If Mark would just listen and treat me like a human being I might be able to finish that report. Every time I try to tell him my plans he gets annoyed. He should appreciate me. I try a lot harder than some of the people who work here. He doesn’t have to be such a jerk. If I were running this company, I’d listen to people.”
For months, Gary had tried. Small talk about the family, flattering comments, and even gifts hadn’t worked with Mark. Every attempt met a terse, “Don’t you have work to do?”
“No matter what I say, he just doesn’t like me.” Disappointed but determined not to give up, Gary stopped muttering and whistled as he headed to his desk.
Once there, he grabbed his coffee cup and fell in step with Christy. They chatted briefly on the way to and from the office lounge. Fifteen minutes later, Christy headed to her own desk as Gary sat down to work. His mind wandered while he popped his earplugs in. He scrolled to the new album he’d downloaded last night. He needed to focus; Mark would have his head if he missed another deadline.
Gary started his daily routine. He checked e-mail, updated his Facebook status, checked the activities of his friends, and tweeted. Then he added charges to the expense voucher from his recent business trip, before preparing to get into the report Mark needed.
Gary typed two sentences when his iPhone vibrated. His wife, Denise, said, “Hi, honey, I just spoke with the plumber and he’ll be at the house tomorrow, can you take off?”
“I’m not sure. Mark’s really on me today. Can’t you do it?”
Denise sighed, “I’ll see, but if I’m gone tomorrow, I can’t leave in time to pick Emma up from practice tonight. Can you get her at five?”
“Yeah, I’m sure I can sneak out a few minutes early. Do you want me to get something for supper?”
A heavy breath signaled Denise’s relief, “That would be great. Oh, I’ve gotta go, here comes my manager. Love you.” The line went dead.
Gary put his phone back in his shirt pocket, clicked on Mark’s report, and then stopped. He realized he needed to check his bank balance. He pulled up the online information and got his checkbook out. He hoped there was enough to pay the plumber. A few minutes later, an assistant manager walked by, so Gary clicked on the overdue report until the coast was clear. He pulled his account back up and after a quick reconciliation was relieved to find there was enough money for the house repairs.
He looked at his watch and gasped. It was almost time for lunch, and he hadn’t even started that report. Beating back a twinge of guilt, Gary pushed hard for the next hour and twenty minutes. He even worked ten minutes into lunch to make up for the time he’d wasted in the morning.
The afternoon passed uneventfully. Gary finally put the last touches on his report just before two thirty. He sent a text to share the good news with his wife, and breathed deep with satisfaction. He wondered aloud, “Why do I put things off? It’s not so bad once I get started.”
Gary smiled sheepishly as Tonya walked by his cubicle and gave him a puzzled look. His outspoken musing must have been louder than he thought.
He celebrated the report completion by walking across the office to see Tom. They bantered about the upcoming play-offs. Tom challenged Gary with, “Put your money where your mouth is buddy, and give me five bucks for the pool.”
Gary chuckled as he dug the money out of his wallet. They were still laughing when Mark walked up behind Gary. The cloud on his face promised bad news.
“Th-tha-a-at report’s on m-my desk and ready to go.”
“Grab it and bring it to my office, I need to talk to you.”
Gary felt queasy as he walked the hall toward Mark’s office. He knocked on the door and entered at Mark’s terse invitation. As Gary sat down, he saw Connie, the human resource manager. Gary flinched when Mark shut the door behind them.
“Gary, we have to make cuts. There’s no way around it. The banking industry is suffering along with the rest of the nation in this recession. Positions must be eliminated, and yours is the first to go. Connie will help you clean out your desk. The necessary paperwork is done.
You will get two weeks of severance pay, and we certainly wish you the best of luck. I’m sorry.” Mark’s tone of voice wasn’t as soft as his final words.
With that Gary was dismissed, shocked into speechlessness. The report lay untouched on Mark’s desk.
Connie escorted Gary to his desk. He numbly filled a box with all his personal items. When he was done he took a last look at a piece of furniture he no longer recognized. Now empty of possessions and personality, it looked as bare as his soul felt.
Security came and walked beside Gary as he shuffled out the employee entrance for the last time. Head down, tears dangerously close to spilling, he noticed the door that had become invisible to him. Not since his early days of employment had his enthusiasm prompted him to push hard and prove himself. As his comfort in the company grew, his ambition waned. Soon, his routine mirrored that of fellow employees.
Now, however, he realized he would never cross this threshold again. Like many other people, he joined the ranks of the unemployed. Nausea punched him in the stomach as he stepped into the sunlight, and Gary wondered how any of this happened.
Whether your job is hidden behind the scenes or you stand in front of the public saying, “May I help you?” meaningful work makes life worth living. Some are tasked with juggling the people and work processes as a manager, knowing full well they won’t please everyone. Some try to keep up with ever-changing demands of bosses, who can’t seem to make up their minds.
Many employees simply don’t realize they have the power of choice in determining their outcomes. Without realizing it, they often give their own jobs away. It’s as if an invisible thief sneaks around the corner and picks their pockets, plucking all but the lint. They never see it coming.
Most workers don’t consider lost time theft. However, there is no difference between stealing time and stealing cash. Managers often meet people who wouldn’t steal twenty dollars from their employer but take hundreds in time wasted.
Often, employees avoid personal responsibility by casting blame on each other. Factories, offices, construction sites, restaurants, service industries, and more are susceptible to attack. When employees engage in personal e-mails, Internet play, text messages, phone calls, inappropriate personal conversations, or other non-work-related activity, the risk is significant. Consider the following equation as an example:
• 2 employees paid $10.00 per hour × 6 inappropriate 15-minute distractions = $30.00 the thief has stolen
• 3 hours per day × 5 days = $150.00 per week stolen
• 3 hours per day × 20 work days = $600.00 stolen monthly
• Multiply this figure by 260 work days per year and the annual cost = $7,800.00
But the employer is not the only one to suffer. As procrastination rises and motivation decreases, individual employees lose inner satisfaction and peace. Employee raises, benefits, and sometimes the job itself are forfeited when a business struggles to make ends meet. The bottom line: everyone suffers.
I’ve employed people with college degrees whose behavior made them an employee I could do without. By the same token, I’ve hired folks with no credentials but who were teachable and acted on their desire to do more. It isn’t a matter of intelligence—people can learn—it’s a matter of what you do with what you learn. The difference is simple: study God’s word and do something positive with the information inside.
In the book of Genesis, a man named Joseph put his heart into his work. His actions caused him to receive favor. He treated other people’s property like his own. He worked as if he owned the business.
If today’s employee invested like Joseph, I believe the world we live in might look different. The change could start with you.
You have more power than you think. With intent, you can influence the world around you for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of others.
In its simplest form, integrity is doing the same thing whether you think someone can see you or not. At a deeper level, the power of extraordinary integrity shocks others to pay closer attention. Try it.
The next time you’re sitting with other employees and gossip ensues, especially if you take part in any way, go back and apologize for your participation. Even if you simply listened but didn’t speak.
Listening alone gives the impression that you condone the words of complaint and back stabbing.
Later, when you walk up and say, “I need to apologize,” most people will automatically ask, “What for?” This is your opportunity to say something like this, “I shouldn’t have talked about Nancy behind her back. I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Leave it at that—period.
Excuses, blame, or qualifiers, like the word but, can negate anything else you say. It also shifts blame to someone else. For example, “I shouldn’t have talked about Nancy behind her back, but when I heard all of you, it slipped out.”
You must confess in purity and honesty with genuine remorse for this to work. Don’t say anything about others—stick to what you did.
Take courage and become a hero in the workplace. The world needs more heroes. Since many of us spend more time with people at work than we do with our own families, what greater place to witness by our actions the life of Jesus Christ? Can you imagine him gossiping?
Don’t worry about what others think, whether they laugh at you, or even turn on you. What’s the worst thing someone might say behind your back, “I don’t really like her, but I have to admit, she gets the job done.”
Or do you prefer, “I thought he was supposed to be a Christian, but he spends more time talking than working”? The results depend on the pattern of your work habits. The choice is yours.
The model of Joseph shows us a secret to success in the workplace. Applying his wisdom can make you different. Joseph stands out as a man who not only impacted his immediate surroundings, but, because of his consistency, he saved individuals, families, commerce, and nations from destruction. His life made a huge difference. I can’t imagine anyone else doing what Joseph did. He was irreplaceable.
Several factors point to the reason why.
• Joseph believed in his God-given dreams. Though he was hated and others were jealous, he accepted his circumstances. Even when he was mocked and his brothers plotted to destroy him, Joseph submitted while he waited for his dreams to become reality (Gen. 37:5–20).
• Joseph endured torment at the hands of those with evil intent. He required mercy so he could be rescued from the clutches of disaster (Gen. 37:21–22).
• Joseph knew his limitations and went willingly when his brothers sold him out for their own personal gain (Gen. 37:26–28).
• Joseph needed blind faith. He didn’t realize a rescue attempt was made after he was gone (Gen. 37:29).
• Joseph’s dreams took him to foreign places, and he was put in relationship with strange people. Because he believed God and followed with his whole heart, Joseph was favored by the Lord. God blessed those Joseph served, and he influenced many others (Gen. 39:1–5).
• Joseph proved himself trustworthy by his common patterns of integrity. He conducted himself the same way whether anyone else could see or not. Even when there was an appearance of impropriety, Joseph did not make excuses or blame others. He waited in the darkest place for God’s favor to shine (Gen. 39:6–23).
• Joseph helped those in need. He cared enough to ask why they were sad and interpreted their God-given dreams for them. Then he clearly communicated the request on his own heart (Gen. 40:1–15).
• Joseph spoke the truth, even when it wasn’t what the other person wanted to hear. Even though it must have been painful (Gen. 40:16–22).
• Joseph held on when hope seemed to be lost to the selfishness of others. Over the passing of years, he fulfilled his duties and took care of everyday business (Gen. 40:23, 41:1–8).
• Joseph was ready for the task when he was finally called back to service. Prepared by practice and pattern, he did not, however, take credit when it wasn’t his due (Gen. 41:40).
• Joseph didn’t slouch, play, or waste time when times were easy. Instead, like the ant, he took advantage of the opportunity. He worked hard and saved from the bounty. He prospered both professionally and personally because he was a wise steward over the blessings he and his master received. He trained others to do the same (Gen. 41:41–54).
• Joseph didn’t hoard his abundance. He shared with those in need. Even those who had hurt him in the past. He remembered his dreams and trusted that the hardship was part of the plan to make him better (Gen. 41:55–57; 42:1–6).
• As a man of integrity, Joseph wasn’t afraid to be bold in making his point. He demonstrated his authority and showed strength as the man in charge (Gen. 42:7–38; 43; 44).
• Joseph showered mercy on those who mistreated him, and the truth finally came out. He accepted the larger plan at work and blessed those who had cursed him. He shared his wealth with his former enemies (Gen. 45).
• Joseph didn’t steal from his employer. He turned everything he collected over to the one who owned it. Joseph was content with what he had been given. He didn’t resent not having more (Gen. 47:13–26).
If it hadn’t been for Joseph’s practice of integrity, many would have suffered and died.
Every company you work for, or with, affords you the honor of being a Joseph to them. Ask God to bless the work of your hands and that the overflow of those blessings would spill onto those around you.
Treat the business as if you owned it.
Ask that your company would affect the county, state, and federal, and global governments in positive ways. And keep your eyes open for opportunities to take action in accordance with the examples of those who obeyed God’s formula for successful living.
I wonder how Gary’s life might look had he chosen to practice integrity like Joseph.
Music filtered into Gary’s fuzzy mind. Praise music, energetic and uplifting. He twisted onto his side, tempted to hit the snooze, until the aroma of Maxwell House Breakfast Blend rousted him from the last vestige of sleep. He palmed the off button on the clock, leaned over, kissed his wife lightly, and got up. He scuffed to the kitchen.
“Thank goodness for automatic timers,” Gary said to himself while he poured a steaming cup of dark brew and settled at the table with his Bible. He bowed his head and prayed for wisdom, then dug into his study of Joseph.
A page of notes, two cups of coffee, and thirty minutes later, Gary closed his Bible and put everything away. He headed to the bedroom to wake his wife and get ready for work.
Gary listened to a message on the radio as he drove to the office. The speaker hit many of the same points he’d found in his personal study earlier. He chuckled and shook his head, “I hear you. Thanks for setting me straight.”
When he walked inside the building whistling, John, one of his coworkers said, “What are you so happy about?”
“I’m just rejoicing in this day the Lord has made,” Gary said.
“You’re nuts, you know that? Didn’t you hear about Mike? He’s the fourth one in two days they’ve let go. Who knows, we might be next.”
“I heard, but I’m not going to let it keep me from doing my job.
This is where my faith meets the road. I trust God more than my fears.”
“Like I said, you’re nuts.” John shook his head and skulked down the hall.
Gary clocked in and walked toward the growing pitch of men’s laughter. As he approached, Tom said, “Hey buddy, do you want in on the football pool?”
“I appreciate it, but no thanks. I’d better stick with earning my money.”
“Is a measly five bucks going to break you?” Tom elbowed the guy standing next to him.
Gary chuckled, “It isn’t that. My convictions simply won’t let me waste it. Five dollars could go into my children’s college fund, or even better, could help feed someone who’s starving. I appreciate the invite, but I need to get to work. I already clocked in.”
“Suit yourself. Always gotta be the do-gooder.” Tom turned his back to Gary, signaling disdain.
As Gary continued toward his office, he heard snickers and a few loud guffaws echo from the group of men. He prayed silently as he walked, “Lord, give me strength to do what will honor you and help others.”
Christy fell in step beside him as he finished the prayer. “Do you want to grab a cup of coffee with me?”
“Thanks, but I drank some at home.”
They arrived at the desk, but Christy hesitated while Gary settled
in. “I’ve been meaning to ask if you want to have lunch sometime?”
Gary’s fingers froze on the keyboard where he’d entered his password.
His thoughts jumped into hyperdrive. “Stay calm. It’s an innocent request. Lunch won’t hurt anyone; it’s harmless. But be honest, you do think she’s cute. Besides, what would Denise think? How would you feel if your wife had lunch with a guy she thought was cute? And remember Joseph. Look at the trouble Potiphar’s wife caused him.”
“I appreciate the offer Christy, but my wife and I have an agreement.
Thanks for asking though.”
Christy’s face turned red, and she flounced away.
Gary pulled up the report he needed to finish and wiped unhealthy guilt from his mind. Though he didn’t want to embarrass her, Christy’s heart wasn’t the one he vowed to protect. Denise held that honor.
Forty minutes later, Gary e-mailed the finished report to Mark, the CFO of First Capital Mortgage. Two days early. He helped one of the guys finish up a big project, then started the research for a presentation Mark wanted him to work on next. Engrossed, Gary worked five minutes into his break. The vibration of his iPhone alerted him Denise was calling.
Gary pulled the phone from his pocket, “Hi honey, what’s up?”
“I got a hold of the plumber, and he can be at the house tomorrow. Can you take off?”
“I don’t think it will be a problem. I’ll talk to Mark and make sure. I’ve got a presentation to prepare, but I can work on it from the house. I’ll call you at lunch and let you know.”
“How much do you think it will cost?”
“Probably not more than a couple of hundred, but don’t worry, we can always pull from our emergency fund if necessary.”
“Good. Don’t forget, Emma’s got practice until five, so I’ll be home shortly after. I’d appreciate it if you could start supper. There’s a casserole and the makings of a salad in the fridge.”
“No worries. I’ll see you at home. Love you.”
“Me too. Bye.” The line went dead.
Gary stretched his legs, stepped out to breathe some fresh air, then went back and jumped into the research again. He hardly noticed when Mark walked up to his desk.
“Can I see you in my office?”
Adrenalin coursed through Gary’s veins, “Sure. Do I need to bring anything?”
“No. I’ll meet you there in five.”
Mark walked away and dread caused Gary’s racing heart to skip a couple of beats. He rattled a mental list of projects to himself and found everything either finished or well on its way. He double checked the planner on his phone to make sure he didn’t miss anything, but again, all seemed in order. But Gary knew deep cuts were in the making. Their business suffered from the financial barrage of
a nation in distress.
Like a man walking death row, Gary made his way to Mark’s office. Outside the door, he tapped.
“Come in,” Mark said in his matter-of-fact manner.
Gary entered and sucked air when he saw Connie, the human resource manager, sitting next to an empty chair. Without uttering a sound, he walked into the room, noting a lack of oxygen around him.
Connie nodded toward him in silence while he held the armrests and eased into the seat.
“Gary, we have to make cuts. There’s no way around it. Positions must be eliminated.”
Gary squirmed, and the chair squeaked beneath him.
“I’m not sure you do. I asked Connie to bring your personnel file.” Mark patted a manila folder lying on his desk. “Your record is spotless. From my own observation, you keep your head down and do whatever I ask. I can count on you to get any job done well and on time. You take initiative, but don’t step beyond your authority level. Most notably, I don’t see evidence of money or time wasted, especially with office gossip. Even your travel expenses come in thirty percent lower than others. This company could use more employees like you.”
Instant heat caused Gary’s face to flush. “Thank you, sir.”
Mark continued, “In the last three years, we’ve only had two complaints about you.”
“You did? What for?” The words slipped from Gary’s mouth of their own accord.
“Nothing to worry about. Trivial and unfounded claims. It turns out both were driven by the same individual. He was misguided enough to think the way to get ahead was by making you look bad. It backfired. He’s no longer with us.
“For a time, the accusations made me question you, but your actions proved you’re a man I can count on.”
Gary’s thoughts flew to the man Mark referred to. He was a game player. As a result, Mark rode Gary hard for several months, but when Gary thought he’d reached breaking point, it stopped. The other man ended up losing his job. Suddenly, Gary realized Mark was talking again.
“. . . sorry about that. But it taught me a lesson. There’s something different about you, and we’d like to tap into that potential. We can’t know what the future holds, but if someone of your caliber would teach your secrets to our other employees, we might flip this downturn up. You’ve proven yourself trustworthy. We need help. And I think you’re the right man for the job. What do you say?”
Gary wrestled with how to answer. He wasn’t sure of the question.
He decided on straightforward. “Pardon me, but I don’t understand
what you’re asking.”
Mark chuckled and leaned forward, his fingers interlocked over Gary’s employment file. “That’s one of the things I like, you’re not afraid to clarify. I’m offering you a promotion of sorts. I can’t give you a raise at this time, but where others are let go, you still have your job. I’d like you to work with human resources to retrain those we keep and start new hires off on the right track. Are you interested?”
Gary’s shoulders softened and he expelled air he didn’t realize he’d held. “Yes sir, I am interested. You can count on me.”
“Great. Connie, can you get things rolling?”
Mark stood, signaling dismissal of the meeting. He extended his hand across the desk. “I expect good things. Don’t let me down. And one of these days, I’d like to find out what makes you different.”
Gary kept his eyes on Mark’s while he lowered his head slightly, pursed his lips, and shrugged his shoulders. “I try to be a Joseph. I ask God to bless our company through the work of my hands.”
“Hmm, interesting. Maybe we can schedule lunch and you can tell me more.”
Gary pumped his boss’s hand, “It would be my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity,” then walked out behind Connie. Gary couldn’t wait to tell his wife. He missed Connie’s small talk as he followed her to her office, distracted in a silent prayer of thanks.
Today’s job market is tough. With heroic effort, employees who choose God’s way refuse to justify inappropriate behavior. Heroes don’t offer excuses, and they’re not blinded by entitlement. Heroes remember they were hired to earn a paycheck, not simply collect one. Heroes don’t waste their employer’s money; instead, with integrity, they work the same whether someone can see them or not.
As you read on, I urge you to conduct your own fact-finding missions. At the end of each chapter, you will answer three investigative questions designed to help you decide whether you are taking every precaution to protect your job, your family, your employer, and our economy. Can the Joseph Factor improve your life?
Follow your dreams and leave justification behind. Answer the investigative questions and dare to be different. Become irreplaceable. Become a leader. But remember, great men and women first learn to follow in humility.
1. Do you labor for profit or does mere talk lead you to poverty?
2. Do you work as working for the Lord, not for men, since
you know that you will receive an inheritance from the
Lord as a reward? (Col. 3:23–24).
3. Is your behavior excellent among your coworkers so that
because of your good deeds, as they observe them, you glorify
God? (1 Pet. 2:12).
Here's my review of this terrific read: