We were stunned. No one would help us. My wife, Nancy, and I stood in the men’s department of a fine store, looking at new suits. In my mid-20s and having just completed my master’s degree, I was about to start a new job. I had received a very generous graduation gift, so we allocated it toward new dress clothes. I donned a navy pinstripe blazer and stared into the mirror, contemplating how seriously good I looked. Sales clerks were busy, apparently too busy laughing and chatting. After some awkward moments of no assistance, Nanc’ walked over to the sales counter and asked a question, anticipating that her inquiry might shake out some attention. Met with a curt answer, the associate’s nonverbal responses screamed, “I’d really rather not be pestered.” He quickly returned to his animated conversation with work cronies. They glanced my way and chuckled.
After several more minutes of being ignored, we looked at each other and shook our heads. We knew exactly what was taking place. They had sized me up, performed a snap judgment, and decided that I was not worthy of their time. “Too young. Not nearly professional enough in his current garb.” Apparently, I did not fit the profile of the typical big spenders who frequented their department. Why bother with me?
Snarky judgment and snide comments are extremely trendy, all-too-much the norm in our daily workplaces. Stephen Graves wisely urges leaders: “An organization that values people will demonstrate care by . . . how it communicates with people . . . It will treat them with kindness, fairness, dignity, justice, and compassion . . . intentional about treating people decently.”
Jesus made a very pointed prohibition in Matthew 7:1. “Do not judge . . .” And he proceeded to explain the rationale for his caution. Judging other people makes us very vulnerable in return. Jesus knew that judging others often has a boomerang effect. How do judgmental attitudes show up with our coworkers, employees, and clients? We think and say things like,
- “That had to be one of the most ludicrous presentations I’ve ever seen!”
- “Can you believe she only turned in those measly numbers last quarter?”
- “He is certainly not the sharpest crayon in the box. Can you believe he . . . ?”
- “I know before I even open this doc, their proposal is going to be a real joke.”
- “Whatever you do, don’t invite her to go to the conference. She always . . .”
Jesus probed: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:3-5). Extra-stunning to realize—Jesus was employing a comical picture, most likely straight out of his own experiences with woodworking in his family’s carpentry business (Mark 6:3). Jesus was no stranger to flying sawdust and boards.
Judging others at work is extremely dangerous. Christ calls us to work humble and helpful, not judgmental and hurtful. First, I must make certain I have addressed my own integrity issues before I jump to scold or correct others. First, I need to truly bring my A-game to the team before I label others as inadequate for the job. When I do believe I have genuinely discerned that something should improve or someone has room to grow, I must employ kind, empowering methods of addressing what/who needs changed (Gal 6:1-2). Work humble and helpful, not judgmental and hurtful.
A wise practice is to pause regularly for self-evaluation. Good doses of personalized judgment are healthy for our workplace interaction and influence. Two questions can assist you:
- With which coworkers or clients do you need to stop being judgy, and instead, start being more humble and helpful?
- Any wooden planks you need to first remove from your own eye, before you help someone remove their sawdust?
Nanc’ and I moved on to another store to make my professional clothing purchases. There is serious irony in the salespeople’s jump-to-judgment about me that day. What they did not know was that I had more than enough money in my pocket, a stash of cash thick enough to purchase not one, but two very fine suits. Though they never knew it, their judgmental outlook cost them some serious commission. Judging others at work can prove very dangerous. To this day, we chuckle over how they judged me, and all the more over their self-incurred loss in the process.
Stephen R. Graves. The Gospel Goes to Work: God’s Big Canvas of Calling and Renewal. (Fayetteville, AR: KJK Inc. Publishing) 2015, p. 125.