Tom Pittman's WebLog

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2004 July 31 -- Salt in the Future

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" -- George Santayana
Lot was told not to look back. His wife did, and became a pillar of salt. Mostly I live in the future: I call it "future perfect" (a grammatical pun), learning from the errors of the past, having the guilt erased by the finished work of Christ on the cross, then with God's help not making those mistakes again.

Today is the last day of my formal employment. I was on a 9-month contract paid over 12, and it ends today. In the no-fault vernacular of today's climate, "There were mistakes made." I could have better disclosed the terms of my loyalty to my employer. Next time -- if there ever is a next time -- I will.

God commands me in Eph.6:5-8 to serve my employer wholeheartedly as if he were God, and subject only to God's higher Law and the law of the land, I try to do that. I believe I pretty much did that. Nobody is perfect, but when I screwed up, I changed my behavior and let my superior know that it would not be repeated. And it was not.

The problem is when my immediate supervisor has a different personal agenda than corporate policy, or when corporate policy differs from its public posture. Both of these happened. Which do I serve? "No man can have two masters."

I would not have expected this at a self-proclaimed "Christ-centered caring academic community," but my experience is that the only difference between the "Christians" and the pagans is that the pagans tend to be more honest about their faults and more forgiving of others. So the full disclosure I should have made, and will make in the future, is this:

I will serve corporate policy to the best of my understanding, so long as and to the extent that it is neither unethical nor unlawful. To lie is unethical, so if corporate policy differs from its public posture, and if I am required to affirm the public posture, I will serve what I affirm at the expense of corporate policy. To the extent that no such affirmation is required of me, I will tacitly serve whatever corporate policy I understand, but still subject to the stated limitations. I will try to make sure my employer understands those places where this discrepancy occurs, and which policy I am serving in those cases. When my immediate supervisor requests me to perform at variance with my understanding of corporate policy, I will document the difference (preferably in advance), and then perform as instructed (again as constrained by law and ethics).
I did all that at SBU. It still got me fired, and it made my superiors really unhappy, but I left with a clear conscience. I only wish I could have told them this in advance, so we might could have worked out an accommodation. If they wanted to.

I gave a lot of thought to the problem of supporting a less than virtuous corporate agenda. God alone is perfect, so the problem is not black and white, but how dark the shade of gray. I take instruction from Naaman the Leper, who announced his intention to serve his employer -- including when it required him to bow in his employer's idol-worship -- without staining his own conscience, and was blessed by the prophet [2Kings 5:18]. I will not lie, I will not knowingly disobey any applicable law, but my employer who has bought my labor is responsible for what he does with what he paid for, not I (except and to the extent that I am being paid to make those decisions). OK, there are some businesses I would not want to work for at all -- Naaman did not want to go into the temple of Rimmon at all -- but sometimes you have no choice.

All the employment applications ask why you left each previous employer. It really astounds me how many supposedly Christians effectively tell me to lie about getting fired. I cannot do that. I told SBU about the previous problems, and they thanked me for my "candor." I guess they assumed that they would not encounter the same difficulties. This one is a little more difficult, because there is less wiggle room for future employers to make the same assumption -- but make it they must, or I will never get hired again.

People don't like blame, so maybe I will say something like: "There were misunderstandings. I mistook their public posture for corporate policy, and they mistook my loyalty and integrity for hostility." And then point them at this longer analysis.