The Unexpected 'Common Denominator'
- June 4, 2012
- Rick Boxx
Years ago, a friend was complaining to me about several employees he had fired in succession after they had held a particular key position in his company. "They are all idiots," he said. "None of them measured up to what I want."
After listening to him detail the supposed shortcomings of each of those past employees, and also knowing my friend had always struggled with perfectionism, I understood the real problem. The issue, it seemed clear to me, was not the former employees – but the man that employed them.
When my friend concluded his negative appraisals of the workers, I tried to sound as non-judgmental as possible as I commented, "I only see one common denominator in all of this." He immediately knew I was referring to him. Taking my perspective into consideration, he determined to use that information to revise his expectations for the job. Recently he told me how grateful he was for my gentle rebuke.
Obviously I could have kept quiet and simply listened to my friend’s complaint without offering any feedback. But I felt it was important that he see his dilemma from an objective viewpoint. Even though it might not always be easy to offer constructive criticism without the risk of offending, sometimes a caring rebuke is what a friend needs.
As Proverbs 28:23 in the Old Testament of the Bible teaches, "He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue."
There is another side to situations like this – the degree of willingness by the other party to accept well-intended correction and take it into account for future action. My friend could have dismissed my observation that he was the “common denominator” in the failure of the terminated employees. Instead, he humbly thought about what I had said and determined to take corrective steps. Here are some other thoughts from the book of Proverbs about rebuke and correction:
Willingness to accept correction leads to success. A sincere rebuke is a form of discipline, because the person offering the corrective words is usually seeking to help in bringing about a reasonable solution to a problem, one that can benefit everyone involved. As Proverbs 10:17 states, “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” Proverbs 13:18 adds, “He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.”
Unwillingness to consider a kindly rebuke is foolish. In our work situations, often we find ourselves too close to problems to see the right solution. The insights of a trusted friend or colleague can provide information we could easily ignore or overlook. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1).
A timely rebuke can avert devastating consequences. If you were driving on an unfamiliar road and about to go into a ditch, you would want someone familiar with the area to warn you of impending danger. The same is true if you are on the verge of making a disastrous decision. “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death” (Proverbs 13:14).
Copyright 2012, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from "Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx," a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.
1. How do you typically respond to words of correction or rebuke? Do you become defensive, or are you usually receptive to considering the validity of what is being said and determine what action, if any, you should take? Explain your answer.
2. Looking at this subject from the opposite angle, how easy – or difficult – do you find it to rebuke or correct someone else when you believe that person is doing something improperly or in error? Give an example if you can.
3. Why do you think the verse from Proverbs states that the person giving a necessary rebuke will “in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue”? Do you believe that is true? Why or why not?
4. Which of the other principles cited from Proverbs – if any – seem most applicable or significant to you?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Proverbs 9:8-9, 13:1, 27:5; Ecclesiastes 7:5; Luke 17:3-4; 1 Timothy 5:1; 2 Timothy 3:16, 4:2