Lecture: How Should Christians Face the Compromise of Workplace Ethics?

A picture shows a man working on his laptop.
A picture shows a man working on his laptop. (photo: pixabay.com)
By Esther TianAugust 4th, 2022

Playing a more important role in the workplace in modern society, Christians have to face many real pressures and challenges. For example, will they compromise or stick to their values and beliefs while facing unspoken rules and "gray areas" in the workplace?

A few days ago, Mr. Li Xiaobo, who has many years of workplace experience, shared a speech with the title "Personality Ethics and Economy: How to Face the Compromise of Workplace Ethics?" in a lecture held on the platform named "Born by Love".

Appointed as the managing director of Hong Kong EBS Business System Co., Ltd. and the Shenzhen SVT Soft Valley Technology Co., Ltd., Li, with the burden of serving in the workplace, he has helped and trained many Christians in the workplace over the years.

Based on his own experience, Li shared the principles and methods for facing and dealing with the problem of "being unable to do good" encountered by Christian workers.

Below are excerpts from this lecture.

Question 1: What is the most important quality that an employee needs?

Mr. Li Xiaobo: We first explore the relationship between personality ethics and economics from the perspective of the character. Ask you a question: "As a candidate, what do you think is the key to your boss hiring you?" Then there is a similar question: "If you are a boss, what quality would you value most in employees?"

It is the character that excellent companies look for when recruiting, though others are also important, such as outstanding business ability, interpersonal connections, resources, good image, or good eloquence.

Just imagine, as a boss, will you hesitate to choose a candidate excellent in one aspect who is not very honest, or too tactful, or will do everything to achieve his goals?  Do you worry that he is not a person of integrity, or is likely to do things that are detrimental to the overall interests of the company for the sake of performance? Most companies and bosses may consider this.

Question 2: How do we identify "gray areas" in workplace activities?

Mr. Li Xiaobo: Though people yearn for integrity, unfortunately in reality the phenomenon of moral decline in the workplace abounds, with business ethics facing extreme challenges. Judges and lawyers are getting busier, especially those dealing with economic lawsuits. Unconsciously, people are in a gray area, so what moral standards should we Christian employees or business owners follow to make choices and decisions?

In order to find the spiritual motivation to make the right choices, we first need to understand three categories of business ethics:

1. The moral value of the services and goods provided in commercial business. For example, whether the goods and services provided are fraudulent.

2. The conduct of business people and institutions, like whether there is tax evasion.

3. The impact of business activities on society. Such as whether it has a bad impact on the community, whether it contributes to environmental pollution, or whether it produces wrong values.

After understanding these categories, we can probably judge whether our business activities are unethical.

 In addition, the following are some common "grey" phenomena, such as false advertising, unfair compensation, time theft, industrial espionage, price fixing, lying, harmful products, the disparity in executive pay, insider trading, sexism, gender discrimination, and bluffing (fraud). 

In the face of the above-mentioned phenomena, Christians who behave "differently" will inevitably be excluded, lose customers and orders, or even be unable to work in a certain industry. It is still difficult for us to "keep being ourselves" in such an environment.

Question 3: Faced with the decline of workplace morality, we have to make a choice: follow God or be secular?

Mr. Li Xiaobo: I would argue that Christians can survive, or have a foothold in the workplace by rejecting temptation, eating and drinking, kickbacks, and all kinds of "gray" behaviors. As the director of the southern China region of a listed company, I was sent to Shenzhen to start a business from scratch. From the very beginning, I let people know that I was a Christian, insisting that I would not eat, drink and be merry, take advantage of others, or make superficial efforts. But I will try my best to help customers get favorable prices and provide high-quality products and services. In this case, I am the first in the business with a growth rate of 20%-30% every year, rejecting excessive rebates which sometimes were even higher than my annual salary. These situations had happened many times, and my deeds influenced some people around me. My business manager joined me in worshipping the Lord, becoming a staff member in the church.

A male believer once encountered such a problem: foreign customers intended to visit his friend’s factory which was shabby but produced good products. Worried that the customer would not cooperate after seeing the factory, his friend let him take these customers to other factories. He refused as he was willing to recommend his good products to customers, but unwilling to lie for the factory. He felt that even if he was temporarily misunderstood by his friend, he could not deceive customers. His friends later forgave his "ruthlessness". Another male Christian who was to inherit his family business made clear to the people around him his identity as a Christian and his principles of handling affairs that he would completely eradicate the company’s illegal operations, even if he would lose business and suffer the loss of profits.

Question 4: How can we follow God?

Mr. Li Xiaobo: In the book of Kings, the standard for evaluating a king was what he did was right or evil in the eyes of the Lord. Therefore, it is very important to understand God's will to follow Him. But how can we?

1. The most direct way is to judge by the "Ten Commandments", which we can use to develop the code of business conduct.

(1) Put God first. See if you care more about other things than Him.

(2) Do not worship idols. It is easy for people to create an idol (sex, money, power) to worship, so you should be careful.

(3) Do not misuse the name of God. You can’t give God the "glory" in exchange for inner peace after doing unquiet things after prayers.

(4) Keep the Sabbath and do not let work occupy your thoughts. The Sabbath is important, as without God man may pursue money and fame and even live in sin. Especially asking us to observe Sabbath, God does not want us to be isolated from Him in our work and business.

(5) Respect parents and elders. Love and respect for family members can reduce crime.

(6) Don't kill people. It is very common to isolate others and indirectly deny others in the workplace, which harms them.

(7) Do not commit adultery. Be loyal to your spouse, so you can’t engage in sex to boost work performance in the workplace or increase sales with a sexy look.

(8) Do not steal. You can’t take something that belongs to someone else. If you fail to pay for workers’ wages or your debts, you are stealing from them.

(9) Do not give false testimony. You should tell the truth, both in advertising and sales.

(10) Don't be greedy, or envious and jealous of others. This is the innermost one of the Ten Commandments, which is related to the human heart and needs practice. You must satisfy yourself with the love of God, instead of indulging your unhealthy desires.

While obeying the Ten Commandments does not guarantee that a person will always do the right thing, it does ensure that he will make the right choice more often. A male believer said, "When we do things according to God's will and the principles of faith, even though we may lose some business, we can have a clear conscience. In the church, we do not need to repent, but enjoy the gathering, which is one of the joys in our lives."

If we love God, we see God above all else.

2. Consequence orientation is the second principle. What is consequence orientation? That is to make decisions based on goals or outcomes.

In other words, the greatest good decides what is right.

Following God's words, Abraham decided to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering, which seemed to be incomprehensible and against his own interests and humanity. It is the greatest good to obey God, so Isaac experienced rescue.

Rahab lied to her own people because with confidence she saw the kingdom of God which she was willing to die for. This is the greatest good, which must be related to God's expectations. Some people may say that if I take the kickback which I think will not affect the company's interests, I can do more tithing. This is wrong since God does not lack your contributions.

Consequence orientation has the advantage of emphasizing people’s responsibilities and being committed to human well-being. The downside is that we often cannot clearly predict the possible consequences of certain actions.

When it is difficult to define the greatest good, we can also use the following quizzes to make choices:

3. Psychological test

(1) Sleep test: Can I sleep well at night if I do this?

(2) Mirror test: If I do this, will it be uncomfortable to look at myself in the mirror?

(3) Child test: If I do this, will I be embarrassed to tell my child?

(4) News test: If I do this, am I afraid that the news will be discussed in public?

"The Holy Spirit has put conscience in us, and if you are uncomfortable, then please stop what you are doing. Jesus generalized the law into two principles: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Love is our code of conduct, as it can prevent us from sinning. Loving your family, you will stay away from extramarital affairs. Loving the church, you will stop complaining about pastors and staff workers to avoid disputes. If you love God, you will not dishonor the name of Christ by doing something that grieves the Holy Spirit," he concluded. 

 - Translated by Abigail Wu

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