|True Stories: The Angry Employee
Vic was trembling with anger as he drove home. “That stupid fool,” he said to himself. “If he thinks he can fire me like that, he’s got a big surprise coming!”Vic’s job had been going downhill for six months. When he had accepted the offer to work for Bob, he thought he had found the perfect job. Within a few weeks, however, he discovered that he was working in the middle of a battlefield.
Bob ran the company with an iron hand and pushed everyone to increase the “bottom line.” He never noticed when people did well, but he was quick to call attention to their failures.
At first Vic had tried to stay out of the conflict, but after two months he too was chafing under Bob’s treatment. He soon lost enthusiasm for his work and no longer invested extra creativity or energy in his designs. He often left work early, and he found it all too easy to enter into gossip sessions about Bob.
Vic’s disrespect for Bob was exposed that morning when he showed his co-workers a cartoon about an incompetent manager. Just as Vic was mocking Bob’s management style, Bob walked into the room. He grabbed the cartoon out of Vic’s hand and read it. Then he exploded, “You have fifteen minutes to empty out your desk and get off my property.”
Vic was so stunned that he quickly packed his things and left the office. But now he was angry. With each passing mile, he planned how he would make Bob pay for his wrong.
When he told his wife Karen what had happened, she too was furious. They agreed to file a lawsuit, and Vic called a friend from church to get a referral to an attorney. When his friend Al heard what had happened, he offered to come over to talk with Vic and Karen in person.
When Al arrived, Vic gave him a detailed description of all the things Bob had done wrong.”I can imagine how you feel,” Al responded, “but do you really think a lawsuit is the best way to handle this?”
“How else can I force him to correct what he’s done?” replied Vic. “Someone has to stop this guy from abusing people.”
“That may be so,” answered Al, “but if helping him to change is really your goal, a lawsuit should be your last resort. I’ve been to court, and believe me, going through a trial rarely motivates people to change. Whether they win or lose, they usually walk away more convinced than ever that they were in the right.”
“So what do I do?” said Vic. “Just walk away with my tail between my legs?”
“No, it sounds like this is too serious to walk away from. However, I think there’s a better way to handle it than dragging Bob into court. Why don’t you get your Bible and read Matthew 18:15 for us.”
Vic found the passage, but did not like what it said: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”
“But that’s if the other guy is a Christian,” Vic said. “There’s no way Bob could be a Christian, the way he’s treating me!”
“You can’t know that for sure unless you ask him,” replied Al. “And even if Bob doesn’t profess to be a Christian, trying to talk with him personally and privately would probably be wise. It may make him less defensive and more willing to settle this problem before it gets out of hand. That’s just simple wisdom, whether he’s a Christian or not.”
At this point Karen spoke up. “Vic, Al might be right. I was just as angry as you when I heard what Bob did. But if we react in anger, we’re no different than he is. I think we need to slow down and pray about this.”
“Okay, okay!” responded Vic. “I won’t hire an attorney yet. But you still have a lot of work to do to convince me that I should go and talk to him by myself.”
“That’s fair, enough,” said Al. “If you’ll get out a pencil and paper, I’ll give you a few other passages you can read to get ideas on how to deal with this ….”
Although Vic wrote down the Scripture references Al wanted him to study, he wasn’t in the mood to look at them that night. Instead he kept thinking about how he wanted to get back at Bob for firing him.
After a long and sleepless night, Vic dragged himself out of bed to face his first day without a job. By mid-morning, he was so restless that he decided to look at the scriptures Al had suggested.
First he read Matthew 7:3, where Jesus said, “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?”
Oh great! He thought. Now Al wants me to say this was all my fault. He just doesn’t understand what Bob did.
But then Vic read several passages dealing with employment relationships. As the Holy Spirit opened his heart, Vic began to see that he had failed to show Bob the respect and loyalty that should characterize a Christian worker. When he later read the passages to Karen, she too began to see that her husband was not as blameless as they had initially thought.
Vic called Al for further advice, and they met again that afternoon, Al showed him a process called the “Seven A’s of Confession.” They also discussed how Vic could help Bob see how he had contributed to the problem. Vic spent three hours praying, planning, and writing out what he would say to Bob. When Karen and Al read what he had written, they were amazed at how much God had changed his attitude toward Bob.
Asking God for courage and humility, Vic called Bob to ask if he could meet with him. Bob was inclined to say no, but Vic’s words and tone of voice were so respectful that he agreed to meet with him.
When they met in Bob’s office, Vic amazed Bob by confessing his wrongs in detail and acknowledging that he deserved to lose his job. When he closed by asking for forgiveness, Bob was so stunned that all he could do was mumble, “Uh, sure.”
Vic went on to say, “I appreciate that. I’d be happy to stop now. But if you would allow me to, I’d like to offer a few observations on how I think you may be contributing to the tensions with your staff. It might help avoid similar problems with other employees in the future.”
Vic’s offer was so sincere that Bob felt compelled to hear him out. Even though Vic spoke respectfully, he soon noticed that Bob’s eyes were filling with tears.
Vic paused. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I guess I should stop.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Bob replied. “You haven’t hurt me. It’s just that as you were talking I realized that you’re the first person who ever cared enough to talk to me like this.”
With that encouragement, Vic gently wrapped up his comments. Although Bob did not agree with all of his observations, he was so grateful for Vic’s concern that he was able to receive his advice without taking offense.
“You know,” Bob said, “This wasn’t all your fault. I shouldn’t have lost my temper and fired you the way I did. If you’d like to come back to work, I’d be happy to have you.”
“Thanks,” Vic said, “That means a lot to me. But Karen and I have been praying about this, and we’ve decided this was God’s way of confirming our feeling that we need to move back to our home town where we can be closer to her parents. They’re getting older, and we’re their only family. But I sure appreciate your offer.”
“Well,” Bob replied, “I really will be sorry to see you go, especially after what you’ve done here today.”
Realizing that he had a special window of opportunity, Vic asked if he could pray for the two of them. Bob’s eyes showed his surprise, but he said yes. Vic thanked God for his forgiveness and for helping them to have such a good talk. He also asked the Lord to minister to Bob and help him to see what changes to make in his business.
As Vic walked to his car, he was so caught up in praising God that he almost collided with a former co-worker. “My goodness,” she exclaimed, “You look awfully happy for someone who just lost his job.”
“I am!” he replied. Seeing her puzzled look, he sensed that God was opening another door. “This may sound strange,” he went on, “but let me tell you what I’ve learned about myself in the last couple of days ….”