“I kept my employees working”

crop woman counting money at modern office table
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Over the past few months, there have been various employer responses to this Pandemic when it comes to their business: furlough, layoffs, closures, and sacrifice.

Furlough is the idea that you intend to have your employee back but lay them off temporarily and, in the meantime, you can keep them on your company health care.   Layoff is simply letting people go, in mass, because you can’t afford to keep them.  In the early ninety’s and during the 2008ish market crash we called that “downsizing.”  Some businesses either closed some of their units and branches or went through some form of bankruptcy.  The restaurant business has been hit particularly hard resulting in hundreds of the closing their doors for good or some of their weaker performing units.  The same can be said for the retail business.

But amidst all of this, some Servant Leaders have taken a sacrificial approach.  They have sacrificed their income or business profits for the sake of their employees.  Rather than sacrificing their employees they themselves bore the brunt of the sacrifice, financially.  I know of at least one CEO of a retail chain who decided to give up his salary so he could keep some of his team members on.

One of the most heartening and repeated stories I hear on the news or read in articles are employers who have not taken income for themselves so they could keep their employees employed.

Quoting a restaurateur: “I’m not making any money, but at least I can keep my employees working.”  (paraphrased from an interview I saw on a local news station)

This breaks my heart and at the same time renews my faith in leaders who care more for others than themselves.  It reminds me of a quote from Simon Sinek’s book, Leaders Eat Last.  He said, “great leaders sacrifice numbers to save the people, poor leaders sacrifice people to save the numbers.”

Simon wrote this pre-pandemic and so he wasn’t speaking to such unusual circumstances as we have today.  He wasn’t condemning companies which had to issue furloughs or layoffs.

There is no judgement here of you dear leader.  Everyone is in different circumstances, and everyone has different abilities.

Yet, there is still something that rings true for the realities of today.  There is something there as we watch and observe how different companies deal with this pandemic and the economic recession or depression that is created because of it.

Sacrificial leadership is Servant Leadership.  From Scripture we read: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16, NLT)

Sacrificial Leadership is the act of “giving up” something for the sake of others.

It could be giving up your time or listening patiently. It could be surrendering to your real feelings and confessing your own weaknesses.  It could be writing a personal note to some of your team members.   It could be working with someone who you had to lay off, being there for them and helping them find their next gig.  Or in this case, sacrificial giving up your own income for the sake of your employees.  There are a variety of things you can do to serve the people you lead.

The question is not as much what you gave but how you gave.

It circles around the heart of the Servant Leader.

Let me leave you with this challenge question: what can you “give” the people you lead, and even more, the people you’ve let go?



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