In September of 2016, news reports revealed Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees who created over 1.5 million unauthorized accounts for customers. If a customer opened an account at Wells Fargo, the employee who opened the account received credit toward performance goals. Some employees also opened extra accounts customers didn’t request, boosting their monthly sales. According to early reports, senior leaders at Wells Fargo defended the company’s actions, explaining the frauds as the result of employees who didn’t understand what was expected of them. However, later reports pointed out contradictory messages—executives instructed employees to not create fraudulent accounts but those same executives offered incentives that rewarded performance above all else.
A Broken Culture
One popular way to understand this scandal is to think about the culture created by executives at Wells Fargo. Executives and middle managers created a culture where the chief motto was performance at any cost. While the company had an ethics statement and some employees may have completed ethics training, supervisors gave bonuses and promotions based solely on the number of accounts employees created. Employees who wanted to do well had little choice but to go along with the culture and create the fraudulent accounts.
While this kind of culture does explain the scandal on one level, why do employees go along with something that’s so clearly wrong? Why do supervisors and executives prioritize performance ahead of ethical and legal considerations? The answer lies in their perspective about work.
A Broken Perspective
Your perspective is a lens, a way of seeing the world. One perspective sees the purpose of work as making money. More specifically, the purpose of work is to make as much money as possible. From this perspective, people make small decisions that don’t seem like that big of a deal in order to make more money.
“I’m a bit behind my goals for the month. This person came in for a checking and savings account, but I can set up an extra account. They might need it one day.”
Pretty soon, those small decisions become routine. The employee who created an account here or there to keep up with goals receives a bonus for doing so. The next time he or she is short toward the end of a month, it’s too easy to create another account or two. Maybe the next month is really good, and the employee can get an even bigger bonus by setting up more fraudulent accounts. When your perspective is all about making money, things can quickly get out of hand.
A Godly Perspective
But God calls Christians to a different perspective. What does that mean? Look at what Solomon says in Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” Unless God guides your work, you work in vain. Pretty sobering, isn’t it?
Solomon goes on in verse two: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat.” Do you ever feel like you work harder and harder without seeing any payoff? The verse finishes this way: “for He grants sleep to those He loves.” God gives peace to those people who seek Him. Peace so they can sleep at night. Peace so they don’t have to spend hours upon hours spinning their wheels. Part of having a godly perspective at work is making sure God is at the center of your work. Ask yourself questions like:
- Am I praying about decisions at work, even the little decisions?
- Do I treat people the way Jesus would treat them?
- Am I a slave to Christ or to the clock?
Don’t hear me saying a godly perspective will always make your work successful in the sense that most people measure success. Look at some of the prophets and apostles. Many of them preached and were ignored by people. Many were even martyred. Despite a godly perspective, they were not always “successful.” But a godly perspective means that you measure your performance differently.
Just like those Wells Fargo employees, many of us are evaluated against performance goals. Those evaluations are particularly important. God cares that you do quality work (look at the parable of the talents in Matthew 25). But remember that He is the ultimate judge of your work. Colossians 3 says that you’re “working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
With this new perspective, your talk is different. You don’t lie or gossip. You respect authority, even when the boss is not looking. Those things may make you the subject of ridicule from your coworkers, who laugh at you for being soft and not cut-throat enough. You may miss out on promotions because you turn the other cheek instead of going for the kill. Remember Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”
So this godly perspective may not get you the promotions that others get. In fact, it may make you the subject of ridicule in the dog-eat-dog world of business. But look at what Jesus says are the benefits of a godly perspective. Immediately after saying that you cannot serve both God and money, He states, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” Freedom from worry only comes when you take on a godly perspective and “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.”
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24
Johny Garner has a Ph.D. in communication and is an associate professor at Texas Christian University. He studies organizational communication. Tweet him @johnygarner or visit MondayMorningChristianity.com.
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: January 17, 2017