Tuesday, March 18, 2014

bad bosses

Ever worked for a bad boss? There are some horror stories out there about the crazy things people in positions of power do to those who are working for them. Here is one example: "My boss had his 80+ mother-in-law working for him as his accounts payable employee so that he wouldn't have to just give her money to live on...she had no income! His mother-in-law was in his office upstairs from mine, he calls my name very loudly and I ran up stairs. He was talking to his wife on his cell phone. Without hanging up from his wife he says to me, 'Would you mind giving her the Heimlich maneuver, she can't breathe.'" [1]

Daniel, one of the young Hebrew nobles carried off to Babylonian captivity around 600 BCE, knew all about working for a bad boss. The subtitle for Daniel chapter 2 could well be: "When the Boss Wants Your Head."  In the book of Daniel we find that king Nebuchadnezzar has conquered Israel and dragged their best people to Babylon so that they can work for him. One night the king has a disturbing dream and asks a bunch of his wise men not only to interpret it but to tell him the dream. The magicians and sorcerers protest, insisting that this is an unreasonable and impossible demand. Suspicious and angry, the king becomes adamant, calling them liars and conspirators; he lets them know that if they can't tell him the dream and interpret it, they will all be killed. And since no one can do what the king has demanded, they are all sentenced to death.

The chief of the royal guard comes to find Daniel and his friends to round them up for the execution (the four Hebrew men were counted among the wise men) and Daniel asks him what's going on. When Daniel hears about the king's outrageous demand, he goes to the king and asks to be given a bit of time to discern the elusive dream and its meaning. After he is granted this temporary reprieve, he goes to his three friends and asks them to pray and plead with God for mercy. They know that if God does not reveal the dream, they are all dead.

At night the dream is revealed to Daniel in a vision. In the biblical account, this divine revelation is followed by Daniel uttering a poetic prayer of praise to God. Daniel then goes to the chief of the royal guard and tells him to stop making plans for the executions because he has received the meaning of the dream. The chief of the royal guard wastes no time in bringing Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, and there Daniel tells the king his dream and the meaning behind it. The king is astounded and as promised, gives Daniel many gifts. Nebuchadnezzar declares that the god who revealed this to Daniel is the God of all gods. After Daniel is promoted to be head of all the wise men, he asks the king to grant his three friends positions of authority in the kingdom.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a bad boss if there ever was one. He made unreasonable demands, threatened those under him with death if they did not deliver, made sweeping pronouncements without impunity, lumping good in with bad, and let anger cloud his judgment. Daniel, however, had some wisdom when it came to dealing with a bad boss. He acted with discretion, prudence, and wisdom, we are told (v. 14). Here are a few observations.

1. When Daniel was faced with an unreasonable demand, he did not protest or complain as the other wise men did (which only made matters worse), but asked for time to find a solution.
2. When he was faced with injustice (all were being punished for the failure of a few), he did not demand an exemption, but inquired into the details of the situation so that he could address the cause of the king's anger. Once he was informed of the facts, he asked for the chance to provide a solution.
3. When he was overlooked and not consulted (though he was known for his wisdom), he never took offence nor compared himself to the other wise men, but sought a way to help everyone: the angry king, the incompetent wise men, as well as himself and his Hebrew friends.
4. When he got a chance to prove himself, he sought out his trusted friends and asked for their help. They all appealed to the mercy of God and then they waited.
5. When he received a solution to the problem at hand, he did not rush out to the king or to tell his friends, but first gave thanks to God.
6. When he was rewarded for a job well done, he did not forget his friends, but asked for rewards for them as well.

Though essentially a slave, Daniel, through his actions, shows us a man who is free. In an extreme pressure situation, he does not respond with anxiety, fear, or despair. Instead of being reactive, he is proactive, calm enough to ask good questions and plot a wise course of action. It soon becomes clear that the reason for this peaceful demeanour is that Daniel believes it is ultimately God who holds authority and not the king. Though he is a foreigner in Babylon, an outsider in many ways, especially when it comes to religion and culture, he does not hesitate to put himself in the position of a mediator, an intercessor, and in this instance, a saviour for the people he works with. They, no doubt, would not have returned the favour, because Babylon, after all, operates from a conquering mindset, not a serving one. Daniel not only saves the lives of many that day, but by procuring positions of authority for his friends, he also provides excellent managers for the kingdom, situating it for prosperous and wise management in years to come. That's the kind of humble, serving leadership that we all could us a little more of these days.

[1] Bad boss story from http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2009/08/13/worst-boss-stories-ever/

1 comment:

Shelley said...

I am laughing because I just checked my work email...which was unpleasant today...and then came over to check my gmail where I see this post about bosses. LOL

Numbers 1 & 2 anyone?

thanks for the reminder Matte...taking deep breaths into who I am now...be myself...be who I want to be...be proactive, not reactive...ack!!!

In this moment it feels so against the grain!

thanks though...because my quick reaction was/is not pretty. :)

and: icing on the cake, the text underneath to 'prove you're not a robot' today is Warrior. LOL