Some years ago, I had an employee who was not pulling his weight, and that was unfortunate because his position was critical to the organization. As I kept warning him about his failure to perform his job, our working relationship became strained and began to decline.

Things were getting bad and I had to do something, so I decided to let him go and hire someone who could do what was needed.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall, the man made a preemptive move and submitted his letter of resignation before he got fired. He told me in the exit interview that he was applying for a better paying position with the government.

Fine. It looked like he was making an upgrade and helping his family, so I didn’t have to be the bad guy and fire him. Problem solved. We shook hands and parted on amicable terms.

Two weeks later I got a “background check” visit from two officious-looking federal bureaucrats who wanted to know various things about my former employee who had applied to their agency. He had listed me as a reference!

They asked me a few questions about his personal background, none of which I could answer because I didn’t know him very well. He had been hired by the previous boss, so I wasn’t much help.

Then they got down to the nitty-gritty. They came straight out and asked if I would hire him again, and I replied with a quick and categorical “Never.”

They were a bit surprised at my negative reaction and wanted to know why.

“I’m so glad you asked,” I said.

I ticked off the man’s work ethic deficiencies, which I knew in great detail: lack of initiative; slothful performance of duty; poor stewardship of funds; zero creativity; bad hygiene; and an unwarranted sense of superiority toward others.

I could have continued, but I didn’t want to pile on the guy. The interviewers and I fell into an awkward silence.

Then I couldn’t help myself.

I blurted out: “But he’d be perfect for government work.” (Wink.)

Soul Work

Human relationships are difficult in the best of times. Working relationships can be downright painful if we get stuck at close quarters with people who have little concern for others or minimal focus on their mission.

The antidotes to bad relationships in any environment are straightforward honesty, decency, prayer and even light humor. These are human virtues which sweeten the harshness of life’s difficult relationships and situations. Their opposite values are deception, backbiting, negativity and dishonesty.

Who needs your prayer today? Can you lessen the difficulty of a harsh situation with a word of kindness? Rather than despising or mistreating others, lighten everyone’s burden with a bit of humor. It gets everyone’s mind off what is wrong and reminds us that we are all in this mess together.