Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 18, 2009 / 24 Iyar 5769

How hard can I push my workers?

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


Printer Friendly Version

Email this article


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. My business is in an extremely competitive industry. Is there anything wrong with demanding long hours and hard work from my employees?


A. There's no question that hard work is an admirable trait. While it is true that the decree made to the first man, "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread" is presented as a curse, the sages of the Talmud explain that it also contains a blessing: directed work which refines and improves nature, like the cultivation and processing of wheat until it becomes bread, is a unique expression of mankind's special intellectual level.


But we must also admit that this trait can be overdone. In the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath day is given to the Jewish people specifically so that it may be a day of rest for everyone among us, including ourselves, our beasts and our servants (Deuteronomy 5:14). And the Torah tells us that we should not give our servants "crushing work" (Leviticus 25:43).


How do we draw the line between admirable and excessive work? According to Jewish law, this distinction is not based only on how much exertion is involved. Rather we have to be careful not to assign work that is gratuitous. Rashi 's commentary on the above verse explains that the definition of crushing work is "work which is unnecessary, in order to dominate him. Don't tell him, 'Warm this cup', when you don't need it." It goes without saying that busy-work is demeaning, but Rashi goes on to explain that this is improper even when the servant doesn't know the work is unnecessary.


The average employer probably doesn't need to be told that giving busy work is not the best way to show respect to employees, but many modern workplaces, especially the 24/7 variety, exhibit various kinds of hidden busy-work. These can violate the spirit of Jewish law, and also can be very counterproductive. They are the type of overtime that encourages employees to take "undertime." This is the term coined by Tara Parker-Pope of the Wall Street Journal for all of the tricks employees have learned to pretend they are on the job when they're really taking care of personal affairs.


For example, among large corporations in one country it used to be the custom that in the early evening all the managers would leave the office. But they didn't head home to their families; they all went together to a local bar. And woe to any aspiring manager who would dare skip this nightly ritual! It goes without saying that not much work was accomplished in these jaunts, but an employee who skipped them was sure to be passed over for advancement.


While this is an extreme example, employers in high-pressure workplaces would do well to review the demands made on workers. Most tasks are probably needed, and there certainly is a place to make certain demands in order to create a professional and collegial atmosphere. For instance, dress codes and occasional company social gatherings are certainly not gratuitous.


But if there is an ongoing pattern of norms that exist only to display assiduousness, then there is a chance that you are imposing "crushing work" on your employees. An example would be if employees are ashamed to be the first to leave the office, even if they've finished their work satisfactorily.


Generally, if the employer is careful not to demand gratuitous sacrifices from employees, the other aspects of a balanced workplace, including providing adequate opportunities for family life and personal development, will take care of themselves.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 118:1; Sefer HaChinuch 346

ARCHIVES

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.


JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

THE JEWISH ETHICIST, NOW IN BOOK FORM

You've enjoyed his columns on JWR for years. Now the Jewish Ethicist has culled his most intriguing — and controversial — offerings in book form.
HARDCOVER
PAPERBACK
Sales help fund JWR.









© 2009, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics