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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 April 24, 2006 / 26 Nissan, 5766

Supervising Workers

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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How much worker supervision is too much?


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: New technology enables employers to keep tabs on workers' every action. How much surveillance is ethical?


A: The relevance of this question was brought home to me recently in the form of a new twist on the old evening news line, "It's ten o'clock. Do you know where your children are?" A huge billboard advertising GPS tracking equipment read: "It's 11:00 AM. Do you know where your workers are?"


We related to this question in an earlier column from the point of view of the rights of the worker. We pointed out that on the one hand worker oversight is certainly necessary and appropriate; the Talmud tells us that someone who has inherited a lot of money and wants to lose it fast should hire workers and not supervise them. (1) On the other hand, employers shouldn't try to dig up private information about workers unless they need the information for a specific constructive purpose, and will use the information in a fair and equitable way. (Example: giving the worker the right to respond; not summarily firing the employee unless there is clear and present danger from worker behavior.) These are the same criterion they would have to apply if they had the information and were considering whether to pass it along to someone else. (2)


This week I want to focus on another aspect of the question: not whether surveillance is legitimate, but whether it is effective. Excessive oversight may be counterproductive for a number of reasons:


1. It limits the employee's freedom to use judgment and thus robs the employer of much of the worker's unique ability.


2. As a consequence, it can stifle the worker's creativity, reducing his ability and morale.


3. Ultimately, lack of trust in the worker may be reciprocated by a lack of commitment towards the employer, resulting ironically in less compliance rather than more.


The great American general George Patton was a stickler for iron discipline. He is quoted as saying, "There is only one kind of discipline: perfect discipline." Yet this same manager is known for the words: "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." Employees have to carry out orders, but employers have to know how to give directives that don't stifle their worker's abilities.


We can find a model for this approach in the construction of the Tabernacle at the time of the journey of the Children of Israel through the desert over 3,000 years ago. The Tabernacle, or Mishkan, was the main vehicle for spreading consciousness of G-d's presence in the world. Its construction is considered in our tradition as the archetype of all constructive labor, so much so that when the Torah prohibits "labor" on the Sabbath day, our Sages learned that the particular labors forbidden were precisely those needed for the work of the Mishkan.


On the one hand, we find that the plan of the Mishkan and its utensils were described to Moses in a detailed prophecy. Yet Moses delegated the actual handiwork to the people in a way which gave maximum latitude to their individual talents.


This began with the donations of raw materials by all the people. Moses did not dictate who should give, rather "Then came each man whose heart inspired him, and everyone whose spirit moved him" (Exodus 35:21). He also did not provide an exact inventory of materials and quantities; rather "Every man and women whose heart moved them to bring for all the work that the Lord commanded through Moses to do, the children of Israel brought as a donation to the Lord"(Exodus 35:29). Ultimately, the Torah tells us that they brought far more than was necessary.


Likewise, the handiwork was not dictated but rather delegated. The chief workmen, Betzalel and Oholiav, were endowed with "skill, insight and inspiration" (Exodus 35:31). But they also did not merely dictate to their subordinates, for the Torah tells us that the individual laborers were also "every wise hearted person, whom G-d endowed with skill and insight, to know how to do all the handiwork of the sanctified labor which G-d commanded" (Exodus 36:1).


When the Torah tells us that Betzalel did "everything G-d commanded Moses" (Exodus 38:22), Rashi comments that he didn't do everything Moses commanded him; rather, his inspiration and insight led him to fulfill G-d's original plan even when Moses' instructions differed slightly.


The Tabernacle in the desert is considered a model for all our efforts to apply human ability to make the entire world a suitable abode for G-d's presence. Its construction can likewise serve as a model for an ideal workplace, where the employees are fully dedicated to the success of the project at hand and apply all their individual talents and abilities, rather than merely serving as automatons carrying out precise directives from their superiors.


SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 29b. (2) Chafetz Chaim. volume II chapter 9; Responsa Halachos Ketanos 1:276

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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.


Previously:

Should I turn in a colleague for inappropriate acts?
Priority in charitable giving
Trolls and ogres
How many hours of work is too many?
Can I promote my product by having it unobtrusively written into a story?
He's not heavy he's my brother
All's fair in war?, II
All's fair in war?
Girth vs. worth
Is it proper to tax bequests?
Ethics of Being Overweight
Penalized for working swiftly
When is it a bluff?
'Rate and switch'
My paycheck is late!
Should schools cater to an elite?
All's fair in love?
Comfort and Competition
Do I need the caller's permission to put a call on the speakerphone?
Overtime for lost time
Is it unethical to play suppliers against each other to get the lowest bid possible?
Do family members have precedence in charity allotments?
What the world of business can teach us about our annual process of repentance and renewal
Are religious leaders subject to criticism?
Vindictive Vendor: How can I punish an abusive competitor?
Blogging Ethics: Is the blogger responsible for defamatory posts?







© 2005, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics