National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Is Judging Wrong?

Family Matters

BY Art A. Bennett

October 21-27, 2001 Issue | Posted 10/21/01 at 1:00 AM


On my job, I'm a manager and I'm paid to judge people all the time. I often find it frustrating and difficult, and wonder if I'm doing something wrong. Didn't Christ say not to judge?

This is indeed a challenging and troubling aspect of being in charge. A manager has to integrate people with tasks and help them succeed. To do this, he or she has to judge the performance of employees.

At the same time, the manager needs to ask: “Am I doing all I reasonably can to help each person succeed?”

To do this well, we must differentiate between judging the performance and judging the person. As managers, our job is to judge only the performance: “Were the goals met? Did the report get out in time?”

In the heat of the moment, the distinction between judging the performance and judging the person can easily get blurred. We tend to like those who are doing their job well, and we're tempted to be harsh with those who perform poorly.

We need to realize that Christ calls us to love everyone — even poor performers. Loving, however, doesn't always involve an emotional connection. Rather, it means we want good for everyone.

In a manager's case, this means helping people succeed. When we take the time to train, assist and lead, we are, in effect, loving that person.

As managers, it's also our job to exercise authority respectfully, treating people, who are made in the image and likeness of God, with dignity. Their right to dignity and respect is independent of good or bad performance. Their dignity comes from God, and it's our job to acknowledge this.

It takes prayer and the grace of God to see people this way, and to treat them accordingly. We have to remind ourselves that the person is more important than the work itself. This doesn't undermine the value of the work; it just highlights the transcendence of people.

So, does this mean we can't reprimand or fire anyone? No. Working for the good of our employees doesn't rule out disciplinary action if they're unable or unwilling to perform.

Sometimes we may have to terminate an employee. These are never easy decisions and they always call for us to examine our own efforts. The key is be honest, respectful and available, and to provide whatever resources we can in the particular case.

Can our company still be successful if we put love and respect first, ahead of performance and tasks? Certainly — but in the end success is really more in God's hands. We're required to do our best as managers and we need God's grace for that. The normal result will be success; but the ultimate consequences are up to God, not us.

Art A. Bennett is a licensed marriage, family and child therapist.