Teacher-scholar Column, Faith-learning integration in Business: Person, Not Object, by Matthew Fuss

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Faith-learning integration in Business: Person, Not Object

Matthew Fuss, PhD
Geneva College

Thus far, in these columns (no. 1; no. 2), I have addressed helping students develop a theology of management/HR. I have also attempted to debunk the underlying assumptions that misinform students’ ideas about faith and management while addressing and debunking the sacred-secular divide that students often struggle over.

In this entry, I address how I introduce and discuss the topic of human dignity with students. The goal is to help students make the connections between traditional Christian principles of what it means to be made in the image of God and how that might influence the practice of management.

Human dignity and value are rooted in Imago Dei (Gen. 1:26-28),[1] referenced in a previous blog. To summarize, the concept of Imago Dei is the powerful declaration that human beings are made in the image of God; we are image bearers of the divine and holy God who created us. This means that all people have intrinsic value outside of their accomplishments, or any other external consideration or circumstance. Given human nature, and especially in the highly competitive world of business, it is often difficult to truly embrace the idea that people have value outside of what they can do or perform for me.

Human dignity and flourishing are at the forefront of human resource management practices. Such practices focus more on individual happiness than organizational effectiveness and performance. By focusing on human flourishing, or happiness, businesses have shifted the focus to their employees’ well-being. Happiness is a dimension of organizational culture too often ignored in the past in favor of more pragmatic, people-based measures like engagement and satisfaction.

Managers are the stewards of the employee experience and as such are positioned perfectly to influence the happiness of employees and, therefore, have a significant effect on employee performance. There are ample studies showing that higher levels of employee satisfaction/engagement/happiness result in increased performance. One such study by Pugno clearly demonstrates the positive correlation between job performance and job satisfaction.[2] Other studies like Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report make it abundantly clear how important managers are to the happiness of employees.[3]

One of the major ways to differentiate ourselves as managers is to be purposeful in the way we treat people as image bearers. Consider how a manager might administer progressive discipline in the following example. After months or years of solid attendance, one of your employees suddenly starts to experience tardiness issues. Do you take the time to talk with him to understand his situation and then, given your knowledge of the specifics, offer suggestions to help him course correct? Or, do you simply move through the discipline steps as fast as possible with the end goal of having enough evidence to fire him? As Christians, we ought to take a servant leader perspective of management and focus primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which we belong.[4] Employees know whether you are out to help them or if you are out to fire them. The adoption of a servant leadership perspective is a subtle, yet profound way which we can live out our faith and be different than our secular colleagues.

Another practical way managers can honor the image bearing nature of their fellow workers is in the area of diversity. As a manager, do we truly embrace and value differences or are we looking to staff the company with people just like us? As Christians, we ought to have a different, more developed, understanding of diversity as representing an individual’s perspectives and beliefs, influenced and informed by their unique life experiences. We need to respect and appreciate people for their humanness, not just their practical value as employees.

As Christian managers our perspective of individuals should be different than our secular colleagues. If we truly want to live out our faith in the workplace then we have no choice but to be different and have a radically altered perspective of people. As we recognize the Imago Dei in others and come to value them first and foremost as image bearers, we will then treat them differently than if we simply see them as a means to a financial end.

As I always tell my students, it’s all about the people!


[1] Busuttil, L & Weelden, S. (2018).  Imago Dei and Human Resource Management: How our understanding of the breath of God’s Spirit shapes the way we manage people.  JBIB, Vol. 21, #1.

[2] Pugno, Maurizio. (2009). Job Performance and Job Satisfaction: An Integrated Survey. SSRN Electronic Journal. 10.2139/ssrn.1402566.

[3] https://www.gallup.com/workplace/393395/world-workplace-broken-fix.aspx?elqTrackId=9b8dff24f30849d9a55b641e496becfb&elq=d626cd11ea4b4f6f8cccc3a49330b502&elqaid=8826&elqat=1&elqCampaignId=

[4] https://www.greenleaf.org/about-us/

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