Grace in the Workplace?
“I thought Christians were supposed to give grace,” he said.
It wasn’t my most successful performance review. After a couple of months of lackluster effort and missed deadlines, I wasn’t happy with his performance, and I let him know. I was hoping to give him constructive feedback to tell him that he needed to make some improvements but that I believed in him and wanted him on my team. I wasn’t sure how to handle his response. What did it mean to give grace in the workplace?
Grace is empowering.
Grace is one of the most important concepts in the New Testament. Paul opens with the words “grace and peace” in almost every one of his thirteen letters. Sometimes it’s defined as “unmerited favor” or God giving us what we don’t deserve. The author of Hebrews writes, “it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace.” Grace is active and empowering. Grace is always driving toward an end. God gives us grace so that we can glorify him in everything we do. This same word can also mean “blessing,” doing something for someone with no expectation of return.
So, what does it mean to give grace to other people? It starts with having their best interest in mind. We give grace because we want people to be the best they can be, not because we want to avoid a tough conversation.
Results matter. It’s tempting to think that the only way to be Christ-like is to compromise on our goals or to overlook someone else’s shortcomings. Giving grace means giving your people what they need to succeed, whether that’s specific encouragement, constructive feedback, a new assignment, or a second chance. It might also mean removing them from a position in which they cannot succeed. Truth spoken in love will always be a better witness than passivity.
Living like Christ at the office means reminding your team that there’s more to your relationship with them than the bottom line. Do the people on your team know where they stand? Do they know what it takes to succeed? Do they know where they can take a risk?
Think about grace as a gift you can give, a tool to empower, not a penalty to withhold.
Grace starts with the little things.
This is where I missed the mark and set both of us up for failure. I knew this guy was on a bad trajectory, but I didn’t do anything about it. When we finally got to the performance review, I couldn’t give him a second chance now because I had been giving him second, third, and fourth chances in my head for weeks before that conversation.
It takes more work, but it’s always better to have smaller conversations early than a big conversation when it’s too late. Grace doesn’t mean I own his failures, but it does mean I own my role in helping him do the best he can. Grace should have entered the process a lot earlier.
Grace means taking steps early and often to help the team succeed.
Grace means building people up.
In the New Testament, grace almost always comes from God. We should remember that God’s grace is different than ours. By his grace we’ve been saved. His grace transforms us to live like Christ, and his grace will raise us and take us to be with him for eternity.
Paul only mentions giving grace to one another one time. In Ephesians 4:29, he writes, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” This is the only explicit example of giving grace to others - saying things that build them up.
God calls us to be ambassadors for him. Giving grace to others reflects the grace we’ve been given. Are Christian supposed to give people grace at work? Absolutely. Let’s find ways to empower our teams, keep everybody’s best interest in mind, do the hard work of having tough conversations early, and always making an effort to encourage the people around us.
Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak.