Ask a person what’s wrong with their job, and you’re opening a Pandora’s Box. You’ll hear everything from stupid managers to idiot co-workers. But when you boil it down, most people’s complaints will run to a common theme. People want to be treated like people, to be useful, and to feel useful. And most of them people aren’t getting it.
But we’d never do those things, would we? The people we serve would never say anything like that about us, would they?
Yes, they would, and more than likely, yes, they are.
All too often, leaders get involved with some ultimate goal and forget the people that are on the journey with them toward that goal. Even Christian leaders, who should always be about the people they serve, fall prey to letting tasks and objectives become more important than people. When that happens, people are dehumanized, relationships are replaced by tasks and to-do lists, and human beings become human resources. In short, we objectify people instead of personalizing them.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to objectify other people: when we get too wrapped up in our work, when we get stressed, or when we let something else become the center of our lives besides Jesus; at these times we tend to lose sight of what’s really important and we start to objectify the people that we are supposed to be serving.
People don’t like to be objectified, and they won’t stand for it for long; morale suffers first, then productivity, and then you start losing people. Your movement, your business, your organization, your team, your whatever quickly ceases to be productive and starts running on autopilot as everyone checks out.
Our students need to learn this lesson. We can teach them in a classroom setting (and we should, see the warning signs below), but much more effective is showing them. Use yourself as an example; be the model for their behavior. Before we can show them or teach them, we should probably make sure that we aren’t objectifying people ourselves.
Here’s some warning signs that may indicate you are objectifying people (share them with your students).
If you think of people by their jobs, or associate them only with the jobs that they do, you are probably objectifying people.
If you use labels like “the ________ (fill in the blank with a job or position) you are probably objectifying people.
If you think in stereotypes instead of an individual’s personality, you are objectifying.
When we demotivate people with countless to-do lists, endless and thankless tasks, and work that doesn’t utilize their skills or strengths, we are objectifying them instead of encouraging them.
When we think of people as resources to use or pieces of a puzzle for us to fit together, we are objectifying.
When we don’t care about people, their families, and their lives outside of work; when we can’t even remember that people have a life outside of work, and when we’re not interested in a genuine relationship with the people that we serve, we are objectifying.
The bottom line is that objectifying people is the exact opposite of what Christ expects of us. We are to treat people as we want to be treated, and that means treating every person like a person, not an object.