These pages are about the men and women who work in our institutions, 'our employees', or much more truly, 'our collaborators'. Their number country wide is in the tens of thousands and the range of skills and services they represent is vast. Doctors and professors, craftsmen and technicians, nurses and teachers: these and many others are among this number. While it treats of all, this book is nevertheless chiefly written with an eye to the less skilled among them, the majority: the cooks and the malis, the chowkidars and those who sweep and clean.

It is these, 'the voiceless', that are our chief concern. Many of them are old and have spent all their working lives with us. Many, after decades of service, have become part of our family; they know much of our family history and are, as someone has said, 'living archives'. Their services are precious. Many of them have a deep faith and apostolic element in their service, and work in a spirit that far transcends the ordinary employer employee relation.

Superiors come and go but they remain. Each new superior means new apprehension and every departing superior carries away the institutional memory of much labour and sacrifice. Their own limited learning, joined in many instances with their daily presence in an educational institution, sharpens their concern for their own children's schooling. Many live away from the place where they were born and grew up; often they feel marginalized, exploited and used. Their housing, always simple, is frequently make shift, making it more difficult for them to meet their social needs and to recover a sense of community. Frequently, their prospects for growth and promotion within the institution are severely limited, and as the years pass, they see friends in industry surpass them in wages and other benefits. Even psychological rewards only infrequently come their way. Their work is always supportive, their role always secondary.

They seldom speak of these matters but they observe; they have much time for that and the regularity of their labour makes possible our level of living and working.

This book is also about the institutions they work in, their responsibilities and treatment towards those whom they engage: what they are., what they must be, what they could be. These organizations, like the personnel within them, are many and varied: the parish, the convent, the school, the technical institute, the social welfare centre, the hospital, the religious community, to mention only a few. This very variety of function, size and location, some urban, others rural, makes it difficult to speak simultaneously to all; therefore administrators must be adaptive in their application of our remarks. We have thought it best, consequently, to address our remarks primarily, but by no means exclusively, to urban institutions with a considerable number of employees. Smaller institutions, especially those in rural areas, will find much that is not immediately applicable, but even in these cases; we hope that, according to circumstances, the remarks will be suggestive guidelines towards a more effective witnessing to justice.

While about employees, this book is written primarily for those in positions of responsibility in church related institutions: the parish priest, the principal, the hospital administrator, the institute director, the community superior all these and others responsible for work and employment conditions. For want of a better word, we will hereafter refer to all of these as 'the administrator' unless the context suggests a more specific designation.

The book is written for 'the administrator' with three hopes.

The first hope is that it will contribute, if not in itself, at least by the discussion it may provoke, to the social awareness of the administrator. All of us are prisoners of our environment. Unconscious assumptions, hidden prejudices, and other blind spots obscure our vision of social contradictions. There is always a gap, a perceptual gap, between the image the institution has of itself and the image shared by others. An administrator can still speak of 'servants' and fail to see the indignity involved, the attitude revealed.

The roofs of our educational institutions can shelter illiterate workmen for years; a well intentioned but misconceived leadership style can keep employees in life long immaturity; due process can be ignored even in institutions of social service, and unexamined practices can systematically thwart efforts to build a true human community of service.

The second hope is that it will spur the administrator to greater competence. All administrators, but particularly, perhaps, those of church related institutions, must be convinced that good intentions are not enough. The knowledge, skills and attitudes of effective administrative behavior do not come with appointment. Love alone is not efficacious. Love must be intelligent, painstaking, and as required, technical. Those who choose to employ must assume all the responsibilities that are inherent in engaging the services of others. The common expectations and accepted practices of the employer employee relationship must be learned and observed. This means constant fact finding, dialogue, humility and a great value set on the spirit of enquiry.

Another spur to developing his or her competence can be the consideration of the distressing situations caused by mismanagement. To speak of the 'sin of mismanagement' might be too strong an expression, but since work is so central to the life of an employee, anything that renders it needlessly painful and degrading, cannot be a matter of indifference. Mismanagement can cause so much heartburn and distress that we can truly speak of the moral obligation to manage well.

What is needed, perhaps, is the liberation of the concept of management. The concept of management is not and should not be tied to the business enterprise, a privileged class, or a particular socio economic system. Management is a practice, specifically human and singularly humane, that is required by all people, in any organization, under any socio political system. Some of the most contemplative and pastorally effective saints have been effective managers.

The pages that follow contain many guidelines, common practices, and also legal obligations. These indicate minimal standards and are, by necessity, often negatively stated. We hope that the frequent reference to legal obligations and minimal standards will not blind the administrator to the necessity of a much more positive approach.

Beyond knowledge and observance of these minimal obligations, a far greater competence is demanded of the administrator today. Formerly, administrators could rely much on the authority their position or designation gave them. Today the authority of position may well be the least of their means of influence, for today leadership is not given but must be earned. The ability to lead will be based far more on the power of competence, hard work and personal authenticity, as today's demands on leadership are more exacting and moral than ever before.

The third hope is that the administrator will recognize and meet a specific challenge of our days: the challenge of creating the new human community of work, service and love. All too often church-related institutions have lagged behind their secular counterparts in many aspects of employer employee relations. All too often the impetus for new forms of employer employee relations and for social justice generally, has found its origin outside the Church: in the solidarity and fraternity of the labour movement, in the stress on human values of the behavioral sciences, and in the contradictions revealed by secular social analyses.

Today the training halls of management and labour in the country and abroad resound with the values of individual dignity, authenticity, credibility, dialogue, participation, concern for people and the climates they work in, teamwork in organizational activity. Human resource development attracts industry, Government and education's attention. These are widely shared values today, if not in practice, at least notionally. One can only admire their emphasis and the seriousness with which they are pursued.

And yet as wonderful as they are in themselves, the fully functioning community of service needs for its ultimate form a faith dimension. This the church related institution can give. We hope that the administrator, building on the best of the natural, will create an atmosphere of skill, dedication, and service wherein not only individuals but the institution as a community will, through its climate, interpersonal relations, and dedicated teamwork, be a consistent and continuing witness to justice. As the Synod of Bishops affirms

“While the Church is bound to give witness to justice,, she recognizes that anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes. Hence we must undertake an examination of the modes of acting and of the possessions and life style found within the Church herself”
Justice in the World

 

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