Transcending Justice

A friend supervises many people. Two of them have a negative orientation and criticize all proposals. They feed off each other and they create a climate in which everyone suffers. My friend invited one of them to engage in a desirable task.

Her boss was surprised and asked, “Why are you giving that person ‘perks’ he doesn’t deserve? If you’re going to involve your staff, involve someone who’s earned the privilege.”

She replied, “I understand what you’re saying, but I want this guy to improve his performance. I think he’s more likely to be responsive if he knows that I value him and his opinions.”

When the time came, the negative person was unusually positive, offering insightful and helpful comments. A few weeks later, my friend asked all her people to engage in a difficult task. The first one finished was the negative person. In the process, he uttered not one disparaging remark. My friend said it was small step forward, but it greatly increased her belief in giving people a voice in important decisions.

In this account, the boss is thinking conventionally. He is operating from assumptions of justice, transaction, and exchange. We all tend to make these assumptions. Transactional assumptions preserve order.

My friend was not trying to preserve order. She was trying to create a new order. She was trying to create a more positive culture. This meant she had to lead. She had to extend respect and positive regard to someone who had not earned respect and positive regard. In showing that she sincerely valued him and his opinions, she was extending grace. When people feel loved, they are more likely to grow–even “negative people” who who habitually engage in criticism.



  • Do you have people who create a climate in which everyone suffers?
  • What does justice suggest?
  • When have you been the recipient of grace?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


2 thoughts on “Transcending Justice

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