I'm still digesting a comment that one of my Basic Supervision students had Friday night. I was talking about the financial theory concept of agency costs. One version of it looks at selfish workers looking out for their own best interest (e.g low-level workers goofing off or higher-level workers voting themselves nice perks) rather than the interest of the firm; things like profit-sharing, employee stock ownership plans and stock options are frequent remedies for agency costs.
One of my students commented that 80% of the workers where he worked at wouldn't be motivated much by such equity bennies, that the reward for hard work was their basic paycheck and that they weren't quite the self-centered beasts that I was portraying them as. When I dropped back five yards and paused for a moment, I started to agree with him.
Back when I was taking my management classes in the late 80s, one of the current constructs was Type X and Type Y management. Type X managers assumed that their workers were lazy and untrustworthy and thus needed micromanagement and a very short leash. Type Y managers assume that workers were generally smart and hard-working and give them much more authority, more independence, and less micromanagement.
The idea is that most of us would hate to have a Type X drill-sergeant manager and would respond better if given a longer leash. There are some folks who need tight supervision, but they tend to be in the minority. Management courses of the era were trying to lead folks away from that drill-sergeant mentality and to a more trusting management style.
However, the thing that hit me was that our religious rhetoric in evangelical circles might lead us to a Type X attitude. If we look at the huddled masses as a bunch of totally depraved fallen sinners who are worthless without God, we could assume that folks are up to no good unless they're tightly controlled. Financial and economic theory often falls in along that sinner paradigm, assuming self-centered greedy folks who only respond to economic stimuli.
A Biblical factoid that would argue for a more Type Y approach is that we're all God's children made in the image of God. While we are all sinners and need a Savior to be made right with God, we're not living like we're in a Mad Max movie in our day-to-day lives. People are cultured to function cooperatively in society and have a lot of the rawest selfishness trained out of us; a two-year-old will scream "Mine!" but an adult will generally act in a more civil manner. We may not like living in a cooperative manner all the time, but we know that it makes things go more smoothly in the long run.
We're far from perfect, but we're also far from being perfectly imperfect. We may be totally depraved as per salvation, but are something far short of level of depravity that in the context of being a citizen and worker.
Might we be better off if we start looking at our fellow men at the workplace and in the public square as good-but-flawed folks in need of a Savior? I think so. Far from perfect, but still reasonably good, by and large.