Rediscovering Redemption

Chronicling the work of Redemption in the lives of Followers and Leaders. Articles, research and meditations from the writings of Dr. Joseph J. Bucci. Get blog updates by following Joe on Twitter @Re_Redemption

Joseph J. Bucci

Redemptive Management as a Value Proposition

There was a story of restoration through work opportunities posted at this link: These stories of transformation fill me with gratitude for those offering the opportunities and for the changed lives evidenced. The researcher strongly believes in the Christian concept of redemption, and the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives from violence to victory. The researcher was the HR Manager in a Christian-owned inner-city business in which there employees who had successfully graduated from the Teen Challenge program. These employees, given a second opportunity after their previous drug problems, were the most loyal and fiercely dedicated employees. In the article cited, Plant manager Rodrigo Bolanos was quoted as saying that he firmly believes gang members can be rehabilitated and he prefers to employ the ex-criminals “that nobody wants” (Sun Daily, 2012). The researcher believes that God uses circumstances at our places of work and persons with whom we work to test and challenge us towards living a life which reflects the glory of God in a changed heart.

But there seems to be more going on here than just an offer of work for a reformed gang member. There is a motivated person here seeking to find a new life away from destructive behaviors and violence. But there is also a motivated employer seeking persons not found of worth to others but in whom an investment can be made. Here are some examples of managers whom saw this opportunity.

George Zimmer, founder of the Men’s Wearhouse chain of retail stores, understands that employees do make mistakes and fall from grace. Zimmer is himself a recovering alcoholic, and from his personal struggles and response to redemptive activity in his own life he has chosen to demonstrate similar principles as he manages his business. Zimmer’s management practices are written about in the book, Hidden Value (O’Reilly and Pfeffer, 2000), and were highlighted in a popular business trade magazine (Hamner and McNichol, 2007). Zimmer is identified as one of a handful of “contrarian” leaders, utilizing unconventional approaches to management and business development.

For example, Zimmer plays himself in his commercials instead of hiring an actor. One more unconventional practice noted is Zimmer’s demonstration of redemptive management, which is evidenced by giving employees a second chance (Hamner and McNichol, 2007). It is Zimmer’s policy that no employee will ever undergo a criminal background check. This is unheard of in the retail industry (Hamner and McNichol, 2007). Zimmer uses discretion in assessing what constitutes a discipline problem requiring action. Conventional retail wisdom says this guarantees petty larceny on a grand scale. In fact, the company loses a mere 0.4 percent of revenue to theft, much less than the typical 1.5 percent loss suffered by other similar large retailers (Hamner and McNichol, 2007).

Entrepreneur of the Year and successful businessman Gerald W. Chamales knows the value of a second chance and the tough work involved in the redemptive process. Mr. Chamales is himself a recovering alcoholic who worked his way into the executive suite from a life of poverty, welfare and food stamps. Chamales knows what it’s like to be at the absolute bottom; and through his business pursuits Chamales not only reformed his own life, but now he also has the opportunity to help restore the lives of many of his workers.

Chamales is Chairman and Founder of Rhinotek Computer Products, a $45 million business where roughly one-third of the workforce comes from halfway houses, work-furlough centers, and recovery programs. “This is not philanthropy,” says Chamales. “This is a sound business principle that started out because it was the right thing to do and now we realize it’s the smart thing to do” (Marchetti, 2005). These employees are assigned a mentor and enrolled in a training program. There is rigorous follow up, but lots of determination due to the opportunity given these employees when others would not take the chance. Says Chamales: “You could say we recycle human beings. Instead of giving them a handout, I’m giving them a hand up” (Pennington, 2002).

But just having the heart to help people does not always influence managers to offer second changes to former employees or ex-convicts and former gang members. Previous research conducted among managers with a faith background sough to determine the influence of a Christian worldview on their decision-making in the workplace (Bucci and Bruce, 2008). This research found that just because a manager’s faith guided their decision-making, it did not necessarily mean that a faith-based manager felt any more compelled to offer second chance opportunities to ex-offenders, or former drug addicts or even employees whom they had previously terminated (Bucci and Bruce, 2008).

It certainly helps to incentivize the hiring manager that the former gang members have been transformed as per their testimonials. But it is important to note that there was noted in the research an uncontrollable variable of employee self-determination in the reinstatement process. It was noted that the behaviors of the managers do not necessarily predict nor can they accurately determine the reaction of the subordinate. There may be additional factors affecting employee commitment or disillusionment, such as cultural items, finances, or lack of opportunity elsewhere. Discipline is directed at employee’s demonstrated behaviors on the job, but in the office or warehouse environment the manager is dealing with an effect and not a cause of behavior. Little is known about the personal and work-related factors (such as marital status and skill level) upon which the utility of such discipline practices may be contingent (Bamberger and Donahue, 1999).

So the risks are great for offering these “second chance” opportunities. But previous s research has shown that there is a value proposition for restoring an individual created in the image of God to a position of fulfilling their calling, to supporting an organization’s mission, to economic contribution and to providing for their own and their family’s needs (Plantinga, 2002). There is evidence here in the researcher’s work, as well as in this article, to suggest that it is viable for a manager to consider a leadership intervention based on the mission of Christ Himself, “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:13, NASB).

* Bamberger, P. A., & Donahue, L. H. (1999). Employee discharge and reinstatement: Moral hazards and the mixed consequences of last chance agreements. Industrial & Labor Relations Review, 53, 3.
* Hamner, S., & McNichol, T. (2007, May). Ripping Up the Rules of Management. Business 2.0, 8, 60-68.
* Marchetti, M. (2005, June 27). Selling Saved Their Lives. Fortune, 151.
* O’Reilly, C. A., & Pfeffer, J. (2000). Hidden value: How great companies achieve extraordinary results with ordinary people. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.
* Pennington, A. Y. (2002, August). Snapshot: Gerald W. Chamales. Entrepreneur.
* Salvadoran ex-gang members seek redemption in work. (2012, May 27). The Sun Daily. Retrieved May 28, 2012, from

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