“I’m a manager and it is difficult to manage employees.”
2023.9.10. Casual Conversation with Ven. Pomnyun Sunim (10) Orange County, USA
Today is the tenth day of Venerable Pomnyun’s 2023 Overseas Dharma Talk Tour, and it took place in Orange County.
The venue for today’s conversation is Hilton Buena Park Hotel. Whenever Sunim visits San Diego, he delivers the Dharma Talk here.
The conversation began at 7pm. There were about 500 people in the audience.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim stood up and initiated a conversation with the audience, making eye contact. Nine people asked questions, and one of them said that she had worked hard to become a manager at a company but found it challenging to manage employees, and asked Sunim for advice.
As a manager, it is difficult to manage employees.
“I’ve been in the United States for about five years now. Initially, I struggled to find a job, but after a lot of effort, I finally got employed. Through hard work and dedication, I earned recognition and eventually, I have now become a manager. However, while working as a manager, managing employees is very difficult. Among my team members, some people just pass the time, while others work very hard. As I look at the various employees, I see all kinds of emotions rising and falling within me. I especially get very angry when I see people who are just wasting time or passing their work to others. There are times when I have to cover for them. On the other hand, when I see young and highly skilled colleagues, I can’t help but feel anxious, fearing that I might lose my position. I’m having mood swings. I know I still have a lot to learn, but with what mindset can I solidify my position?”
“Is that the company you founded?”
“Is it someone else’s company?”
“Are you a salaried employee?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Then work only as much as your salary.” (Everyone applauds)
“What’s so difficult about that?”
“I think it’s because I’m greedy and want to do well.”
“It is not because you are greedy, but because you unconsciously believe that the company is yours. When employees are not performing their duties, it’s the responsibility of the president or leadership to address the issue. There’s no reason for the questioner, who’s just a manager, to feel bad about that. While it may feel burdensome to do more work, how about adding a little more work? Since you became a manager, you have to take on that responsibility. The position of manager was created to take responsibility for when someone does not work. If you don’t want to take on that responsibility, you can just go down and do what’s given to you.
And it’s true that having someone smarter beneath you can be seen as a threat to your position. However, there is nothing you can do. What should you do if the co-worker is smarter than you? Moreover the co-worker cannot hide his or her skills in order to protect your position. (Laughter)
And when there are employees who are slacking off, it may require you to do a little more work, but having such individuals under your supervision allows you to maintain your position as a manager. At least they don’t pose a threat to your position as a manager.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“So, there are positive things when you have a lazy co-worker. That’s why you have nothing to worry about. You’re just having a bit of a misconception. For example, you really admire Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, so when some people criticize Sunim, it feels like they’re criticizing you, and you get angry and excited. Your mindset is somewhat similar to this. When you hold an important position in the company, it feels like the company is yours, and that’s why you get angry when people don’t work. But there’s no need for that. It doesn’t mean you should just let employees slack off. You need to focus on doing your job faithfully. However, it is the job of the company’s higher-ups to monitor whether employees are performing their duties properly and take action when necessary.
If you’re given the position and personnel authority to check and supervise the workers, it becomes your job to do it. Because the company pays you a salary to do that job. It’s not because you dislike the person, but simply because you need to report the facts accurately. Even if you have concerns like ‘Won’t this be disadvantageous to that person?’, if he/she hasn’t done the work, you still need to report it truthfully. If you don’t feel inclined to do the task, you can suggest, ‘I don’t like evaluating others. I’ll just focus on my own work.’ If you don’t like seeing people who don’t do their work, you can say, ‘I can’t be a manager because I don’t like seeing people who don’t do their work’ and resign from the manager position.
If you are receiving a salary more than you work, it becomes a debt. Even if there is no debt on paper, it becomes a debt in your life. Conversely, if you work more than your salary, you will be blessed. Think about it for a moment. Do all employees wish to receive more than they work? Or do they wish to receive less?”
“They want to receive more.”
“Do all employers want to pay their employees a bit less in salary? Or do they want to pay them more?”
“They want to pay less.”
“This is human psychology. It’s understandable. People selling something generally want to get a bit more for it, and those buying something feel good when they buy it at a lower price than the market price, thinking, ‘I got it a little cheaper.’ Those who understand this aspect of human psychology tend to give their employees slightly higher salaries than originally intended. From the employees’ perspective, this is a significant benefit, so they are less likely to leave the company. Then, who can have a dominant position? The employer can. However, if he pay low wages, employees will keep paying attention to other places. Therefore, even a slight criticism can lead them to think, “There are other places that pay that much,” and they may quit. That’s why giving employees slightly higher salaries can make them more loyal to the company and more attuned to the employer’s expectations.
On the other hand, what about from the perspective of the employees? To be in the dominant position, he should receive a slightly lower salary. If he threatens to quit in response to even small criticism from his employer, the employer will be surprised and catch his employee. Just because someone is a worker doesn’t mean he is always in a submissive position. Just because someone is the employer doesn’t mean he is always in a dominant position. You are in bondage because you are trying to get a large salary. Even workers can be in a dominant position if they receive low wages. For example, you can say after lunch, ‘I will leave work early today to attend a Dharma talk by Ven. Pomnyun Sunim,’ without the boss being able to object. If the boss mishandles the situation, and the worker leaves, it can lead to significant problems. That’s why some flexibility is shown in such cases.
Understanding these principles can lead to a wiser way of living. To sell something quickly, you need to lower the price slightly below market value. If you want to sell for a higher price, you have to wait longer because no one will buy it at a high price. However, in this world, there are occasionally people in a hurry. You have to wait until such a person appears. Because these principles work this way, there’s nothing difficult about it. However, because we are ignorant of this principle, we suffer, become anxious, and blame others. If you understand these principles, you can simply adjust your life accordingly.
If you enter a good company with inadequate skills, you’ll always have to be cautious all the time. On the other hand, if you enter a company that’s slightly below your skill level, you can live with a bit more confidence because you can easily find such a job with your skills. If the employer says something and you threaten to quit, he will try to hold on to you.
The same goes for making friends. When you want to have a broad social circle you need to spend some money to buy food or coffee. People want to have a broad social circle but are reluctant to spend money, and that’s what we call “greed.” Greed refers to something contradictory. When we say to abandon greed, it doesn’t mean to give up the desire to do something, but means to give up contradictory desires.”
“Just work as much as your salary.”
As the questioner laughed heartily, the audience gave her a big round of applause.
After the conversation, it was already 9 PM. Finally, Sunim offered some closing words of wisdom.
“Like the conversation with me today, your life should be both fun and beneficial. It shouldn’t be just about having fun and it shouldn’t be solely about being beneficial. Working allows you to earn money, which is beneficial, but it may lack fun. On the other hand, playing can be fun, but if you keep spending money, it may not be beneficial. In both cases, it’s a half-lived life.
Tips for living life in an enjoyable and meaningful way
How can we have both an enjoyable and meaningful work life? Treat your job like play. Try to have fun while working. When you’re running a store, approach it as a form of entertainment. When customers come, have fun talking to them about various issues. Experiment with different approaches, like, ‘When I say this, products sell well, but when I say that, they don’t.’ Analyzing it in this way can make selling even one item enjoyable. Doing rewarding work for fun, it will be good now and later. Having fun, making money, and eating a pheasant and its eggs, this is a wise life.
You tend to listen too reverently to the words of Jesus or Buddha, but there’s no need for that. When I read the Bible and Buddhist scriptures and interpret their contents, it all boils down to one thing:
‘To live a life that is good for both you and me, enjoyable and meaningful, don’t seek to be loved, but love! Don’t strive to be understood, understand!’
However, it seems that some of you are misinterpreting this and asking, ‘Why should I sacrifice for others?’ So, you grit your teeth and endure it in order to go to heaven, but when you eventually get there, it will be hell. If you live in heaven now, you have a high chance of going to heaven if you have a future life. If you have fun now, there is a high chance that you will have fun tomorrow too. If you’re not having fun now, there’s little chance you’ll have fun tomorrow.
When you read the Bible or Buddhist scriptures even a little, you can clearly understand how we should live. People with a fixation on money often misinterpret it, but in reality, they are all saying the same thing. I’m not saying you should believe in Buddhism. I’m saying we should strive towards truth and make our lives blessed. Buddha couldn’t have told us to sacrifice. Jesus was even crucified for us, and Buddha spent 45 years teaching for us. Don’t look elsewhere with empty eyes, treasure the present, and value your own life. That is the path to the future and the path of benefiting others.”
Tomorrow, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim will be traveling to LA to give a Dharma Talk at the Sri Lankan temple for Korean residents, and then deliver another Dharma Talk in English with an interpreter for the Non-Korean audience.