Paul Butler: Seven deadly sins in the workplace

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

The seven deadly sins apparently are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.

Let’s look at each of these and explore how we see them in today’s working world.

Lust is an uncontrollable passion or longing, especially for sexual desires.

It wouldn’t take more than seven minutes of research on the Internet to find examples of employees who’ve acted on these desires and as a result their career was ruined, especially if they were a senior leader. If you’re not getting the kind of attention and affection that you feel you deserve at home, it’s common to seek it with someone at work. Honor your wedding vows by avoiding company romances. They are very real, very tempting and very common.

They’re also very wrong and very destructive.

Gluttony is an excessive ongoing consumption of food or drink.

I believe we have an obligation as an employee to keep ourselves in good health — how can we do our work effectively if we’re carrying excessive weight and we’re unhealthy? I’m not talking about peak physical fitness but my observation has been that unhealthy people take more sick days than others and don’t work as effectively or as efficiently.

Greed is an excessive pursuit of material possessions.

Ambition is a good thing but taken to the excess it can be poisonous in an organization. There are some people I’ve seen in the workplace that I am convinced, would do anything and I mean anything to land the deal or gain the promotion.

Sloth is an excessive laziness or the failure to act and utilize one’s talents.

I often say all organizations are volunteer organizations because people will choose how much to give of themselves based on how much they trust their leadership. I still believe though that employees have a duty to give the best of themselves at work regardless of the culture they’re working within.

To exhibit laziness or hold back on the talents you’ve been gifted with not only brings yourself down but also negatively impacts others around you.

Wrath is an uncontrollable anger and hate towards another person.

It wouldn’t take a genius to see how wrath can be figuratively and physically destructive to a workplace. We see this hatred (also defined as liking someone less than another), in many forms — from favoritism up to outright racism or sexism. Wrath can be a silent but seething dark force under the surface of an organization, which eventually will explode within someone.

I think they call this “going postal.”

Envy is the intense desire to have an item or experience that someone else possesses. Whereas greed is an excessive pursuit of material possessions, envy can actually result in the theft of someone else’s possessions. Stealing at work can take many forms. You can choose to steal materials, money, time, productivity, and joy from your employer, co-workers, customers, and suppliers. Don’t remove your integrity by stealing.

Pride is an excessive view of one’s self without regard for others.

I see essentially two types of leaders in the workplace — the prideful and the humble.

I have also observed how people prefer to work with the latter. In two books by Jim Collins (“Built to Last” and “Good to Great”) he refers to the attribute of humility within leadership as being of the key attributes to significant and sustainable organizational results. That reminds me of a phrase I heard once, “the greatest among you must be a servant.”

Prideful leaders don’t see themselves as servants.

So, just as the seven deadly sins are destructive in our personal lives ,they can devastate our workplaces. To conclude on a positive note, I believe we can fight the good fight as it were with nine much healthier attributes — faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, kindness, love, joy, patience, peace and self-control.

Hey at a minimum, nine is bigger than seven — that’s surely a winner, right?

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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