Paul Butler | The 7 Deadly Sins at Work

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile

The seven deadly sins, apparently, are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Let’s examine each of these and explore how we observe them in today’s working world. 

Lust is an uncontrollable passion or longing, especially for sexual desires. It wouldn’t take more than a few minutes of Internet research to find examples of employees who’ve acted on these desires, leading to the ruination of their careers, particularly if they held senior positions. If you’re not receiving the kind of attention and affection you believe you deserve at home, it’s common to seek it from someone at work. To honor your wedding vows, avoid workplace romances. They may be tempting, but they’re also wrong and destructive. 

Gluttony is the excessive, ongoing consumption of food or drink. As employees, we have an obligation to maintain good health. How can we effectively carry out our work if we’re carrying excess weight and suffering from poor health? I’m not advocating for peak physical fitness, but my observation has been that unhealthy individuals take more sick days and are less efficient. 

Greed is the excessive pursuit of material possessions. Ambition is a positive trait, but when taken to extremes, it can be toxic in an organization. Some individuals in the workplace would do anything, and I mean anything, to secure a deal or gain a promotion. 

Sloth is excessive laziness or the failure to act and utilize one’s talents. I often say that all organizations are, in essence, volunteer organizations because people choose how much to contribute based on their trust in leadership. I believe employees have a duty to give their best at work, regardless of the organizational culture. Demonstrating laziness or withholding the talents you’ve been gifted not only holds you back but also negatively impacts those around you. 

Wrath is uncontrollable anger and hatred toward another person. It’s evident how wrath can be figuratively and physically destructive in the workplace. We see this hatred, which can range from favoritism to outright racism or sexism, in various forms. Wrath can be a silent but seething force beneath the surface of an organization, eventually leading to explosive situations, sometimes referred to as “going postal.” 

Envy is an intense desire to have an item or experience that someone else possesses. Unlike greed, which is the excessive pursuit of material possessions, envy can result in the theft of someone else’s belongings. Theft at work can manifest in various forms, including stealing materials, money, time, productivity and joy from your employer, co-workers, customers and suppliers. Don’t compromise your integrity by engaging in such behavior. 

Pride is an excessive view of oneself without regard for others. In the workplace, I see essentially two types of leaders: the prideful and the humble. I’ve observed that people prefer working with the latter. In two books by Jim Collins, “Built to Last” and “Good to Great,” he emphasizes the attribute of humility as one of the key factors for achieving significant and sustainable organizational results. This reminds me of a phrase I once heard: “The greatest among you must be a servant.” Prideful leaders don’t see themselves as servants. 

Just as the seven deadly sins can be destructive in our personal lives, they can also devastate our workplaces. To conclude on a positive note, I believe we can combat these vices with nine healthier attributes: faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, kindness, love, joy, patience, peace and self-control. At the very least, nine is greater than seven, which is undoubtedly a winning situation, 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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