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 delve into each of these and explore how they manifest in today’s working world. I think we will find they’re alive and (unhealthily) well.  

Lust is an uncontrollable passion or longing, especially for sexual desires. It wouldn’t take more than a few seconds of internet research to find examples of employees who’ve acted on these desires, resulting in ruined careers, especially for senior-level leaders. If they’re not receiving the attention and affection they feel they deserve at home (and even if they are), it’s common to seek it with someone at work. Honor your wedding vows by avoiding office romances! They are real, tempting, and unfortunately, common, yet wrong and destructive. 

Gluttony is excessive ongoing consumption of food or drink. I believe we have an obligation as employees to maintain good health — how can we work effectively if we’re carrying excessive weight and are unhealthy? I’m not advocating for peak physical fitness, but my observation is that unhealthy people take more sick days and are less effective and efficient. 

Greed is an excessive pursuit of material possessions. Ambition is good, but taken to excess, it can poison an organization. Some people in the workplace seem willing to do anything, and I mean anything, to land a deal or gain a promotion. The history of the working world is littered with people who took greed to excess and, doing so, brought themselves and their organizations down.  

Sloth is excessive laziness or the failure to act and utilize one’s talents. I often say that all organizations are volunteer organizations because people choose how much to give based on how much they trust their leadership. Employees have a duty to give their best at work regardless of the organizational culture. Laziness or withholding talents not only brings oneself down but also negatively impacts others. 

Wrath is uncontrollable anger and hatred toward another person, entity or organization. It’s evident how wrath can be figuratively and physically destructive to a workplace. We see this hatred in many forms — from favoritism to outright racism, sexism or just plain rage. Wrath can be a silent, seething force living under the surface of an organization. Eventually, it can explode from within someone and cause catastrophic results. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “going postal” or more passively, “quiet quitting.”  

Envy is the intense desire to have an item, experience or relationship that someone else possesses. Unlike greed, which is an excessive pursuit to obtain material possessions, envy can result in the theft of someone else’s possessions. Stealing at work can take many forms, from materials to time, productivity, and joy. Don’t compromise your integrity by stealing. 

Pride is an excessive view of oneself without regard for others. Essentially, there are two types of leaders in the workplace — the prideful and the humble. I’ve observed that people prefer to work with the latter. Jim Collins, in his books “Built to Last” and “Good to Great,” highlights humility as one of the key attributes to 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 — they see themselves as entitled and deserving of greatness and great things. I like another time-tested axiom: “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought.” 

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 combat these seven sins 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 surely makes it 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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