Business Sins And Atonement

This evening Yom Kippur begins. Even if you’re not Jewish you probably know that this is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar and is a day spent fasting while focusing on a few things.

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people think of the day in terms of atoning for one’s sins. That’s not quite right in that it’s an incomplete statement. That atonement is only a part of the equation. There is a broader focus on other things as well. One is charity, one is repentance and the other is prayer. Those things can also be interpreted as trying to embody high ideals, returning to those values and ideals if we’ve strayed from them, and self-reflection.

Obviously, this isn’t a blog about religion, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that those are things we should be doing in our businesses as well. I’ll have my traditional Yom Kippur post on that tomorrow. I do want, however, to delve a bit more into the notion of sins in business and how we might atone for them.

The derivation of the word “sin” is explained by Wikipedia as follows:

The English Biblical terms translated as “sin” or “syn” from the Biblical Greek and Jewish terms sometimes originate from words in the latter languages denoting the act or state of missing the mark; the original sense of New Testament Greek ἁμαρτία hamartia “sin”, is failure, being in error, missing the mark, especially in spear throwing. Hebrew hata “sin” originates in archery and literally refer to missing the “gold” at the centre of a target, but hitting the target, i.e. error.

In other words, the religious context (violating the will of a higher power) isn’t the whole story. We sin in business by missing the mark or by failing. How so? We aim at things other than the targets that accomplish our goals. We focus on profits and not solving customers’ problems. We work well “up” and ignore the people who support us and make our jobs easier. We forget business acquaintances or co-workers when they no longer have anything to give us other than their friendship. I’m sure you can add to this list and I’m equally sure that we’re all guilty of one or more items on that list.

Maybe tomorrow would be a good day for any of us in business to reflect on and return to the business ideals that have taken us this far? Come to think of it, why not today?

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