Colonialism and imperialism brought a dangerous HR practice of forced labour to the world. This is where someone is enslaved and worked up against their wishes under unfavourable conditions and terrible exacting. Such methods did not begin with the colonial era but have always been part of human behaviour as long as sin has existed.
When the Israelites were in Egypt, for instance, the Egyptians in an effort to compromise their increment, made their labour twice harder under harsh conditions. Maybe if you’ve never interacted with that passage, this is how the Bible records it:
Pharaoh replied, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work.” That same day Pharaoh sent this order to the Egyptian slave drivers and the Israelite foremen: “Do not supply any more straw for making bricks. Make the people get it themselves! But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy. That’s why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to our God.’ Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! That will teach them to listen to lies!” So the slave drivers and foremen went out and told the people: “This is what Pharaoh says: I will not provide any more straw for you. Go and get it yourselves. Find it wherever you can. But you must produce just as many bricks as before!” So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt in search of stubble to use as straw. Meanwhile, the Egyptian slave drivers continued to push hard. “Meet your daily quota of bricks, just as you did when we provided you with straw!” they demanded. Then they whipped the Israelite foremen they had put in charge of the work crews. “Why haven’t you met your quotas either yesterday or today?” they demanded. So the Israelite foremen went to Pharaoh and pleaded with him. “Please don’t treat your servants like this,” they begged. “We are given no straw, but the slave drivers still demand, ‘Make bricks!’ We are being beaten, but it isn’t our fault! Your own people are to blame!” But Pharaoh shouted, “You’re just lazy! Lazy! That’s why you’re saying, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to the Lord.’ Now get back to work! No straw will be given to you, but you must still produce the full quota of bricks.” NLT Exodus 5:4-18
If you carefully consider this particular Scripture, you realise there was a heinous motive behind all these exacting treatments. The servants of Pharaoh were not so much in need of the daily targets than to reduce the productivity of the Hebrews. And the results can be seen in rebellion and widespread discontentment.
Every HR who violates diplomatic methods of service and depends on the iron rod of force cannot expect more than the fulfilment of job descriptions. No one is motivated to employ their creativity beyond what they are supposed to do when they don’t feel safe and respected. Imperialists tried it with intention of becoming richer from exploitative schemes and employment of free forced labour. Instead of growth, they attracted rebellion and agitations for freedom. They got people jogging for freedom and eviction of the colonial powers.
However, in antiquity, slavery was so serious that a slave was the property of the slaveholder. But in spite of that, the greatest service could only be achieved through fair terms. In cases where a man didn’t have children, one of his servants could be appointed heir of his property at his death.
This is an excellent argument in favour of the service of love. People must be made to want to do what they are supposed to do, then the results will be exponential.
Abraham, the chief Patriarch of the Hebrew economy, demonstrated good relationships with his servants and even considered making Eliezer, his chief steward, the heir of his estate. This changed when Isaac was born at old age. Eliezer, realising that he could not enjoy the bequest anymore, transferred his loyalty to Isaac and served him diligently and faithfully. This was possible because of good HR practices exercised by Abraham.
Even God does not force people to do His will. Redemption has given Him the right to demand our obedience and faithful service, but He is revealing His love to melt our hearts into obedience. Only love can attract love.
Of every Christian, the Lord requires growth in efficiency and capability in every line. Christ has paid us our wages, even His own blood and suffering, to secure our willing serviceMy Life Today P. 218.5
If the death of Christ for the wages of sin doesn’t make Him demand forced labour from us, what really can warrant forced labour? In my view, nothing else qualifies me to apply force on anyone and if I qualified to force issues on any matter, I would still go for diplomacy. The best from anyone—even those who are not talented and refined—is good enough.
The colonial masters forced issues, dragged the slaves to duty at the threat of a bullet, and the people found ways of rising beyond all odds to regain their sovereignty. Even today, forced obedience will not work. If you want to prove it, go try forcing issues in the dating field. Get yourself a gun, and force them to set yes then tell us how your love story unfolds three months down the line.
If life grants you the powers to enforce obedience, you should always realise it’s a trap. You can do well if you find a way to win the respect and indebtedness of people you have the powers to command and remote control. Everyone values their sense of importance. In fact, everyone thinks they are important, and you will have your way with them as long as you don’t diminish their sense of importance.
Make anyone feel that you’re interested in them and all the joy is yours. As a human resource manager, as a father, as a husband, and as a CEO, the above lesson will help you regain your sovereignty. It will help you do the things that average leaders cannot do because they demand worship from people who also want to be worshipped.