A manager of large manufacturing interests, who had a reputation for squeezing an enormous amount of work out of the employees under him, in explaining to his board of directors how he got results said: "I tell yer I can squeeze the work out of 'em. I just grind it right out of 'em. That's the only way to make these factories pay big dividends, just to grind results out of employees, and I keep 'em guessing. I keep right after 'em. They never know when I am coming and they all fear me. I keep 'em on the very verge of discharge. They never know when they are going to get the yellow envelope."
This man, who boasted of coining flesh and blood into big dividends employed thousands of women and children in his factories. Many of the women were, of course, very poor, mothers with large families, who were obliged after long hours in the factory to do the family cooking, washing and mending, all the family work. Some of this work was done in the morning before starting the day in the factory at six or seven o'clock, the rest when they returned late at night.
I was talking recently with a cold-blooded, overbearing, browbeating business man of this type who told me that he was going out of business because he was so tired and sick of incompetent, dishonest help. His employees, he said, were always taking advantage of him - stealing, spoiling merchandise, blundering, shirking, clipping their hours. They took no interest in his welfare, their only concern being in what they found in their pay envelope. "I have enough to live on," he concluded, "and I don't propose to run a business for their benefit. I have tried every means I know of to get good work out of ignorant, selfish help, but it is no use, and now I have done with it. My nervous system is worn out and I must give up the game."
"You say you have tried everything you could think of in managing your employees, but has it ever occurred to you to try love's way?" I asked.
"Love's way I" he said disgustedly. "What do you mean by that? Why, if I didn't use a club all the time my help would ride right over me and ruin me. For years I have had to employ detectives and spies to protect my interests. What do these people know about love ? Why I should have the red flag out here in no time if I should attempt any such fool business as that."
A young man who had been successful in employing Golden Rule methods in business management hearing of the situation saw in it a possible opening, and asked this man to give him a trial as manager before giving up his business altogether. The result was the disgruntled business man was so pleased with the young man's personality that in less than half an hour he had engaged him as a manager, although he still insisted that it was a very doubtful experiment.
The first thing the new man did on taking charge was to call the employees in each department together and have a heart-to-heart talk with them. He told them that he had come there not only as a friend of the proprietor, but as their friend also, and that he would do everything in his power to advance their interests as well as those of the business. The house, he told them, had been losing money, and it was up to him and them to change all that and put the balance on the right side of the ledger. He made them see that harmony and cooperation are the basis of any real success for a concern and its employees.
From the start he was cheerful, hopeful, sympathetic, enthusiastic, encouraging. He quickly won the confidence and good-will of everybody in the establishment, and had them all working as heartily for the success of the business as if it were their own. The place was like a great beehive, where all were industrious, happy, contented, working for the hive. So great was the change that customers began to talk about the new spirit in the house. Business grew and prospered, and in an incredibly short time, the concern was making instead of losing money.
The Golden Rule method had driven out hate, selfishness, greed and dissension. The interests of all were centered on the general welfare, and so all prospered. When the proprietor returned from abroad, whither he had gone for a few months' rest and recuperation, ht could scarcely believe in the reality of the transformation that "love's way" had effected in his old employees and in the entire establishment.
Some men will make good employees out of almost any kind of people. They pick up boys on the street, they take criminals released from prison, as Henry Ford is doing, and develop them into splendid men. They have the faculty of calling out the best in them, appealing to their manliness, their sense of fairness, of justice, in doing as they would be done by.
"Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you." All the philosophy of the ages is concentrated in this single sentence. It embodies the essential element in practical Christianity. All law lives in it, the principle of all reform. Its practice will ultimately swallow up all greed, and the time will come when every man will see that his own best good is in the highest good of everybody about him. The time will come when even in the business world the Golden Rule will be found by all to be the wisest and most businesslike policy.
Mr. H. Gordon Selfridge thinks that the labor problem would solve itself if employers treated their employees as they would like to be treated themselves, or as they would like to have their children treated. He says that the keeping these points in mind constitutes seventy-five per cent, of the secret of the success of his great department store in London, which, in the third year of his business there, made a profit of half a million dollars. Yet when he started his enterprise the best business men in London predicted that it would be a complete failure. Conservative people said: "He'll be broke within a year. It can't be done. We don't like this kind of pushing business over here." But by projecting the progressive spirit of Americanism into his business methods in the heart of London, where for centuries men had done business as their fathers and grandfathers and their remote ancestors had done, and by humane kindly treatment of his employees, he smashed old traditions and broke all business records.