Employee Satisfaction and Avodas Hashem

This week’s Alumni Dvar Torah is by Steve Gotlib

Many studies have been done to explain the relationship between employee satisfaction and business success. In 2001, Daniel J. Koys found that positive employee attitudes and behaviors tend to influence business outcomes positively. In 2002, Harter, Hays and Shmidt concluded that “that employee satisfaction and engagement are related to meaningful business outcomes at a magnitude that is important to many organizations, and that these correlations generalize across companies.” More recent studies have similarly shown that there is typically a positive correlation between the satisfaction of employees within a business and the success of that business.

Parshas Vayigash taps into this notion.

Pharoah and his advisors find it good that Yosef has been reunited with his brothers (וַיִּיטַב֙ בְּעֵינֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה וּבְעֵינֵ֖י עֲבָדָֽיו). Ramban explains that this is because Mitzrayim would not no longer have to deal with the stigma of having as viceroy a former servant and convict with a mysterious past.  Sforno, however, offers a different interpretation of why Pharoah and his advisors thought the news of Yosef’s reunion with his brothers was good. Now that Yosef was reunited with his siblings and the rest of his family would soon be coming to Mitzrayim, he would no longer look at himself as a stranger ruling in a strange land, and he would no longer view Mitzrayim as a land of affliction for him (אֶ֥רֶץ עָנְיִֽי). With his family around him, Yosef would be free to look at himself as a man with roots in the land around him, allowing him to serve the people of Mitzrayim as one of them and with their best interests truly at heart.

Sfrono’s reading of Pharoah’s reaction to the news makes a tremendous amount of sense given the research on employee satisfaction. Pharoah’s mentality was one of improving his country by improving the satisfaction of his viceroy. If Yosef was happy in Mitzrayim, he would be willing to dedicate more of himself for the good of the country, and the country would prosper as a result.

This is an outlook which can easily be brought into everyday life. As Jews, we strive to be servants of Hashem. In recent days, that has seemed harder than ever. We live in a time when baseless hatred abounds. People are trying to write others out of Orthodox Judaism left and right, while political tensions rise in the country that has in the past been so friendly to the Jews. And all of this has been happening while secular values have been becoming more and more divergent from the values which Orthodoxy (including Modern Orthodoxy) values so deeply.

Personal satisfaction is incredibly important in this generation, but serving Hashem is incredibly important to Judaism as a whole. If Halakhic Judaism is to continue to thrive as it has in the past, it rests on the shoulders of each and every one of its adherents to figure out how to find personal satisfaction within its dictates. It is up to each of us to figure out how we can get those people and ideas that can best empower us by our side and help us be the best that we can be while helping the world around us be the best that it can be as well.

Steve Gotlib (SBM 2017) is a senior at Rutgers University studying Communication and Jewish Studies. 

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