Spiritual Adventures in the Workplace

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How Our Work Shapes Us

What we do all day is formative.  It makes us who we are.  Here are some ways in which our daily work contributes to that formation of our character:

*It shapes our language.  There are buzz words and phrases that are emphasized in our line of business, and our own way of speaking is affected by that.  Some people can’t hold a conversation in their work environment without relying heavily on jargon.  Others resist.  Much is at stake here, because those who don’t use the buzz words may perhaps give their coworkers the impression that they aren’t properly socialized–that they haven’t sufficiently bought into the culture of their profession.  But socialization has a price: we sometimes sense that we are surrendering our individuality, our own unique ways of expressing ourselves.  We’re expected to talk differently in order to be taken seriously in our jobs.  How we handle this dilemma says a lot about who we are… and who we’re becoming.

*It shapes our sense of accountability.  We’re part of a working community and can’t just act according to our own conscience.  We answer to “superiors” and must follow departmental policies and procedures.  If we are managers then we must monitor the behavior of our “subordinates.”  And we are interdependent upon all of our coworkers, higher and lower than us, both in our own department and in other departments.  Our words and actions affect them, and theirs affect us.  We’re accountable to each other for everything we do and say on the job.  Our day-to-day awareness of that (or failure to be aware of it) affects who we are as a person… and who we’re becoming.

*It shapes our skills and competencies.  Every job presents us with problems, and therefore gives us opportunities to develop problem-solving skills.  Most jobs force us to work with others, and therefore offer us chances to strengthen our interpersonal skills.  If we are willing, our jobs can help us become better at managing our time, at dealing with conflict, at fact-finding, at decision-making, and lots of other things.  What we do with these opportunities shapes who we are as a person.

So… if we are disciples of Christ–in other words, if we believe that we are being molded and shaped by the Holy Spirit each day of our lives–then the story of the Spirit’s influence over us is played out in just such subplots as these.  And everything we do on the job is part of that larger story: the story of how we’re becoming the people of God… or not.

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2 thoughts on “How Our Work Shapes Us

  1. I heard a speech/sermon (it was a strange middle ground) once about the difference between respecting and honoring your boss that has stuck with me, especially because I seem to find a lot of the more petty bosses. Wonderful people, but terrible at managing others.

    Anyway, the concept was that you honor the position they hold, whether you actually respect them or not; somehow or other, they’ve risen to a position of some responsibility, and there’s a certain recognition of that “office,” if you will. It’s a tricky concept, but an interesting one.

    • That’s an interesting idea, although it doesn’t seem to be very common in the places I’ve worked. Some other time I’ll write about my views on the chain of command. When I was an operations manager for Western Union in the early 1990s, I had a chance to learn why it’s important to respect the line of authority itself, even if you don’t always respect the people in those roles.

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