Spiritual Adventures in the Workplace

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Spheres of Influence

I said last time that our job gives us a certain sphere of influence, and that’s what I want to talk about today.  Just by virtue of taking on that job, we are granted the authority to do things that will make a difference within our social environment.  That “environment,” however, is a bit more complex than it may at first seem.

The things we do in our job usually have an immediate impact on others, but who those others are depends on the job.  Some jobs authorize us to speak and act outside the organization but on the organization’s behalf.  There are in turn a number of options here.

We may have a job in frontline sales or service, in which we deal directly with customers and can have an immense influence on their attitudes toward our organization.  We may have a job in Public Relations, carefully crafting what our organization will tell the news media about itself.  Or we may be involved in some aspect of purchasing for our organization.  In that case, we deal with vendors from other companies.  Perhaps our job requires that we monitor the organization’s compliance to local, state, or federal law.  If so, then we may have direct dealings with government regulators.

And so on.  In each of these instances, our sphere of influence extends beyond the organization to the world at large.  But even if our job does not do this, we are still given a sphere of influence within the organization, and that also can mean a number of different things.

Most jobs allow us to influence others in our department.  At the very least, we can affect others by the attitude we bring to our work and the way we treat our peers, our subordinates, and our supervisors.  We can lift spirits or bring people down.  But we also influence each other in more subtle ways: by our work habits, our job knowledge, our methods of problem-solving, our organizational skills, and so on.  We may be a joy to work with or our coworkers’ worst nightmare.  Or there are lots of alternatives in between these extremes.

Many jobs extend our influence to other departments.  Even if people don’t know us by name, we can make life easier or harder for lots of other people, depending on how well we do our work.

As you can see, it’s difficult to locate the precise boundaries of this “sphere of influence.”  I’m not even sure that it’s best for us to think of it as spherical.  It might be more like a blob, reaching out in an indefinite number of directions, farther here but not so much there, extending into other departments and outside the organization in certain indistinct ways.  It has a lot to do with the precise cluster of assignments that make up our particular job, but it also has a lot to do with the unique gifts and personality we bring to that role.  Every job gives us a sphere of influence, but we can never say for sure what its boundaries are.

(To be continued…)

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