Maintaining Integrity in a Culture of Self-Promotion - Monica Busch (Podcast Episode 6)
In many U.S. workplaces, self-promotion is encouraged. For some, self-promotion may feel natural; for others it can be uncomfortable. Navigating and maintaining integrity within a culture of self-promotion can be challenging, even confusing. Here to talk with us about working in a culture that values self-promotion is Monica Busch. Monica is a Marketing Manager at Facebook. During her 12 years there, she has tried to balance her company’s laser focused impact culture with her desire to be humble, serve others, and allow people see God doing great and creative things through her work.
Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
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Leah Archibald: Making It Work is brought to you by The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Theology of Work Project.
Mark Roberts: Welcome to Making it Work
LA: Through conversation, scripture and stories, we invite God into work’s biggest challenges... so that you can live out your purpose in the workplace.
MR: I’m Mark Roberts
LA: And I’m Leah Archibald. And this is Making It Work.
In many U.S. workplaces, self-promotion is encouraged. For some, self-promotion may feel natural; for others it can be uncomfortable. Navigating and maintaining integrity within a culture of self-promotion can be challenging, even confusing.
Here to talk with us today about working in a culture that values self-promotion is Monica Busch.
Monica is a Marketing Manager at Facebook. During her 12 years there, she has tried to balance her company’s laser focused impact culture with her desire to be humble, serve others, and allow people see God doing great and creative things through her work.
Monica, welcome to our program.
Monica Busch: Thank you, it's good to be here.
LA: Well, thank you for joining us today. So, Monica describe from your experience what a self-promoting work culture looks like, what behaviors are rewarded in your job?
MB: Sure. So in self-promoting work culture, I would say that things like taking on high visibility projects that clearly map to high priority goals is very much rewarded. Having a thoughtful strategy in place for increasing visibility for your work and your team. Of course, solving real problems for your business and for your customers, if that applies.
Some other thoughts I had around that topic would be, I think that anything that is flashy... I would say, there's always kind of darling projects on the mind of the business and of the leaders of that business. And so getting on those projects, you will earn a lot of visibility, and even just face-time with leaders, typically, if you can get on those flashy, darling projects.
LA: So part of that sounds good, like achieving real results for your business, doing things that contribute to the business bottom line. That sounds good. Where does the trouble with self-promotion come in?
MB: I would say that when you think about the urgent and important grid, there's a lot of projects that are low urgency but are very important. Those typically would not be the projects that would be sought after. Because if you're focused on the immediate reward or the immediate payoff, you often will lose out on opportunities for long-term success for your team and for your company. So I would say that's for sure a downside of this kind of high-impact self-promoting culture.
LA: So flashier projects, I hear that. Flashier projects versus long-term projects. Tell me how that's shaken down in the choices that you've made in your own job.
MB: Yeah, a lot of my roles, I've been able to carve out a white space of an area that I've identified that I notice we're not prioritizing as an organization, but I feel like there's a real business need and that I'm possibly gonna be able to help solve it. So, there have been a few times in my career where I've done this and created that business case. And there have been several times when I've pitched those ideas multiple times, multiple years, after years or when leadership has changed, and only eventually did they pay off.
And so often what I've seen when I've had those opportunities is that by the time we've gotten rolling, it actually often becomes urgent, because if it's an important issue that you're not addressing, eventually it's gonna cross over that. And so the beauty of it is, if you can get ahead of it, then by the time it becomes urgent, you hopefully have something in place, but if not then everything becomes a fire drill to try to do damage control instead, often. And so, I think the times of my career when I've been able to have the most impact have been those times when I've identified an area that is important and been given the freedom to innovate and create something new.
LA: Did you feel you were putting yourself at risk in a self-promoting culture in those moments?
MB: A hundred percent.
LA: How did your faith support you in those moments of taking a risk?
MB: I don't feel like in many work cultures there's enough of an emphasis on serving the greater good of the team or the organization, but, my faith in Christ puts me in a place where that's sort of my number one priority at work. My biggest priority here is to be a servant, is to serve the business, is to serve my co-workers, to serve the Lord ultimately, over necessarily getting that stellar review in the next six months or just serving my needs in that moment. And so I think that my faith really allows me to take some of those big risks because I'm focused often on the bigger picture, not just kind of immediate scenario right in front of me.
LA: Mark, you thought a lot about how people in the workplace can serve their companies as a way of serving God, how does Monica's words strike you here?
MR: Well, just a lot of wisdom, Monica, in recognizing that there are certain really important, crucial tasks that may not get much attention. And the challenge of having to decide where to put your time and your energy to really pursue what's important even if it's not something that'll get the headlines. That takes a really deep centeredness, both professionally but then as you've said, also in faith, because you could probably get on a faster track if you put more energy into the things that will get attention and if you put more energy into talking about them and yourself a lot.
I also think it's really hard. I've not worked in a tech company, I spent much of my life actually as a pastor of a church. But you know, Jeez, pastors get a lot of attention for certain kinds of things, and some of the things that are really important in pastoral work are not at all public or get the attention. And to struggle to fight the struggle in myself for attention, advancement, approval, in order to choose the right thing to do is... I’ve sure wrestled with it, not the same context as yours, but kind of similar challenge in a different context.
LA: Monica, did you feel what Mark described as a struggle within yourself over some of these decisions?
MB: Definitely, I certainly have struggled over the years and can say for sure I haven't done this perfectly, I can definitely say that I've made poor choices at times, or I've pursued my own desires in moments or even just to be totally transparent, like given into a moment of gossip or almost like tattling that happens in the workplace, just naturally, where you don't take responsibility for your part of it or you overemphasize someone else's role in a situation. And something I've really learned over the years and tried to really embody over time and through practice is just taking ownership over everything, being willing to be humble in the midst of any circumstance. And coming to the table with ideas for how do we move forward when things haven't gone right.
MB: And along the way when I've made mistakes, or over-sold myself or things like that, there have been moments when I've gone and confessed those to my co-workers and ask for their forgiveness or shared. You know been pretty open and vulnerable with my manager about a mistake that I made. And that's part of my sanctification in my workplace, when I have had those missteps is trying to allow the Lord to use me in the cleanup process.
MR: You were talking about your workplace as a place of sanctification, and you were talking about how that happens in the workplace. And again, for people like Leah and me, we want to cheer because we're deeply committed to the idea that God actually wants to form and shape us in the context of our work.
MB: Yeah, I do think about my job in terms of being a missionary, I think about my job all the time as; this is my mission field. I spend more time here than I get to spend with my kids and my husband, most days. And so I wanna make it count, because I want to be salt and light to my co-workers, I want to be Jesus hands and feet to them every day.
And it really has made all the difference, it helps me prioritize my time, the intentions of my heart, and even just submitting to Lord's ability to do work through me, and have confidence in that, and at times when I'm feeling like, "What am I doing here," struggling with impostor syndrome, or feeling like everyone at the table is way smarter than me. Even just sitting back and letting God have that moment and restore my confidence that He's the one who's actually doing this work, and that He is the creator of all things, so of course He can create new things through me and solve problems creatively through me, and just letting Him have those moments of fear or lack of faith and trust in my ability to do His work. In my work place. And as I said before, I'm certainly not perfect in that, and I've spent a lot of my days commuting to and from work, praying for the day and then repenting for the day on my way home.
LA: Mark and Monica, I wanna bring up a Scripture for us to talk about together. This comes from Philippians chapter 2, when the writer of the letter is telling the community to have the same mind that was in Jesus. And these are the instructions that he gives, he says; "Jesus being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage, rather He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant." That's a word that you mentioned earlier, Monica, you said, being a servant to your co-workers. "But God took the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness and being found in appearance as a man. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross." I wanna bring up this idea of humility, Monica, what does it mean to you to have humility in your work, especially as it relates to taking credit for your work, or allowing other people to take credit?
MB: Yeah, I obviously want God to be honored in how my work is seen and how I'm seen as an employee. So it does get a little complicated sometimes. I want to do really good work, I wanna be excellent in my work. And then also I think the tactics of how I do that and then how I get recognized for it, is where it starts to get hard. I'm always trying to be very conscious and cautious about taking too much credit for the work that I've done. And making sure that I'm giving credit where credit is due, including everyone who contributed and talking about the team work and the team effort over my own individual contribution within it. And again, one of the challenges that comes with that is, because many of my co-workers don't come at their work from the same mentality, the same mindset, I definitely have seen the impact of how that affects my career progression, by always...
LA: A negative impact?
MB: Yeah. By always being willing to sit in the crowd or even take a back seat to the accomplishment of the team or even of my co-workers. I just take a back seat. I'm willing to say it's okay because I am not comfortable with over-claiming credit or I'm not comfortable with not including them.
And so, I find the balance of getting visibility for the work, getting visibility for the team, and also trying to balance, wanting people to see the Lord in me at work. Is often, it's a fine line to walk between all of those things.
And humility to me often ends up looking like stating the facts, so sharing what I did and what the team did without over-embellishing any element of that. So I have been able to find opportunities where I feel like I've done this pretty well, where I can give the credit where credit is due, but not go over over and above that. But there are certainly many contributions that I make that I don't think anyone really understands the extent to which I had an impact or even just put effort into it. And there are also many times where I have allowed my co-workers to probably take more credit for the work that I have done than I would maybe like or than is just accurate.
LA: How does that feel to you coming out of that situation, where someone else takes credit, more credit for the work that you've done?
MB: It's hard, I'm human, and that's hard and it's a hard place to be in, it's happened a lot over the years. But at the same time, your perspective really matters in that. And so, for me, work is such an important part of my life, but it's not the only thing, it's not what defines my value or my success, so I don't feel crushed when I make a mistake or when I don't get credit for something or when someone else takes credit from me. And ultimately my value comes from Christ and who I am in Him, not in my success in my job or in the day-to-day accomplishments or how other people see me.
So, I feel like I'm able to kinda navigate that with some level of stability and peace, and even trying to find joy for my co-worker who might have gotten credit. Rarely is it somebody just taking credit flat out, it's often, they did contribute, they just probably over-extended their contribution or just under-represented somebody else's. And so, trying to find that true joy for them and being happy for them in their recognition is something that I strive for, trying to just re-center myself and grow myself in my identity in Christ, really does help me ride those waves of the good times and the bad.
LA: Is there a specific situation that you could lead us through where someone took credit for something you've done and how you handled that?
MR: With names and dates and their email address.
MB: All the dirty details. One example comes to my mind, where I had a new co-worker join our team, and he and I were working on something, and he shared it with our manager right after we finished working on it, and essentially said, "I did this thing, and I wanted to share it with you." And he didn't even include me on the note to her. And she brought it up in a one-on-one meeting with me, that he was working on this thing, and I was like, "Oh, okay I actually also helped work on that." And I was so caught off guard that I really didn't know how to respond, and she was like, "Oh okay cool." She didn't really think much about it. But then it happened again within a week, so he had only been on the team for two weeks and it happened twice. And so at that point, I was like, "Well, this kind of stinks, but more than anything, he's not gonna be set up for success at our company, which is like a highly collaborative company, almost never is one person responsible for anything fully."
And so, I did approach my manager and I said, "I wanted to let you know this has happened, not because I'm upset, and I don't really care and I also know that you know that I'm working on this now, but now that it's happened twice, I do worry that this could be setting him up not for a lot of success here. And so, I'm happy to talk to him about it, but I also I'm wondering if this is just like a cultural onboarding thing for you to talk to him about." Which is like, "Hey, when you work with your co-workers, it's great if you could just include them in the CC and just make sure to call out their contributions." And she ended up having a great conversation with him about that, and it never happened again.
And I think that in some ways I hope it was a gift to him to end up starting on the right foot, because I could see if he had continued on that pathway, other people might not have been as willing to allow it to happen. And I was sort of in a tough place, where I was like, "Do I say something, do I let her say something?" So I ended up just asking her what her opinion was and was willing to handle it myself or defer to her, however she thought was most appropriate. And I think it worked out pretty well in the end. Yeah, but that was a very specific example of somebody who definitely was over extending his role in the work we were doing.
MR: Yeah, that's a great story. I think most folks have probably experienced something like that, one way or another. And as you said, it's not altogether clear what you do with that. Do you just absorb it, do you address it? It seems to me like you were at first going to just not pursue it, but then you noticed a pattern.
MR: And the pattern was troubling. And again, not really just troubling to you and your ego or professional advancement, but to the team and the company. But the way you did it was very redemptive. I mean, you could have, I'm sure you found another way to bring that person down a peg, and you didn't do that and it's reflective. I was just, as you were talking, I was thinking of times in my life where... It's really a struggle. In one of my former occupations, not my current one, I did something I was extremely proud of, I actually still think it was one of the best things I did in that context of work. And for some strange reason I don't understand, a colleague, I think actually came to believe that it was his idea. It was my idea, completely! But I think he really believed it was his and everybody else believed it was his idea, and he got more affirmation and praise and all that. And in that case, I took it to the Lord. I was distressed, and I really, I sensed a couple of things, and this is not a rule for all situations, but in that situation, it was kind of like your first one, I sensed it, I'm not to press this, but I can know how much joy God is taking in my work and in what I did. And in that case, that was enough.
So again, I'm not saying I can never speak up, but I'm saying, you know, it's just, there's not one rule of thumb, and that's exactly what you said, you've gotta respond differently in different contexts.
The other thing, just to mention, is you talked about your boss and you talked about your team. I mean, it's a huge gift if your supervisor is one who really pays attention to accomplishments and achievements and lifts them up. Right now I've got that kind of boss, and it's just partly it just feels great to be recognized, but also I really don't need really to speak up about me. What I do and continue to try to learn to do more and more is to affirm those with whom I work and lift up them and their work. And it's not always gonna be that way, but I think that's part of it, sounds like you really sense that too Monica, your responsibility as a team leader, is to hold up your team.
MB: Absolutely yes. Celebrate their successes and encourage them along the way. And it consistently comes up in my reviews that that’s a gift that I have, is encouraging people along the way, but also navigating those difficult situations and being willing to work through them and put in the time and the effort, and we call them crucial conversations at our company. I always joke, "I have to have a minimum of 10 crucial conversations a week," but it's consistent feedback that I get is that I'm able to navigate those really hard conversations in a way that brings connection versus dissension. And I know that that's the Lord. I know that's the Holy Spirit's work in me, bringing unity, bringing peace and just giving me courage even to have those hard conversations and to lean into them, instead of run away from them. Or to be a part of proactively solving those problems instead of behind the scenes trying to tattle or throw people under the bus or just put my co-workers down.
Again, I'm certainly not perfect in those things. But it is something that I feel like the Lord has really developed in me over time and giving me patience and an endurance for, is seeing every opportunity with all my co-workers, the ones that are easy to work with and the ones that aren't. And trying to touch on every way that I can be the Lord to them, whether it's celebrating their success with them or navigating a difficult conversation with them. So just trying to be really conscious in all of the types of moments of how can I really think about my co-worker, love them in that moment and hopefully be salt and light to them in the midst of all the circumstances that we kind of endure together.
LA: Monica, the way you sum up your relationships with your co-workers reminds me of this passage from the Book of James, this is in James chapter 3 and verse 13, says; Who is wise and understanding among you. Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom. And then verse 17, teases out this idea of wisdom a little bit more, it says; The wisdom that comes from heaven is, first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. And then verse 18 says; Peacemakers who sow in peace, reap a harvest of righteousness. I hear that idea of wisdom and peacemaking really coming out in these two scenarios where you talk about how you dealt with a co-worker who's a little too self-promoting. And you really dealt with it as being a peacemaker and being humble yourself rather than going to envy or self-justification or anything like that.
MB: Thank you. That's a beautiful passage and I definitely aspire to do those things and have to ask for forgiveness a lot along the way as I stumble through it, so don't think too highly of me. [chuckle]
MR: Yeah. So Leah, you've given us some Bible passage. I wanna share one that I thought about in relationship to this conversation. It's actually in a strange way one of my favorite passages in scripture, even though it's kind of obscure, it actually comes in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and he has talked about the core gospel and the resurrection, and then he talked about how Christ revealed himself to Paul. And then he says, this thing, he says, "For I'm the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." Okay, so that's a fairly strong humble statement, "I'm the least of the apostles." Then he goes on, "But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I but the grace of God that is with me." And you know what I love about that? It's like it's all God's grace. Well, you know, I actually worked harder than any of the others, but it's God's grace. But I worked harder than the others.
MR: There's such a genuine humanness about that. And to me, I think that it just affirms we live in that tension, and it's not altogether wrong to say I worked really hard. Although if you do it without acknowledging God's grace then you can be taking on too much. So it feels like we kind of live in this tension where we acknowledge everything we have is a gift from God, and yet we've been entrusted with it and are to steward it and as we use those gifts well, it's okay to say that as long as we circle back to God's grace again. Anyway I love that.
LA: I love that passage. I love that that's your favorite, I really do.
MR: Well, 'cause honestly, I like getting recognition, and I also the further I go in life, the more I realize, "Oh my gosh, it's so much, so much God's grace." I also work really hard, but it's really God's grace. And I think the more I recognize the grace, the more that turns into gratitude. And gratitude, it's very hard to be grateful and not humble in that moment, right? So I think somehow the gratitude helps with the humility piece.
LA: So what would you say, Monica, as a word of advice to someone who is in a similar culture, who's really in an impact-focused culture, and is struggling with how much to self-promote?
MB: I think there's so many things you could say. I would remind you to think about Jesus as a servant leader and the example that He set of serving others, and just His time on Earth really being about the relationships along the way, more than what He accomplished. What is so evident about how He spent His time, especially in those final three years, was investing in the people around Him and serving them, and speaking truth over them and into their lives. And so, keeping your eyes focused on Him and allowing His example to guide you in your day-to-day at work. And I would just say that it's so important to be faithful in the small things. I feel like our integrity as Christians often ends up eroding over time when we're just not faithful in the small things that end up leading to the big things and pile up to be the big things.
So just being faithful in the small things along the way, which includes, when you make mistakes, cleaning them up and taking the time to invest in the relationship that you might have had a hiccup with, or spending time in prayer to ask God to redeem some mistake that you had. Just along the way, doing your work well and doing your work unto the Lord, and just being faithful in the moments that no one is watching and no one is seeing, or that no one will ever hear about, that will never get promoted or shared it in your company. Just being faithful in all those small things that ultimately do open doors for you to be trusted with the big things.
LA: When you think of the small things, I just think of how many moments I've been in front of my computer staring in a email message, saying, "Do I use the word I or do I use the word we?" And it's such a small word, it's a one-letter word, or a two-letter word, but there's such a big difference. How much do I use the word I? How much do I use the word we, when I talk about something my team accomplished. Or when I talk about something that went wrong. When I talked about something that failed. Oh man, this week, I just got an email from my boss that said, "Hey, we got a negative comment on this article. Can you reply to it?" Some article that's up on our website. And my every instinct, my first instinct, was to go, "I didn't write it. I didn't write that article. He thinks I wrote that article, but I didn't really, I'm gonna go find the person who wrote that article and make them reply to the negative comment, and I'm gonna write an email back, making sure he knows who it was." And you know what I had to do in that moment? I had to stop and I had to pray.
I really had to... It took more than a moment, it took a few minutes. I had to spend a few minutes not responding to that email immediately. Took me a few minutes to say, "Hey, how important is this? How important is it to go put someone else on the... To go point out something a co-worker... Or find someone else who did something wrong to save my face for a minute, when all my boss is asking me to do was reply to the comment?" And in the end, I gave it a few minutes of deep breaths, and then I just wrote a... I did the job that he was asking me to do, and never pointed out the fact that it wasn't my article that... Although I'm pointing it out here, though.
MB: The truth is out.
LA: Months later. [chuckle] But it's so difficult, 'cause my ego is so big that I always wanna protect it above everything else, and I always want all the positive comments, and I always want the negative comments to go to someone else. And that's not how God shapes me through my work. God shapes me more into His image by giving me opportunities to be humble, like He did.
LA: Monica, what's your hope for the future in your career? Do you feel at some point in your career you're gonna wanna promote yourself more, or do you feel comfortable? Do you hope that your company will change to a different culture? What's your big hope?
MB: It's a really good question. I wanna continue to do great work, I wanna continue to shine light, and until I feel like God is calling me somewhere else, I wanna do it where I am and continuing to invest in the relationships and the work that I've already done here. And at the same time, I also really care about things outside of work, so investing in my family, in my friendships, in my community, in my church, and I lead a ministry, and have three children. And recently, I had a conversation with my husband about, well, I think that there is a chance that I could be promoted if I want to pursue one of these new opportunities that I have in my head. And weighing with him about the sacrifices that we would have to make in order for me to take on more versus within my current scope.
And I think, for me, the hope is that no matter what I take on, that I continue to weigh those priorities well, making sure that not one area of my life is suffering because of another. My hope is that I continue to lean on the Lord. And that people in all the areas of my life continue to feel like I'm investing in them, and that they can see the Lord working through those decisions that I make.
That might not be the perfect answer to your question, it's not very clearly aspirational, but my aspiration is to follow Jesus well. And so, whether that be in increasing my scope at work or just continuing to deliver great work in my current scope, so that I can have the time and energy to invest in other areas, I'm okay with that. And so, I think just my hope is I would continue to be sensitive to His calling and to the Spirit's leading in my life, and as I prioritize all the different areas in my life, that He would be honored in them and that I would just hear His voice in the midst of it all.
LA: Wow, good answer.
LA: I'm a little stumped, I really am. I think you're such a great example of a Christian really working out these tough questions in the workplace, with the real life challenges. Mark, do you have final thoughts on this topic?
MR: The one I had, you pretty much just said, so I'll just say it too. Monica, you are in a high-tech company, in an extremely competitive context, up in the Bay Area, in Silicon Valley. And I was just thinking, if someone had come in but missed the beginning of our conversation, where we introduced you, they might think you're working in some sweet family business. And not that that's easy, but it's just, what I do so appreciate about the way you've talked about this, is this integration that you talked about, that your work in this challenging context, also very fruitful and exciting context, but is deeply integrated with your faith, and your faith with your work. And that's helping you to have resources of wisdom, resources of compassion and care for people. And so, it's real encouragement to hear you. We came into this conversation wanting you talk about self-promotion, and that's been a great piece, but as I come out of it, I'm struck by how much your commitment to living your faith in every part of life, being a disciple of Jesus wherever you are, taking time to reflect and grow, is helping you deal with the particular challenge of self-promotion, but also so much more.
MB: Thank you. Thanks for letting me be a part of what you're doing.
LA: Oh, thank you so much, Monica. Just wanna say thank you again for sharing your work and your faith in this conversation.
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