Because I’m Not the Boss

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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I have a new boss at work. In theory, this is okay. He's a decent person—fair, friendly, and intelligent. We were colleagues in the same department several years ago, so I've worked closely with him before. As the result of institutional restructuring, he's recently been promoted to a supervisory role. Whereas we were equals in the past, he's now my superior.

I don't like change. I prefer the same-old, same-old—the familiarity of structure and routine. So although I anticipated this change and was prepared for it, I am resisting it in subtle ways.

During the last couple of weeks, for example, I have not made my supervisor's transition particularly easy. While I haven't purposefully undermined his authority, intentionally sabotaged his efforts, or been overtly critical, I haven't exactly been helpful either.

Instead, I've pointed out instances where processes have not flowed smoothly or where projects have gone awry. I've focused on the negative rather than the positive—the bumps in the road, rather the success stories.

I've also dashed off a couple of curt emails to both my colleagues and to my supervisor himself. I've demonstrated what I know, how I do things, while subtly shining the spotlight on what I consider to be his shortcomings.

Barnabas the supporter

While this transition has unfolded at work, I've been reading Acts—one chapter each morning. The last time I read Acts, I focused primarily on Paul and his role in growing and leading the early church. This time, though, Barnabas caught my eye.

Barnabas wasn't the boss. He wasn't in charge of the church's early mission work. Paul is generally considered a leader in the early church, but Barnabas was more like an assistant.

As Paul's right-hand man, Barnabas served in a critical supporting role. He was Paul's advocate, spokesperson, and earliest champion. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem just after his dramatic conversion, the people were naturally reluctant to welcome and trust him. Barnabas risked his life to meet with Paul and then convinced the people that Paul's proclamations were true, that he indeed believed in and followed Jesus.

Barnabas was Paul's trusted ally. He wasn't threatened or demeaned in his job as assistant but clearly embraced his role and performed it to the best of his ability.

A New Testament role model for the rest of us

Reading about Barnabas illuminated just how little I've done to support my new supervisor. Rather than encourage, I've complained and nitpicked. Rather than embrace my role as supporter, I've chafed beneath what I perceive to be new constraints on my authority. Rather than humbly accept that I am not first, I've grumbled about being last. I've shook my head, rolled my eyes, doubted, and criticized.

In short, I have not been a supporter or an encourager. I've been a reluctant, distrustful staff member. I have not been Barnabas.

I'm thankful I chose to read Acts this month as I weather this restructuring at work. Barnabas has become my role model. Like him, I hope to serve as a foundation for my supervisor to lean on, a promoter rather than a detractor of his accomplishments. Barnabas' positive approach to service and support have inspired me to bring a fresh attitude to the office.

Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:

  • Can you think of a circumstance, at work or at home, in which you chafed under authority or resented change? How could you have responded to that situation more positively?
  • Opportunities for encouragement abound. How can you offer encouragement and support in your workplace today?
  • Can you think of a way you might prepare yourself for the workday—perhaps by spending time in prayer or meditation or in reading a verse from the Bible—in order to encourage a better attitude before you arrive at work?
  • For further reflection, read Ed Cyzewski's article “Controlling Anger in the Workplace” and Robert Flynn's article “I Am Here on the Job.”