Can You Do Your Job Too Well?

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Can You Do Your Job Too Well?

One day on a late Friday afternoon I was called into my boss’s office. There had been a reorganization of my area, and all the teams had been given new functions (and headcount!). My peers and I were finding out one-by-one what our new assignments were going to be.

I expected to become the manager of the team I had been leading, maybe even expanded a little. Indeed, that's what I was told. But my boss threw in something else – I was also going to be leading a second team, a team that had to be built from the ground up to handle the most difficult work of the organization.

Not just one team, but two. And the nature of the second team meant it wasn’t just double the managerial work for me, but something more like triple.

"I Decided"

I was stunned. If this was what God had in mind, then he had the confidence in me to do it. I wasn’t exactly sure of the human reasoning behind the decision, for my boss declined to answer the question “why two teams?” except to say, “I decided.”

So I set to work. Within six weeks, both teams were staffed and operational. The work was exceedingly difficult – what some called the worst jobs in the organization – but we had found good people, let them create the work plan and strategy, and then set them loose.

It worked, better than even I’d hoped. We took risks, but they all paid off. We innovated. We did things that previously wouldn’t have even been options. We gained major attention inside and outside the company. The results for both teams were phenomenal.

A year later, the two teams were broken up by upper management. The reason: “I decided.” Chaos ensued, and it would require another 18 months and the departure of the boss to begin to set things right.

I now know the real reason for the change: innovation is disruptive and threatening. Jeffrey Phillips, with the OVO innovation consulting firm, recently identified three ways innovation makes executives uncomfortable and often threatened:

  1. It requires skills that the business doesn’t have or doesn't reinforce.
  2. It is unpredictable.
  3. It ultimately places someone else in control.

I didn’t realize it, but my two teams suggested all three possibilities.

Work As Witness

The notion that you can do your job too well seems an odd one, especially for those of us who believe that our work is a holy calling, one that requires us to do our very best. Doing our best and achieving our goals is a kind of offering, both to God and our fellow employees. In this sense, our work – what we do and how we do it – is a witness of our faith.

It would seem that the better we perform, the greater the results we achieve. And when conducted in a godly, ethical manner, we testify to our faith. In essence, two “goods” result – the work itself and the testimony to faith and God. But what’s easy to forget is that we will often suffer for our faith. It comes with the territory.

I wrestled with this for a long time, until I came to understand that I really had no choice. If I am called to do my very best in my work, then that is what I must do, even when I know how threatening that might be.

Post by Glynn Young.

Photo by  Ben and Gillian. Used by permission, via Flickr.