Is Work a Four-Letter Word?

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A dysfunctional workplace drama can only end badly, and that’s exactly what happened.

Somehow, the people working for my boss had become a threat. Our work would have made any boss proud—innovative, game-changing, with glowing results. The problem was that it challenged the status quo within the larger organization.

The boss was eventually replaced; one of his team leaders retired; the rest of us were assigned to other teams. Some of my responsibilities were taken away, but I was in something of a special position: my team had been the most innovative and cutting-edge with the biggest successes, and it was hard to blatantly penalize those results.

The overall effect, however, was to make the entire organization risk averse, and the company eventually suffered because of it. Disillusioned and frustrated, I was angry that bad management had been tolerated and good people hurt.

Like so much else, nothing was ever explained. It was swept under the rug, out of sight and ready to trip the next unsuspecting person.

My own recovery took time. My response was just the question that author Tom Nelson asks in his book, Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work: is work a four-letter word?

The answer is no, but it is a good question to ask. Like everything else in our world, work is affected by sin. It was even part of the curse of original sin laid upon Adam—he would have to work the ground, and it would involve pain, hurt, difficulties, sweat and disillusionment.

Understanding this was the first step in my recovery: bad management is part of the curse. Dysfunctional workplaces are not the exceptions because all workplaces are comprised of sinful, hurting people.

The second step in my recovery was the most personally painful. I began to pray for my old boss.

I didn’t want to pray for him; I would have been pleased to see the proverbial lightning bolt vaporize him wherever he was. But slowly and grudgingly, I began to pray. I gradually began to understand that I had allowed his broken management to become my spiritual problem, threatening to consume me. Over time, the prayers became easier. They never became easy, however.

The third step was to understand the position I was in. I was the only Christian (as far as I know) involved in all of this. What I did and what I said mattered. My workplace is my mission field—what I do and how I do it is my vocation. I can’t leave my faith at the office door. It’s who I am and who I’m supposed to be. I bear an image in the workplace as I do everywhere else—and it’s not my image.

I am part of the redemptive process in my workplace. No matter how broken things are, my work matters, especially because it and my workplace will never be perfect.

“A perfect job or career is not only unrealistic,” Nelson writes in Work Matters, “it is theologically untenable. Whatever work we have been called to do will be a mixture of the good and the not so good.”

But we are called to do it. And it is vitally important.

Post by Glynn Young.

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