Monday, February 18, 2013

Work: Fruitless, Pointless, Selfish, Idolatrous

Imagine you’re working for an organization that is trying to decide a course of action. It could be any action – a new product, an executive change, announcement of a partnership, filing of litigation, or anything else that organizations today find a normal part of doing business.

Head around the table are nodding as the champion presents the plan and what will be achieved. People are speaking in favor, supporting the idea (especially if it’s championed by someone higher up in the organization).

You sit there, uncertainty gnawing at you. As soon as you saw the PowerPoint slides begin, you see the flaw, or flaws. You see what’s being overlooked or glossed over. You see the errors in judgment. You’re getting this acidic stomach because you know where this plan is headed.

And you also know what will happen if your voice your opinion or raise the smallest question about it. Not a team player. Always negative. Afraid to take a risk. Doesn’t see the big picture.

This time you choose to speak out. The speaker gets red in the face and tries to stay calm. The more he tries to explain, the deeper he gets into the mire. Others around the table see the same problems, and say nothing; they will tell you later that they were glad you spoke up.

Despite your objections, the plan goes forward. And blows up in everyone’s faces. All the people who nodded and approved are suddenly nowhere to be found. And the champion gets angry with you because you were right. A considerable amount of work and resources turns out to be for naught. And you’re likely not to be invited back to the next meeting on the next plan.

I would like to say this is confined to the business workplace. But having worked for a public school district, churches as an elder or deacon, a newspaper, a university, several political campaigns, and Fortune 500 companies, I can say that it is unfortunately all too common across all kinds of workplaces.

I’m reading Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work with The High Calling book discussion group, and Keller speaks to the problems of work.

When it becomes fruitless, with more and more work producing a smaller and smaller result.

When it becomes pointless, and it doesn’t matter what you do or how well (or poorly) you do it.

When it becomes selfish, with people sacrificing the common good of the enterprise to achieve their own personal or team goals (a particular problem today because we’re all led to believe that we should be “self-actualized” and “fulfilled” by work).

When it becomes idolatrous, and we worship the work (meaning the fruit of our hands) instead of the Creator.

And problems happen because we are all sinful people. Work, designed by God as something good and for our benefit, is full of broken people and broken, imperfect systems. No management system, no new human resources initiative, no new vision and mission statement will ever change that.

What can change the problems in the workplace starts in the human heart. No workplace will ever be perfect, not in this lifetime, anyway, but change can happen and work be done in such a way that honors God and honors people.

Led by Laura Boggess, we’re reading Every Good Endeavor over at The High Calling. To see what others are saying and participate in the discussion, pleasevisit the site.



Robbie Pruitt said...

Looking forward to reading this as well. . . next on my list. . . Thanks for posting Glynn!

Maureen said...

You described perfectly a workplace I was in once. I still think, like you, that "change can happen"; what it requires of each of us, however, not every person is willing to offer.

Laura said...

I agree with Maureen, Glynn. Not everyone is willing to do the hard work necessary for change. But that is one of the challenges we face if we work as to the Lord, isn't it? Yes, indeedy. Far too familiar problems.

Jyoti Mishra said...

looks like an interesting read.. will read it sometime

David Rupert said...

I think the key is to step up with excellence and humility. There will be naysayers, but eventually they will be worn down as there will simply no real excuse left.

Sandra Heska King said...

Like Keller said, everything is broken now. We can only help weave it back together with whole hearts--and even then the work won't be complete in this life.