Headstart: Do you want to start over? #3 RELATIONSHIPS
Will is a young worker who is gentle and witty. His number one sauce for maccas nuggets should and must only be SWEET and SOUR. Apparently so is everyone’s.
Back at Headstart, Mark Leong delivers a cracker of a talk on resetting ourselves (see previous blogs on the third space). Keep reading to see how he tackled (office) relationships.
GETTING A HEADSTART
It is 9am, you walked into the office - What do you see? The personal assistant typing frantically while talking on the phone. The man in a suit vandalising the photocopier and swearing at the top of his voice. A bunch of women gossiping away at a corner.
It is easy to make a snap judgement of our office culture and environment. Often, it is intuitive and without much thought. Because we form these judgements so quickly, they are often short sighted and bias. Our initial assessment is incorrect. So how can we make an accurate assessment? We find a helpful framework in the Bible, 1 Peter 3:13-16.
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
FACING THE HEAD WIND
First, we looked at the obstacles that the followers of Jesus were likely to face in the passage:
- Malice and Slander for speaking out and on behalf of the gospel
- Internal Uncertainty and living up to such a high standard
- Injustice and Suffering and a general ethos of hostility
We see and resonate with these very obstacles in the work place – don’t we?
We could just take the easy route and just stop there as it speaks into our experience at the workplace. But, having a closer look at the passage there are in fact lots of present opportunities for Jesus’ followers that we can bring into the workplace too.
- An opportunity to stand up and be authentic
- An opportunity to show Grace and Gentleness rather our natural inclination to retaliate.
- Blessing – we are just like Jesus, being threatened for doing good and blessed because of it.
- Fearlessness (because we have and trust in Jesus)
- Ultimate Vindication – God will judge justly
We can see from this that with obstacles, there are mirrored opportunities in how we respond. Peter helpfully covers both the What AND the How of responding to obstacles.
We must stand for the truth, but speak this truth with love and respect. If we simply stand for the truth but do so defensively and callously we make it ‘us’ vs ‘them’. But, if we speak with gentleness, this can be disarming and can be a path for the gospel.
ENTERING THE RIGHT HEAD SPACE
So, how do we do this with office relationships?
#1 Respect the office culture
We can all read our bibles and pick holes in our work culture, pigeon-hole it as a place with obstacles and hostile to the gospel but in doing so we miss the opportunities for the gospel. Once we let bitterness settles in, the obstacles will be all we see and becomes an either/or – only obstacles or only opportunities – but as we saw from 1 Peter, it is can be a both/and. All workplaces have both obstacles and opportunities.
Every culture has areas that resonate part of the gospel, and grates against parts of the gospel - no office is perfect. However, if when we see it as a ‘both/and’ situations we can see the culture for what is: recognising the obstacles and challenges but also embracing the opportunities and respecting the culture.
#2 Respect the colleagues
We need to stand up for the truth but doing so with respect and gentleness. Funnily enough, even the Harvard Business Review’s guideline for dealing with office politics is actually very similar to 1 Peter.
Let’s reflect and approach our colleagues with clearly and directly speaking with respect and affection.
#3 Respect Relationships
At work, we engage with people who have similar skills and interests, often from similar socio-economic backgrounds who achieves the hard things with us (and celebrate with us too). We do this work for long-hours over months or years together, so; it’s no wonder that most affairs happen in the office.
As followers of Jesus, we are not immune to this kind of attraction. So, we have to respect office relationships for what they are and what they are not. Romantic relationships in the office can sometimes be an obvious match, with many similarities between the two people. However, just like observing work culture, our initial assessment will be misleading here. Furthermore, as we shared at Headstart, this can often be a symptom of something deeper: unrest, doubt, hardship. As a community of young workers, that we need to walk alongside each other through the obstacles and opportunities, with no guilt or judgement. Because in Jesus, let’s be honest, we have nothing to fear.