It doesn’t take long to lose your religion at work, does it? You might be asked to bump up a grade to ensure a star athlete gets to play. Or sell at your company’s highest prices when you could steer your customer toward a better deal. Or gossip about a colleague, engage in an “innocent” email flirtation with that cutie in accounting, pad an expense report, or slander your competition to a prospect.
There’s no shortage of ways to fall from grace sitting right at your desk.
In the workplace where most of us answer to a manager — or clients or shareholders — it’s easy to forget the ultimate leader in our lives. Wherever people are gathered together, there are flaws and problems and sin. But I think our job — our calling — as people of faith is to influence those around us by living our values at work, in ways both sublime and overt.
According to Roger Grant, we can look to none other than the Ten Commandments for direction. As he chronicled in his blog post, “ To what extent does the Bible influence business ethics?” Grant suggests that, “Thou shall not steal,” applies to corporate matters as well as personal — such as stealing proprietary information. The admonition to, “not give false testimony against your neighbor” reminds us to treat even our adversaries — or in this case, our competitors, with respect.
Dealing with people, flawed and fallen as we are, almost always creates a challenge at some point. We can look to the Golden Rule to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” when coping with even the snarkiest of colleagues and crankiest of customers.
As for our bosses, well, that’s a tough one. It’s not always easy to submit to an ill-tempered or unfair leader (and I don’t know about you, but submitting has never been my strong suit). But we can always change our attitude by subscribing to the wisdom found in Ephesians 6:7, “work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
And what about if said boss asks you to compromise your code of ethics in any way? I’ve had a little experience in this area. A valued client asked me to write promotional material for an industry with a business model I, myself, couldn’t buy into. Now, it wasn’t my job to make a judgment. I like writing for some industries more than others — but I really struggled with this one. And I knew the results would be visible in my work — I’m just better at “selling” something I have some chance of buying.
So first, I prayed. It is such a comfort to go straight to the source of all power and wisdom for guidance. Next, I sought the counsel (without revealing too many details) of two wise and mature Christians, business owners themselves (see Proverbs 24:6). Finally, I summoned all my courage and expressed my reservations to my client. I don’t mind telling you I was scared — on many levels. And you know what? He understood, and graciously allowed me to exit from the assignment (and yes, we’re still working together).
There are so many ways to bear witness to Christ’s love and mercy — and not everyone is called to knock on doors, teach Sunday school, minister in foreign countries, or write columns. But each of us can take our faith into our everyday lives where we are still called to obey, to influence, and to inspire.
Especially at the water cooler.
• Diane Meehl lives, works and contemplates the big questions in Ahwatukee Foothills. A frequent contributor to AFN, she and her family worship at Mountain View Lutheran Church. Reach her at email@example.com.