When It Comes To Work…

A recent poll revealed that 36% of people in the United States hate their jobs. Think about it. That means 1 in 3 of us get up every morning and when it comes to work the goal is surviving, not thriving. Yet when I read the Bible, work is often described as a gift from God. We’re even encouraged in Ecclesiastes that we can be happy in tough jobs.

This past year my LIFEgroup went through the Series Simplify by Bill Hybels and one week the focus was work and I was introduced to four questions we all need to ask when it comes to work:

Question #1: What is my passion? Or put another way, where do you get your energy? As you take a look at the life you’ve experienced, your hobbies, studies, what gives you the most raw energy? What fires you up?

  • Working under the hood of a car?
  • Mentoring at risk youth?
  • Cooking?
  • Teaching English?
  • Working with animals?
  • Business & Finance?

The list is endless. So take a few minutes and ask yourself that question, “What fires me up?” Don’t respond with what you think you should answer. What do you really feel? Then take a look at your current job. Does it even come close to connecting with what you are passionate about?

Look, there are times in all are lives when, because of circumstances we end up doing a job we don’t really want to do. There was a time in my life where I just needed cash so I got the only job I could find – working in a grain elevator.   lg_100D_HK_technician_vacuum_removing_waste_grainMy “responsibilities” included painting, sweeping, shoveling and cleaning out the delivery pit – that’s the place where grain gets caught and turns into a moldy mess. What made it even better? I was allergic to grain dust! But, the job paid my bills.

I’m not telling you to quit your job tomorrow because it doesn’t perfectly connect with your passion.   What I’m asking is that you be aware of your passion as you do the job you have right now. Ask God to open doors that will lead you to your passion. Discover volunteer opportunities that will allow you to get near it. Take classes to learn more about it. Talk to people who are good it.

Take Away: Keep your passion in mind so if a job opportunity comes your way,you’re ready to jump in.

Question #2 What is my work culture? There are a couple aspects to this question. (1) What is your work doing to you? If you’ve ever received a paycheck, then you know that every place of employment has a certain culture about it. Culture sets everything from how decisions are made… to the dress code. Culture tells you how prepared you should be for a given meeting. It’s what determines how likely you are to speak up if you think something unfair is happening.

Culture is established by people, which means there always will be aspects of work culture that we wish would change. Fair enough, it’s still wise to occasionally step back and ask: What impact is my work culture having on me? Think it through. Do you enjoy going to work each day, or do you dread it? Do you feel spent in a good way by day’s end, or do you feel empty, exhausted, or even mad? What’s the impact of your work culture on your family? On your friends? On your dog?

Take Away: Examine the impact your workplace has on you, so that you’ll know where things stand.

Then there’s a second perspective of culture, beyond what is work doing to you, it’s What are you doing to your work? In general, there are two types of employees: One makes the culture better – we’re talking builders, and the other makes it worse… we’re talking the busters. Pretty basic, right?

So what kind of impact are you having a work? It’s easy to come up with a list of all the ways your work stinks:

  • “They make me work like a dog.”
  • “They don’t pay me for unused vacation.”
  • “My boss never includes me in decisions that affect me.”

On and on it goes. You could wallpaper your home with this list. But what you’d be overlooking is how are you impacting where you work.   Are you adding to the culture—or messing it up?  Here’s what I know: Every one of us can do better on this front. And until we rightly assess how we’re adding vibrancy and vitality to our workplace culture, we’ve only addressed half the equation.

  • If your workplace culture is broken, first consider how you can help fix it. Show up on time. Come to work with a teachable spirit. Be a person who is true to his or her word.
  • Find ways to encourage your boss, even if that person is tough to get along with. Don’t be a gossip. Be honest in all your dealings. Smile.
  • Instead of playing Angry Birds on breaks, roam the halls to see if there is something you can clean up, someone you can encourage, some problem you can help solve. Even if your people look at you funny, choose to be a culture builder.

Then, only after you’ve racked up some time culture-building camp, are you allowed to sort out what still remains broken in the culture you serve. If you find that the brokenness is just too much to take, then begin asking God to open a door of departure for you, so that you can preserve the health of your soul.

If, on the other hand, you discover that you were part of the problem and that now that you’re committed to building up the culture around you, things seem to be getting better, then ask God for wisdom and grace to stay the culture-building course.

Question #3 Where am I being challenged? Up front this is a balance and only you can decide…only you can manage where that sweet spot between over- and under-challenged is in your life. Now churches, at times, have established a bad reputation for using people up and spitting them out. You and I both have seen far too many pastors and ministry leaders burn out, sometimes in tragically spectacular ways. This is a horrible trend! But I think it stems from something as simple as poor self-management.

If the organization where you work is known for using and abusing its staff—to the tune of eighty-hour workweeks, substandard benefits, the modeling of inappropriate moral conduct, dishonesty with overseers, and the like—then you’ve got to take responsibility for standing up and saying “enough.”  Similarly, if you are foundering in a job that underutilizes your skills, initiative, or expertise, please, please, please begin praying now that God will lead you to a role that’s a better fit.

Take Away: Only you can manage this stuff. Only you know what’s right for you.

Let’s finish up with Question #4 What about compensation? There’s a balance in the workplace that most of us try to strike—even if it’s only subconsciously: We want to love what we do (there’s that passion idea again), and we want to be paid a lot of money to do it. Right? Don’t we tend to feel this way? That’s why so many educators in our nation are so vexed: They are incredibly fired up about pouring knowledge into the next generation’s minds, but they are incredibly frustrated about the pittance they receive to do it. And they should be.

By way of contrast, we have professional athletes in this country signing contracts that will net them hundreds of millions of dollars. Harrison Smith just signed a contract with the Minnesota Viking spanning 2016 through 2019 for $36.92 Million Dollars. ows_145049458460105The guy makes more than $576 K for each game he plays. That’s basically $2.4 Million per interception.

I’m sure Harrison Smith loves to play football. I’m also sure he is being paid really well – this is a win / win when it comes to pay and passion! Now for the rest of us, it’s often not that clear. Sometimes we love what we do but realize we’re not receiving a fair exchange. Sometimes we don’t necessarily love what we do, but the hefty paycheck sure is nice.

I simply want to raise the issue,  where do you fall, when it comes to passion versus pay? And, what might God be asking you to do in order to supplement one side or the other? Do you need to find a second job, so that your “pay” side is up to par? Do you need to seek out a meaningful volunteer opportunity, so that your “passion” side can light up?