Archive | January, 2015

Boss’ Pet: Playing Peacemaker

30 Jan

In Hebrews 12:11-15, the Apostle Paul explains that, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…” Again, in Romans 12:17-21 he commands us to, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Jesus, Himself, emphasizes the importance of peace in the Beatitudes saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

The choice before me was clear: I could continue to fruitlessly pursue justice (an act which would only encourage further dissension amongst the staff) or I could accept the injustice for what it was and learn to be the kind of peacemaker Jesus wanted me to be. (I’ll let you guess which of the two was the hardest to do.) I had been given an opportunity to develop my character under adverse circumstances. And in doing so, I also had the opportunity to be a positive influence upon the thoughts and actions of others.

Instead of focusing on the rules our new hire broke or the many ways in which he failed to function as a part of the team, I chose to center my thoughts and words on the opposite. I took the time to point out to the other staff members the ways in which the boss’ pet did act as a team player. I refused to take part in conversations devoted to running him (and the manager who favored him) down. And I went out of my way to encourage the new hire when he did make right choices.

Much to my surprise, the atmosphere at the workplace began to change. While our “Joseph” never did lose his position of importance, taking the time to continually and vocally focus on the positive went a long way towards defusing a tense situation. What had at first struck the staff as a terrible injustice began to appear almost comical. Our mood lightened and our frustration with the favoritism dissipated.

More importantly, by pursuing actions which led to peace rather than trying to hold on to what was “rightfully mine” through an unending quest for justice, I was able to reflect Christ’s love to everyone involved. In the end, that’s what being a Christ Follower is about.

Boss’ Pet: A Biblical Parallel

23 Jan

Our new employee had quickly become a favored son. While our boss had high expectations for the rest of us, our new hire seemed to get away with everything. If he didn’t like the rules, he broke them. If he didn’t like when he was scheduled to work, he didn’t show up. If he wanted to leave early, he just left. While the rest of us would have suffered the consequences, he didn’t.

After weeks of watching our manager knowingly avert his gaze, the situation was beginning to grow volatile. Explaining our frustration about the unequal standards hadn’t resulted in any change either in the behavior of the new hire or in our boss’ treatment of him. It was clear that the problem couldn’t be met head-on… but that didn’t mean that there wasn’t a way for the rest of us to rise to the challenge and benefit from the experience.

As the senior member of the staff, I soon noticed that my own attitudes towards the players in our little drama affected, if not the feelings of my coworkers, at least their expression of those feelings. I was in a surprising position of influence. And I was determined to use that influence for good.

It was at this point that God brought Reuben to mind. While the elder brother of Joseph was hardly of sparkling moral character (you may recall that he forsook his blessing as the firstborn when he decided to sleep with his father’s concubine) his role in the story of Joseph was an admirable one. Scripture tells us that, “When they [Joseph’s brothers] saw him [Joseph] from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer! “Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!” But Reuben heard this and rescued him out of their hands and said, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben further said to them, “Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to his father. So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it. Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. Then some Midianite traders passed by, so they pulled him up and lifted Joseph out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt. Now Reuben returned to the pit, and behold, Joseph was not in the pit; so he tore his garments. He returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is not there; as for me, where am I to go?” (Genesis 37:18-30)

While the other brothers were set on killing the boy, Reuben played the role of peacemaker. He had attempted to do what was right before God without giving way to his own resentment. And, as Christians, we too, are instructed to pursue peace, even in the face of injustice. (To be continued…)

Boss’ Pet: Dealing with Favorites in the Workplace

16 Jan

The new hire was rather charming. Despite living in the frigid north, he had a sort of laid-back surfer air about him and didn’t seem to take anything too seriously. He smiled constantly, laughed frequently, and had just enough “individuality” to have fit in well with our staff… if he had really wanted to.
Unfortunately, he made it quite clear from the beginning that he played by his own set of rules. And these rules frequently failed to fall in line with company policy. Those of us who had been with the company for a while attempted to gently instruct him, but when his antics began to endanger both staff members and the company revenue, it was decided that the situation needed to be addressed to our manager.
I spent several hours reviewing the situation, rehearsing what I intended to say and ensuring that it sounded as generous as possible, then scheduled a meeting with my department head. Much to my surprise, my boss informed me that we all needed to back off and stay out of the matter. While I had never seen my employer as a particularly prejudiced man, the unfairness of the situation was obvious and it was not long before most of the staff members were freely expressing their resentment towards both the boss and the “boss’ pet.”
While at some point in life, you’ve probably been informed that “life isn’t fair”, it can take the workplace to bring this proverb into sharp relief. King Solomon once said that, “There is futility which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked. On the other hand, there are evil men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say that this too is futility.” (Ecclesiastes 8:14) The truth is that, in a world corrupted by sin, righteousness is not always rewarded and evil is not always punished.
As Christians, we know that our perspective on this reality ought to be distinctly different from the rest of the world, but that doesn’t always make the situation an easy one; sometimes it can take all of our strength just to keep from blowing a fuse!
What do we do when we see someone “getting away with murder”? How do we handle inconsistencies in the way our employer handles members of the staff? And when do we back off and simply allow such unjust favoritism to take its course?
We’ll be looking at the answers to these questions over the coming weeks. In the mean time, feel free to share your own experienced dealing with a “boss’ pet” in the comment box below.

Practical Jokes and the Workplace: Tips for the Victim

9 Jan

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been examining reasons to avoid playing practical jokes both in the workplace and elsewhere. While it may be a good idea for us to avoid engaging in such activities, however, that doesn’t mean that others won’t try to pull us in. So what do you do if you end up the victim of a poorly timed, poorly executed practical joke?

To begin with, recognize that a mean prank may not have had a mean intent – it may just have gone wrong. The timing may have been off or someone failed to think their joke all the way through. Whatever the reason, it’s best to give the benefit of the doubt and show a bit of mercy. After all, which one of us hasn’t done something that sounded good at the time, but was, in retrospect, a terrible idea?

That said, some pranks really are intended to be cruel. Just because you happen to find yourself a victim of such a joke doesn’t mean that you have to stoop to the level of the prankster… or even be embarrassed that they pulled one over on you. Jesus commanded His disciples in Matthew 5:38-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

We’ve all done some evil things in our lives and, even though you may never have been a bully, you’ve probably intentionally done something at some time knowing that it was going to cause pain to another – and you were very likely forgiven for it (even if it was only God who forgave). We’ve all received mercy at some point (and if we’re honest, multiple points) in our lives, so it’s worth the effort to extend some mercy to others.

Secondly, remember the admonition of Romans 12:19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.” The prank may have hurt and you may have been embarrassed, but the best thing you can do is often nothing. Pranks are usually played with the intention of getting a reaction from the person upon whom they are played – so if you don’t react, the fun will wear off pretty quickly and the prankster will usually move on to his next victim.

Thirdly, learn to laugh at yourself. Sometimes even a nasty joke can be defused if the person it’s played upon is able to see the humor in it, themselves. As human beings, even the most noble and honorable among us sometimes do silly things or act inconsistently with our beliefs. Learning to recognize that and laugh along with others can go a long way towards gaining some credibility for ourselves and rescuing us from feeling endlessly the “victim”.

Finally, take the time to recognize genius. As terrible as the prank may have been, perhaps it really was brilliantly engineered. Sometimes people just want to be noticed… and if they can’t gain that recognition through seemingly ordinary means, they resort to the extraordinary. Go ahead, see what happens if you pay tribute to the genius of the prankster – you may end up turning an enemy into a life-long friend.

 

 

Practical Jokes and the Workplace: Four Points to Consider

2 Jan

Last week in “A Caution”, I shared the story of a practical joke gone wrong… and advised that the best way to execute a prank in the workplace is not to execute one at all. This week, I’ll be explaining that advice in more detail as I share four important things to consider before attempting to play any prank on anyone, anywhere!

1. You can’t control the timing. Everyone knows that when it comes to a sense of humor, timing is everything. While you have control over this factor when zinging someone with a one-liner, more often than not, practical jokes won’t allow you that luxury. For example, at one place where I once worked, a staff member hid a rubber snake in a bin of washers. The intended victim came across the inanimate critter and made the quite reasonable mistake of assuming that it was real. (So far, so good.) Unfortunately, aside from nearly wetting her pants, she also let out a string of expletives that would have made a sailor blush… and did make several customers turn quite rosy. The truth was, thanks to its poor timing, a joke that could have been a real hoot proved an embarrassment both to the staff member who got nailed and to the company.

2. Does this cause property damage. I think all of us have heard about someone super gluing their boss’ gear to his desk or nailing someone’s boots to the floor. While these hijinx are amusing on television, they are often less so in person. Again, there is a timing issue (if your boss is reaching for his pen, it’s likely that he intends to use it), but there is also that little issue of property damage. That antique oak desk won’t look quite the same, even after the super glue has been removed and those boots won’t be quite as weather proof after the nail has been taken out. If your prank has the potential (even the slight potential) to cause permanent harm, don’t pull it. Remember, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you.” (Matthew 7:12) You’ve worked hard for the things you own don’t want people taking risks with it, so don’t take risks with their property either.

3. What may be funny to others often isn’t funny to the victim. Okay, it’s confession time. I used to be a superb practical joker. I could nail just about anyone given the time and opportunity. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks to such visual pranks is that they are often performed at the expense of someone else. One of my least noble moments was when I pulled a miniature nickel out of my pocket and, displaying it to an employee who wasn’t all that bright, moaned about having forgotten to remove my change before I washed my laundry. “It really shrunk it?!” she exclaimed. Of course, everyone laughed. Everyone, that is, except her. In getting a giggle from others, I took advantage of someone who Christ loved enough to die for. Any joke that makes sport of someone, even unintentionally, isn’t worthy of a follower of Christ. All of us were made in the image of God and deserve to be treated as persons of value.

4. Pranks tend to multiply uncontrollably. Maybe you’ve heard of the law of escalation. Basically, the principle is that someone plays a prank, then the person who got nailed with the prank has to get even. While this can sometimes be funny to watch (I once had a coworker who claimed he could outdo me in the realm of practical jokes and the two of us got into an all-out war, each prank becoming more and more outrageous until we discovered that most of the pranks had been played by other staff members who were getting a hoot out of pitting us against one another), they can often degenerate into competitions over who can be the nastiest or most destructive. Don’t wait until the game gets mean to call it quits – don’t start playing to begin with.

While practical jokes can be great source of humor and even serve as a form of stress relief, the negative aspect of such hijinks often outweigh the positive benefits. With that in mind, the best rule of thumb for pranks in the workplace is this: don’t. No amount of fun is worth the risk of damage to people, property, your job, or your reputation.

 

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