Friday, April 8, 2016

Are You Working For an Idol?

I have been thinking a great deal about work lately.  There have been so many changes within my organization it is incredible. I can hardly keep up with all the new people in new positions. I keep mentioning people's names as if they worked in certain areas of the business only to be reminded, "don't you remember they moved?"  

To top it all off I was recently given the opportunity to work in a different group. So now I am contributing to the mass of confusion!

But this has caused me to think a lot about work. What motivates us to move around so much and to push ourselves every day and do our best? Are we really doing our best or only trying to appear like we are? Are we working too much or not enough?

It is tempting to take a worthy goal, like a pay raise, promotion, or even a compliment, and make it into some kind of idol. Once you get an encouraging compliment or a healthy pay raise it is very easy to become overly focused on getting it again. So instead of going to work every day as a faithful employee work ends up being an opportunity to look good and get another compliment! Work becomes merely a tool to getting a promotion or a pay raise. 

This usually leads to a lessening of one's focus on the more mundane aspects of the job, even if those aspects are important. The temptation is to focus on doing those aspects of the job that are more noticeable and shirking the parts that are unknown. But this creates more stress as you inevitably have to cover for the fact that the more mundane responsibilities are not being done well.  This can also lead to others in the organization losing respect for you as they see you clearly focusing on the parts of the job that will be noticed and more likely to get a compliment, but shirking other aspects of the job which would help others in the organization.

What to Do 

In order to combat these tendencies we must pray every day for help from God to not be overly focused on the wrong things. Our vocation is a gift from God and we are obligated to make the most of it - even if it doesn't always feel very rewarding. We should be working to the glory of God and not merely as "men pleasers."  

Part of the practical approach to change in this area is to build good habits in the workplace and put away the bad habits that you have developed.  Here are a  couple thoughts on that theme:

- Take 5 minutes when you start your day to write a list of items you need to accomplish
- Check your progress at set times in the day (lunch, after a bathroom break etc.)
- If you take a coffee break or stop work for a moment to read the headlines you need to track your time and make sure you aren't wasting valuable company time and that you still get in the required hours of actual work.
- If you have trouble spending too much time on Facebook, reading the news, talking with co-workers or in other distracting activities; stop them completely.  One of the greatest boosts to my productivity at work was to stop using the internet other than for work activities. 

Think about the parts of your job that you naturally shy away from. These are usually the more mundane parts or the parts that are difficult but seem to provide you no benefit.  Make a point first to determine if these parts of your job should actually be done. It may be that those things are being done just because "that's how we've always done it" and if that is the case there may need to be a change. But if you and your supervisor believe it really does make sense to do them, you should add these items to your daily list of tasks and make a point to do them first. 

Try to focus on what you should be doing at work. This may be a different thing than what would make you look good.  

With regard to getting addicted to raises, promotions, and complements; the only solution to that is to recognize when you are making these idols and turn away from them.  Pray for help to overcome the sin of idolatry in that area. Re-focus on working to the honor and glory of God rather than the praise of men. 

Try to focus on what God will think of your work when you get to heaven and not what promotion you might get on earth. It is hard but it is the biblical way to think!

And like Joseph, Daniel, and David - you may just find yourself in a great position of power one day. Be it in this life or the next. 

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