By Kara Martin
I occasionally get commissioned to write popular articles about faith and work. Most recently I was asked to write an article on “A Christian’s Guide to Surviving the Workplace (the ten different types of people you encounter at work and how to deal with them)”.
I see these sorts of articles as engaging in Christian pop psychology.
I can see the click value of them, but I think they can end up replaying the old script of: as a Christian you go into the big bad world of work, where you will be tempted and tested.
In this article, a variation of that script is: you will meet bad people who will try and force you to act their way.
One thing I notice about Jesus is that he didn’t seem to shy away from entering the daily place of ordinary human beings. He delighted in visiting even the unsavoury types, in their homes.
What he did instead was demonstrate — embody — a different way of being. He was hospitable, generous, gracious, firm, offering healing and teaching.
So, instead of just describing different (negative) types of people at work, I wanted to challenge Christians to embody a positive way of being.
Here is my intro and the 11 impossible types you might meet in the workplace (I had to come up with an extra one because they feared I was being too negative, so I ended up adding The Food Thief for comedic relief!):
Workplaces also represent enormous opportunities for Christians. It is where our character can be formed, bringing forth the fruit of the Spirit as we counter sinful attitudes with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. It is also where we can give people a taste of the kingdom: demonstrating what shalom looks like as places of wholeness and peace.
The 11 impossible types (and their Christian counterparts):
- The Narcissist versus The Agapeist
- The Sociopath versus The Team Player
- The Incompetent versus The Competent
- The Control Freak versus The Empowerer
- The Bully versus The Encourager
- The ‘Ideas Person’ versus The Completer
- The Sycophant versus The Advocate
- The Legalist versus The Creative
- The Absentee versus The Diligent
- The Gossip versus The Transformer
- The Food Thief versus The Hospitable Host
Just to illustrate the contrast, here is the example of The Control Freak versus The Empower:
One of the hardest people to work for is the Control Freak, or micromanager. They seek to check, control and/or criticise every aspect of your working. While this approach may be necessary when there are critical deadlines, high quality required or there is lots of risk; generally micromanaging is very ineffective, wasting time and frustrating independence and innovation. Sometimes you can control a Control Freak by taking the initiative to show them your work and check what you are going to do.
It is also good to demonstrate a much more effective approach by showing how effective it is to be an Empowerer. Empowering others enables them to shine, to grow in their skills, and to improve their decision-making and problem-solving skills. It is treating others like Jesus did: lifting up the vulnerable (children, the disabled), encouraging women (Mary receiving his teaching) and restoring those who have failed (Peter following his thrice denial of Jesus).
The challenge to provide a positive model for how people can think and act in the workplace, connecting their faith to their work, is a tough one; but we who have studied and thought deeply about these issues are the ones who have the most potential to help people make the connections.
The full article is available here: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/11-impossible-people-you-meet-at-work-and-how-to-deal-with-them/
Kara Martin is the author of Workship, reviewed recently here at TGR. She is Project Leader with Seed, MBA Curriculum Developer with Excelsia College, and former Associate Dean of the Marketplace Institute at Ridley College in Melbourne. She has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. She was Director of the School of Christian Studies for three years and has lectured with the Brisbane School of Theology, Macquarie Christian Studies Institute and Wesley Institute. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, as well as helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is married to David, and they have two amazing adult children: Jaslyn and Guy.