In my Bible study group, we are working through the book Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend. The authors explain that boundaries are biblical limits that we are created with, and many issues that we suffer from are a result of us not establishing boundaries, or other people’s issues with boundaries. The chapter on “Boundaries and Work” is very interesting.
Last time, I looked at the first five of the Nine Common Problems we experience at work, as identified by Cloud & Townsend.
- Getting saddled with another’s responsibilities
- Working too much overtime
- Misplaced priorities
- Difficult co-workers
- Critical attitudes
This week I will look at the final four Common Problems, as well as suggested responses:
6. Conflicts with authority
If you have issues with your manager, you may be experiencing transference, resulting from unfinished business in the past with authority figures (parents/teachers/other bosses). If you react strongly, attend to those feelings to seek the source; then work out your feelings, realizing they are your problem or distortions. If there is a sense of competition, it might stem from unresolved sibling rivalry. Leave the past in the past.
7. Expecting too much of work
Work is not a family or a social support structure; work colleagues are not paid to be your friends. The workplace should be safe, supportive and nurturing, but focused on completing work – that is, to learn, improve and get the work done. Work cannot make up for what is lacking in other areas of life, such as relationship, self-esteem or approval. Make sure you meet social, relationship and emotional needs outside work. Keep personal boundaries and work boundaries firm.
8. Taking work-related stress home
Have work boundaries, that is, don’t allow it to affect home. Emotional issues such as conflict need to be dealt with, and not allowed to impact on your home life. Work issues should stay at work, so attend to any strong feelings and sort them out. Your time, energy and resources need to be managed so there is enough for all areas of your life.
9. Disliking your job
Work can get caught up in your identity. You may constantly look for the perfect job. You may struggle to meet the expectations of others, so don’t try. Honor your commitment to your manager and to God. For example, a boundary issue may flow from not having properly separated from your family – that is, whose dream job are you seeking? You may also suffer issues flowing from comparing your life with friends – that is, whose life are you living?
Think It Through
Have you suffered from any of these boundary problems?
Would these suggestions assist in your situation? Who can join you in praying about the situation?
What does the Bible say?
It would be good to recognise God’s boundary of rest or Sabbath, when thinking about flourishing at work. Genesis 2:2-3 says:
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
God rested (the Hebrew implies to stop, cease, desist). The thought of God stopping is fascinating, because we know he could be doing stuff forever. He doesn’t get physically or emotionally tired. God chooses to rest. That tells us a couple of things: rest is important, stopping is important, both for God and for us. Since we are made in the image of God, we need to rest also. Finally, if we think of the context of God’s resting, it was after he had completed the initial stages of creation; and after each stage he looked at what he had done, and acknowledged it as “good,” as “just right.” So, a component of stopping involves resting in confidence and appreciation of the work that has been done. It is a reflection on God and us, and what we have been doing together.
May we have the courage to establish a rhythm of stopping; that we might be refreshed by God to see what he is doing in us and through us.
It is difficult to deal with issues at work.
Conflict, managing expectations, stress and disliking our job can all impact so much on us, and our families.
We pray for discernment and wisdom in addressing such issues.
Please help us to know how best to respond.
Forgive us when our boundaries are weak; or we get distracted from your purposes for our work.
Help us also to learn from your boundary of rest.
Thank you for the work–rest rhythm. Enable us to work from rest.
Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is currently conducting research on how to effectively equip workplace Christians to integrate their faith and work.