24 Oct 2014 by Jason Law CM –
Founded to equip & empower Young Working Adults to integrate faith at work, and possessing the vision to see believers shine like stars in their workplaces, Faith@Work is a ministry with a heart for one of the central issues of the lay believer’s life. Whether serving full-time in a church or working in the marketplace, as Christians, we all have the unique responsibility to work hard at our jobs and live out our faith in our daily lives.
The workplace is full of tricky paths and stresses that we need to navigate with the wisdom of God. None is more challenging than having to work with difficult people around us. Last Sunday, the 19th of October 2014, David Wong, the Advisor to Tupperware Asia Pacific, shared about his experiences and the lessons God taught him in this specific area.
Difficult relationships in the workplace can come from two directions, either horizontally through difficult and cynical peers, or vertically through an unreasonable boss. The Bible, however, provides guidance in this area, and few exemplify this better than the professional excellence of Daniel as illustrated in Daniel 6.
How does the life of Daniel provide lessons for modern-day Christians? In the passage, we find four traits of Daniel; he watched for the king’s interest, he proved himself more capable, his region did the best, and he had the support of the 40 satraps/princes that were his subordinates. And yet, we find that not long after this, there were people who were jealous of him and plotting to destroy him. Office politics existed in Daniel’s day (Daniel 6:4-7,9).
Daniel 6:1-3New King James Version (NKJV)
The Plot Against Daniel
6 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; 2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss.3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.
Brother David Wong shared that in order to have a healthy work environment, assuming that we have positions of authority, we must first cultivate positive relationships with subordinates. This can be done through a few key principles:
- Be a COMPETENT and Growing Leader.
- VALUE your subordinates, don’t abuse them (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). Show CARE and apologise if we are wrong.
- Inform, Include, and INVOLVE subordinates in meetings and planning. Share with them the ownership of the company/project mission (Proverbs 15:22)
- CULTIVATE your subordinates. Do not bulldoze over them, but coach them so that are empowered into participating members of the organization.
- Provide SUPPORT and resources and ensure that they are the best tools (Isaiah 41:15)
Relationship With Difficult Peers
Difficult relationships with peers come in many forms; through fault-finding, through criticism, through peer attack, or through group pressure. In Daniel 6:4-7,9, we find that Daniel faced all of them:
4 Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. 5 So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.”
6 So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! 7 We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions.
9 So King Darius signed the law.
In circumstances like these, it is so easy to grow bitter and defeated in our jobs, but the very first thing Daniel did when he heard the news was to go home and pray (Daniel 6:10). There are times when we need to pray for wisdom from God and understand what the issue really is (James 1:5, 3:13-18). Could it be us who are at fault? (In Daniel’s case, he could stand on his faithfulness: Daniel 6:4). Sometimes our peers may be facing issues of their own, and sometimes it may be pure jealousy or envy. Through prayer, we can take our hurts and feelings to God and He will help us rise above the situation.
Daniel could also testify before the king of his innocence (Daniel 6:22). This also teaches us yet another principle; always work with integrity; document events, transactions, and any other relevant facts; so that when the time comes we can calmly and firmly assert and present our case as appropriate. Above all, never personalize issues but instead, handle them professionally and calmly.
Healthy relationships come from talking with each other, not about each other. Resolve your issues privately (Matthew 18:15; Matthew 5:23-24) and with respect for the other person (Proverbs 15:28). Don’t try to force the other person to change, but try to work around where you can empathize and seek clarification from the other person.
Lastly, the Bible is also abounding with examples of forgiveness (Colossians 3:13; Romans 12:17-21). We cannot undo what’s done but we can work on restoring relationships and moving on to the future. In everything that we do, stay on the task with integrity and excellence.
Relationship With Difficult Bosses
Daniel did not just face difficult peers, but also a difficult boss in King Darius. Looking into Darius’ motivation, however, we also learn something about bosses. Why did Darius go ahead with his policy and put Daniel in the lion’s den? Daniel 6:14 tells us that Darius was greatly troubled and tried to find a way to rescue Daniel for a whole day. He prayed for God to preserve Daniel, and couldn’t eat or sleep (Daniel 6:18).
Obviously he didn’t like what was going on, and the only reason why he did what he did was because of the laws of Medea and Persia, and for the dignity of his role as a king. All bosses desire the same thing from their staff; ability, attitude, and admiration or respect. Darius’ mistake teaches bosses to let their ego die; don’t make rash promises during good times, and don’t make decisions when angry.
Daniel teaches us to respect our bosses, but also to stand firm to our Scriptural principles at the same time. He did not fight against his king. He submitted, even after being treated unjustly (v21) but when it came to his faith, principles, and values with God, he stood firm and never violated them.
As Christians, we can pray to God to change situations. Proverbs 21:1 tells us that God is a specialist at changing hearts, and Daniel never lost his faith and trust in God for the outcome (Daniel 6:22), and in verses 26-27, we learn of the impact of Daniel’s testimony.
21 The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord;
he guides it wherever he pleases.
26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.
For he is the living God,
and he will endure forever.
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
and his rule will never end.
27 He rescues and saves his people;
he performs miraculous signs and wonders
in the heavens and on earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
The Conflict of Life
Ultimately all difficult relationships come because of conflict. Sometimes, the conflict may be with others. Very often, however, we also find that conflicts can be with oneself, or with God. James gave us a comprehensive picture of conflict in James 4:1-3 and made the call of drawing close to God. Proverbs 16:7 counsels us that when a man’s ways pleases the Lord, even his enemies are at peace with him.
Drawing Close to God
4 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
The seminar ended with a Q & A session, in which participants shared about their experiences at work, seek for advice, and some gave guidance through the lessons they have learnt in the workplace.
About The Faith@Work Ministry
Faith@work is conducted once a month in DUMC. Experienced leaders from the marketplace are invited to share about the lessons God and experience has taught them at work. You can find out more about the ministry on their website at workplace.dumc.my or through FaceBook at /FaithAtWorkMY.
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