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When I Was Blindly Chasing My Boss’ Approval

I watched intently as a group of HR staff handed out certificates and a small gift to the month’s outstanding worker. A small part of me hoped they would stop by my desk. But alas, after years of waiting, it never happened.

However, I was not going to let a monthly award program get in the way of me gaining the big prize, which in my eyes, was to be awarded the “exceeds expectations” grading in my annual performance review. Needless to say, I spent a huge amount of time trying to be the best employee there ever was in my department. I accepted assignments despite my growing workload, did overtime without complaining, and found ways to support both the marketing and buying team, each time thinking my efforts would catch my bosses’ attention.

So, imagine my disappointment when, after three years in my role, I failed to achieve the “exceeds expectations” grade, sitting on  “meets expectations” instead, which was one rank beneath.

Recently, a year after leaving the company and moving overseas for a different opportunity, I learned the workmate who took over my role was given “exceeds expectations”. A part of me died when the news reached my ears. Learning of her superior rating left me dissatisfied, and a strong sense of injustice washed over me.

“I worked my tail off too, putting in hours of work. What did she do that was different?” I thought. And in my opinion, she was a little hard to like. She enjoyed trumpeting her own successes (often within earshot of our managers), and wouldn’t think twice of spreading news about other people’s mistakes and failings. Thinking that a person like her would be able to attain the very grade I was hankering after made me envious.

Yes, I was one unhappy employee. But the incident saw a train of questions rolling through my head: Why was I so hung up over men’s reward systems? What does “meets” and “exceeds expectations” really mean in the larger scheme of things? Will it guarantee me a nicer, sweeter spot in Heaven? Would God say to me at the end of my life, “Well done, Michele, for achieving exceeds expectations in your annual work review”? Surely not!

Reflecting on these questions had me questioning the whys behind my work ethic.

 

Serving Our Earthly Bosses vs Serving God

You see, when I was working my tail off finishing every assignment, I did it because I really wanted my managers to approve of me (and also with hopes they wouldn’t think of laying me off should the company find itself in an economic jam). But along the way, I had forgotten that the one person who is truly worthy of my wholehearted service is God.

Ephesians 6:5-8 says we are to:

obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as we would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slaves or free.

A huge uh-oh moment sunk in when I read the verse as I realized that my intentions, while good, were misguided.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with giving our best at work, but working for God requires a greater sacrifice and commitment than working for our earthly bosses. For instance, with our bosses, it’s easy to pretend we are enjoying the extra tasks set before us even though we are disliking every minute of it. But as it says in Ephesians 6:5, we are to work with “sincerity of heart”, and I believe that this means not complaining behind our managers’ backs about our bulging inboxes or the unfair workload allocations (but bring it up with your manager, if you must).

When my eyes fell on the line “because you know the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do,” I realized I should be looking to Him instead for my reward.  Even if our workmates around us have no issues blowing their own trumpets, or openly complaining about their struggles,  I think God would want me to soldier on quietly, and with integrity (not nipping out for extended coffee breaks or mindlessly watching YouTube videos when I should be working), even though my hard work might go unnoticed.

 

“Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant”

Ephesians 6:5-8 also helped me see that even when our earthly bosses may overlook us for a promotion or sweep our achievements under the carpet, God sees and judges everything, and He is a fair and just Person who does not change like shifting shadows (Psalm 25:8, James 1:17).

However, as a “slave of Christ”, the expectations He has for me are quite different from my employer’s, which are more about converting sales and meeting deadlines. I think if God were to map out my KPI (Key Performance Indicators), they would include loving my colleagues when they are insufferable (John 13:34-35), not giving in even when I am dying to pass on a delicious gossip (Ephesians 4:29), and honoring others (Romans 12:10)—to name a few.

And when work gets challenging and unfair, I believe God would want me to persevere (James 1:12), and to continue showing up for work every day with a positive attitude, ready to do good even when it gets hard (Galatians 6:9). I also know that God would not want me coveting my workmate’s performance review or her pay increase.

Doing the above can seem so dull and laborious. What fun is there in toiling if you can’t at least tell everyone what you’ve done? Why bother with integrity when everyone around you is taking long lunch breaks and watching funny cat videos on repeat? But as Christians, we are called to a higher standard, and we are “to do everything without complaining or arguing, so that we may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which we shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).

Identifying the different work standards I have been called to has made me realize that the temporal things I crave and chase aren’t as important to Him as how I’m treating those around me or conducting myself when no one else is looking. The “exceeds expectations” grade that I desired so much would pale in comparison to the reward of hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” at the end of my service on earth.

And that’s a goal worth aiming for.

7 Practical Ways to Be a Light in Your Workplace

We spend most of our day at work. If we’re going to be good witnesses for Christ, “being a light in our workplace” would be a natural place to start, wouldn’t it?

But sometimes that sounds a lot more feasible on a Sunday after an encouraging sermon, than it does after several days in an exhausting or abrasively unchristian work environment.

So how can we go on displaying good works that would make our coworkers want to turn and glorify God (Matthew 5:16)? While daunting, it’s not impossible. Let’s take a look at seven practical ways we can bring the light of Christ to our workplace!

 

1. Affirm – Tell others that what they do matters

It’s easy to recognize laziness or incompetence in other people that causes more work for us. But how often do we go out of our way to recognize the positive impact of another person’s work?

Did your boss provide you with helpful feedback on a project? Have you noticed any strengths in the trainee you’ve been working with? Do you have a certain coworker you can rely on for clear, organized work?

Let’s learn to pick up on small details that we can recognize and affirm in others in order to encourage and lift them up!

 

2. Admit – Own up when you’ve made a mistake

Especially in our workplace, it can be tempting to cover up our mistakes. But instead of working to advance our own careers, let’s humbly own our mistakes, and work hard to reduce any potential negative impact of them.

By doing this, we have the opportunity to promote Christlike humility (and not ourselves).

 

3. Apologize – Use your shortcomings to point others to Christ

We’ve all had that day when work makes us feel like pulling our hair out. In these moments of feeling overwhelmed by the demands of work or frustration at other’s actions, we’re prone to lose our patience or speak carelessly.

Whether our coworkers thought it significant or not, we can apologize for our short tempers, ask forgiveness where necessary, and most importantly, clarify the kind, gentle and patient character we are called to display.

 

4. Appreciate – Talk about things you are thankful for

Complaining is one of the easiest conversation starters. But we can vocalize our thankfulness instead!

Maybe we have one good friend at work, or an opportunity to get involved in a new project. We can be thankful for the work skills we’re developing that will be useful later in life!

In practice, thankfulness will contribute to a more positive work environment, and it’ll also help us train our minds to count as well as thank God for the blessings we have.

 

5. Assist – Offer your personal time to help a coworker

When five o’clock rolls around, many of us couldn’t be more thrilled to both mentally and physically check out of work.

But it can be really impactful to consider using some of that precious non-work time to serve the people we work with every day. Whether it’s offering to help a coworker move into a new home, or bringing a meal to someone recovering from surgery, let’s show God’s love to our coworkers by serving them with our time whenever we can!

 

6. Accompany – Find creative ways to build relationships

There are plenty of work-friendly and appropriate ways to be more social with our coworkers. Invite them to a sports game, or organize a work-friendly baby shower for a soon-to-be parent! Perhaps a new restaurant nearby could inspire lunch with coworkers.

Making time to socialize with our coworkers creates space to build more than surface deep relationships, which is the best springboard for us to share the gospel with them.

 

7. Advocate – Take prayer for your coworkers seriously

It’s easy to forget that our coworkers have their own personal lives and struggles. We can look around even a small office, and know that plenty are struggling with some combination of infidelity, addiction, family conflict, or depression. It’s often not visible.

So, let’s take prayer for our coworkers seriously. As we pray for God to help them, we can remember that the greatest help they can know is God Himself. In the same spirit that Jesus prayed for those who persecuted Him, let’s look at those around us, and pray diligently that they may come to know God (Luke 23:34).

 

If we think about it, our coworkers are some of the people we have the most opportunity to share the gospel with, or display Christ-like character to. So let’s enter our workplaces with a renewed sense of intentionality to share Jesus’ light in all that we do!

When I Faced Injustice At Work

Written By Liu Yang, China, originally in Simplified Chinese

I work as a salesperson. Just like any other salesperson, I face immense pressure to bring clients in and ensure I hit my sales target.

Recently, my manager decided to regroup our team in an attempt to hit higher sales figures. Instead of handling our own clients, my colleagues and I were divided into two teams, and each team was in charge of its respective clients and projects. While it seemed like we now had double the amount of clients, there was a problem with this arrangement—a conflict could arise if colleagues from two different teams approached the same client at the same time.

Unfortunately, it did not take long before we faced such a scenario. My colleague from the other team had informed our supervisor of a potential project with a client. However, I was not aware of it when I reached out to this same client. The client had not mentioned that he was in contact with my colleague as well.

After making thorough preparations for the proposal and submitting it to my supervisor for approval, I was told that my colleague had already struck a deal with this client. I was very disappointed, knowing that I won’t be able to secure this project.

This was not the first time I had faced such a situation. In those instances, I chose to give in as I didn’t want to cause disputes within the department over sales targets.

One such incident happened four years ago. I was with another sales company at that time. I had been working really hard on a project when my then supervisor stepped in and decided to claim the project as his own. I thought that it was only right that I fought back for it since I had single-handedly put in the work for it. And so I retaliated and fought with my supervisor in order to reclaim the project. This resulted in much unrest within the company.

This time, I was also extremely unwilling to let go of this project. I had worked so hard without knowing about the ongoing talks between this client and my colleague. And the stakes were higher this time round. How could I give it up?

Eventually, I chose to give it up after a talk with my supervisor. Instead, I brought my anger and despair before God.

“Dear God, if this is not the way that You have willed me to hit my sales target, I choose to submit to you,” I prayed.

After all, should such earthly pursuits matter? Do I not already have the most precious gift of all—the Lord Jesus Himself?

Even though I found some measure of comfort with these thoughts, I still felt greatly unsettled. I had worked extremely hard to hit my sales target—even at the expense of my health. Once, I worked so hard that my throat was sore and I could barely speak. I was forced to rest for a day, but I was agonizing over my sales target so much that I could barely rest.

My heart was heavy even as I attended a devotion session in church that evening. In the midst of my anxieties, many verses came to mind.

One of the verses was from Habakkuk 3:17-18, which says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Another verse was from Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

I know these verses by heart—I knew what they meant and was familiar even with the contexts of the verses. But my knowledge of these biblical truths were insufficient to sustain me in the face of my trials.

When the devotion ended, my heart was still very unsettled as I sat outside the sanctuary and prayed: “Dear God, I feel so wronged and troubled. You know how diligently I have worked for the past two months. I will submit to you completely if these projects are not mine to secure. I may be disheartened now but if this is from You, please do not shorten this period of hardship. Help me to know You more through this pain.”

After praying, I spoke to a sister-in-Christ who shared her own troubles with me. Even though we were not facing the same problem, she agreed that we may know the Scripture inside and out, but we can be so quick to falter when trials come our way. I began to see that each of us has our fair share of difficulties and weaknesses, and in moments like these, it is so important for us to remind each other to cling to God during times of trial.

As I mulled over my situation, I also recalled an interview conducted with famous Hong Kong celebrity Jackie Chan. The first question the interviewer asked him was, “Jackie, are you tired of filming?” He cried for the next 15 minutes, leaving the interviewer dumbfounded. If anyone were to ask me the same question, “Liu Yang, are you tired of doing sales?”, I think I would’ve broken down in tears as well.

On my way home that evening, I continued to lay my burdens before God, believing that the God who loves me has the best plans for me. As I did so, I felt like my burdens were lifted off my shoulders and my heart was filled with peace.

I woke up the next morning renewed. Even when I was at work, I was no longer overwhelmed with anxiety as I had been the day before. That same day, a brother-in-Christ  reached out to me and enquired about a project. I informed my supervisor about the potential project instantly before making the necessary preparations, and the communication with the client went smoothly. In the end, the client trusted me to undertake this project and we promptly decided on the completion date of the project.

This was the first time I managed to secure a deal so quickly and successfully. I believe that God was helping me make up for the opportunity I lost and was bringing my hard work to fruition. With this project, my company was also able to break into a new market. My heart was filled with awe and gratitude at how God had turned things around within a day.

Looking back, I can see what a big transformation God has worked in my life since I accepted Christ four years ago. When I recall how I had reacted to my previous supervisor when he had stolen my project from me, it’s only through God’s grace that I’m able to respond in a different way this time.

This incident also helped me grow in my conviction that God cares for those who love and obey His commands. As it is written in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

As I thought about how I have changed over the four years, I realized that these changes were not achieved by my own will or behavior. Instead, God is the One who has transformed me into the person I am today.

It is my prayer that God will continue to lead me and mold me. I may face similar situations of injustice in the future, but I believe that these experiences will serve to build character within me. I also know that I will be able to overcome them and continue to trust in God’s goodness in spite of my circumstances, because He is the One leading and protecting me.