Posted by: Mike Willoughby | January 18, 2010

Worth Doing Right: Part 2

A few months ago, I was visiting with one of my friends who is a professor at Abilene Christian University.  We were discussing the challenges of equipping graduates for the real world requirements of the 21st century global workplace.  One of the topics we discussed was work ethic and how to prepare college kids for the demands of a modern career.  Whether you refer to the first few years of a career as “paying your dues” or simply “starting off strong,” everyone should recognize the need to work hard from the start in order to maximize your opportunities and live up to your potential.  A strong work ethic is not generational, cultural or relative to a stage in your career.  The ideal of a strong work ethic is universal and it is very biblical.

Last week, I wrote of the early lessons my Grandpa Craig gave me in working hard as he told me, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”  I believe that same ideal is reflected in Colossians 3:22-24:

Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Clearly, our modern workplace does not consist of relationships between masters and slaves but rather employers and employees.  However, I believe the principles in this passage still apply to our modern workplace. 

Notice that Paul gets straight to the point in the first lesson for us.  Our motivation is not primarily to impress others but to sincerely do a good job without pretense.  I see many people who have this wrong and they seem to constantly be trying to make a good impression in order to advance their careers.  Usually, folks who are simply trying to score points with the boss have one work ethic for purposes of show and a different practice when the boss isn’t looking.  Sometimes people-pleasers will even take advantage of fellow employees as they try to score points with the boss.  Back-stabbing is not only bad behavior it’s a bad career strategy as it almost always backfires on you. 

There’s nothing wrong with making a good impression but recognition should be received as a benefit of doing a good job rather than the objective.  I realize the workplace is not always completely efficient or effective at recognizing and rewarding hard work.  However, my experience is that over time, employee that are sincere in their efforts to do their best and work hard regardless of who is watching are the employees that consistently move up in an organization.  Perseverance and a long-term perspective are keys to having a successful career.

So if the primary objective isn’t to impress other people, then who are we working to impress?  Paul answers this question in the second half of the passage.  We are to work as if we are working directly for the Lord.  For a Christian, this is our reality.  There are a couple of important ramifications from knowing we are working for Jesus.  The first ramification is that Jesus is more concerned about what’s in our heart than the results of our efforts.  He will always recognize a positive attitude and know when we are giving our best regardless of who is watching.  Of course he will also know when we have a negative attitude and when we give a half-hearted effort too.  If I come home from work each day knowing that I have made a good impression on my true boss with the state of my heart, then I can comfortably know that the workplace efforts that have flowed from my Spirit-tuned heart have been my best efforts.  That is all I can expect from myself.

The second ramification of being in Jesus’ workforce is regardless of the recognition I may receive from my earthly employer, I know I will receive perfect recognition from my eternal master.  Paul tells us that we should bring our very best to everything we do with the full knowledge and security that our master will recognize us at the judgment day.  As we are working for Jesus and maintaining our hearts in alignment with the Spirit, we are confessing to those around us with our actions that we are owned by the master.  Jesus promises us that if we acknowledge him before men (I believe with both words and deeds), he will acknowledge us before the Father (Matthew 10:32-33)

Finally, we need to recognize that “working hard” and “bringing our best” may not always be expressed simply in terms of hours worked.  I have seen many examples of folks who punched the clock for lots of hours in a week but did very little to live up to their potential that week.  Sometimes a strong work ethic is best displayed by hours worked particularly early in a career.  Dues must be paid and learning curves are best climbed through sheer effort.  However, I would much rather see an employee working smart and using their God-given intelligence to solve problems than simply brute forcing their way through every challenge.  Working smart while working hard is the best way to make the most of our career opportunities!

I was happy to be able to tell my professor friend that ACU is doing a good job equipping graduates with a strong work ethic so they can succeed in their careers.  I know the COBA program at ACU reinforces a strong individual and team work ethic within their program.  I have seen a strong work ethic demonstrated by many of the new recruits at PFSweb including graduates from other university programs.  I think the concept of a strong work ethic is alive and well in the current generation and just needs to be encouraged by us earthly bosses.  Next week, I will conclude this Worth Doing Right series by bragging on my company and our Always On! employees.

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!

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