If I asked you to describe the emotions you experience or associate with unemployment, what would your response be? If you’re like most people (myself included), words like frustrating, overwhelming, anxious, fearful, angry, exasperated, confused, stressful, tiring, and debilitating may come to mind. Some optimistic folks may include hopeful, optimistic, and even ‘exciting’ (yep, there are those crazy ones among us! Ha!), but the vast majority of people I’ve supported over the years would align with the first list of words, and unfortunately, those words are all very negative.
So when I came across an article featuring research done by Gallup in their recent “State of the Global Workplace Report,” I was struck by their statement, “But management is largely to blame, with 70% of team engagement attributable to the manager…. Poor management leads to lost customers and lost profits, but it also leads to miserable lives. …having a job you hate is worse than being unemployed.” Wow! I hadn’t ever thought of that comparison. As negative as those emotions I listed are with being unemployed, from personal experience, I’d have to wholeheartedly agree.
Misemployed and Unfulfilled
I’ve been in jobs where I’ve been misemployed and unfulfilled. It was not a pleasant experience. In fact, I was beyond hope and optimism fading away. I hated going to work. I actually had a physical reaction to the stress caused by being in the wrong job for me. I experienced hives breaking out on my arms and chest, and I also had episodes of my jaw locking up and not being able to chew properly. Thankfully, a new opportunity opened up, and I changed jobs. The physical symptoms of stress immediately went away.
The Gallup report further outlines, “that the employees who thrive are those who find their work meaningful, know why their work matters, and feel connected to their team.” When you’re misemployed or unfulfilled with your work, those three dimensions are usually absent, and unfortunately those three dimensions are usually driven by the immediate supervisor. Ruh roh! See stat about “70% of team engagement attributable to the manager.”
Ok, so we know what it feels like to be unemployed, we might agree that having a job we hate is worse than being unemployed, and we have some glimmer into what some key ingredients are to being engaged at work.
So what could a Biblical worldview lens contribute to our perspective?
The Purpose of Work
Martin Luther said, as part of his explanation of the doctrine of vocation, “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.” Luther submitted that Jesus’ response in Mark 12:28b-31 to the question of, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”, is the cornerstone for all vocational work. “The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
In an article entitled, “The Purpose of Work,” in the Gospel Coalition (10/8/12), the author states, “The doctrine of vocation, properly understood, frees us from our sinful selves through the gospel as our love for God overflows into the love for our neighbors. Our very work becomes transformed not in its substance – Christian workers mostly perform the same tasks as non-Christian workers – but in its meaning and value.”
So if I take the three dimensions of finding my work meaningful, knowing why my work matters, and feeling connected to my team, I can then apply the Biblical worldview lens filter to prayerfully ask God to help me transform my daily tasks into work pleasing to Him. By doing that, I can recognize that the work I do is primarily for restoring creation and revealing the eternal kingdom of God, not simply to sweep the floors, place talent, or re-engineer a process.
I can then also step back from the work I’m doing and reflect on what my personal purpose is…why am I here? And to consider what my vocational calling could be…what am I here to do? And, of course, my favorite, my personal values…how will I do what I do? When I know these important components of who I am, then I can compare them against the organizational construct where I work to determine whether I fit there properly or not.
I encourage you to apply these last two paragraphs, because what’s worse than being unemployed or being in a job you hate is going through life with amazing God-given talent, gifts, skills, and abilities and not using them for His glory and your joy! Blessings!
Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.