“In every interaction, you have a choice: Do you want to lift people up or hold them down?” This is the last sentence of a recent article on incivility in the workplace by Christine Porath. Porath cites research showing the cost—illness, mistakes in the workplace including in patient care in hospitals, an inability to think clearly, and damage to the human dignity of people.
In “No Time to Be Nice at Work” Porath writes,
Rudeness and bad behavior have all grown over the last decades, particularly at work. For nearly 20 years I’ve been studying, consulting and collaborating with organizations around the world to learn more about the costs of this incivility. How we treat one another at work matters. Insensitive interactions have a way of whittling away at people’s health, performance and souls. NY Times June 21, 2015, on the web June 19 The article
She draws on a Harvard Business Review article from 2013
Rudeness at work is rampant, and it’s on the rise. Over the past 14 years we’ve polled thousands of workers about how they’re treated on the job, and 98% have reported experiencing uncivil behavior. In 2011 half said they were treated rudely at least once a week—up from a quarter in 1998. The Price of Incivility HBR Jan-Feb 2013 The article
The apostolate of the baptized in the workplace
You can make a case for both of Poath’s arguments being part of what the baptized person is to be about in the workplace.
Below is a list of some of the connections between the laity’s experience in the workplace and their apostolate. These are ways in which people participate in Christ’s service, evangelization and stewardship of the world.
· Being. By being people that have become more and more “in Christ,” light, salt, leaven. Christians serve, evangelize and act as stewards just by being present in the workplace. There is an organic influence from people who are in the process of falling and rising and living in the journey of stability, conversion and obedience.
· Participating responsibly. We are part of the economy of God’s world by our participation in the human drama of creating, serving, and producing. There is faithfulness in the process of earning our own living and, for some, in contributing to the well being of a family.
· Building community. Holy joy can be experienced in relationship with other workers and being part of a workplace community. Every day offers opportunities for compassion, fun, and shared experience.
· Finding value. There is intrinsic meaning in the work we do. Our work is of value to the world. It matters to the well-being of people that this service or product is available. We may want to be generous and broad in what we are willing to include here. There is often a narrow puritanism that defines the life and work of others as being sub-Christian. Even products and services that seem very superficial and light may bring some of us great joy.
· Bringing change. Some Christians thoughtfully and quietly take action to influence their organizations toward a more humane and just way of operating. This may include humanizing the work place for employees and clients or customers. It might also mean finding ways to facilitate the organization in taking a socially responsible stance. This involves us in a “ministry to structures.”
The list could include Porath’s concerns but goes well beyond them. For example, there’s the question of how the baptized might contribute to harmony in the workplace.
Through its baptized members scattered throughout the sectors of society, what role can the parish play in the humanization of the workplace? What might the parish do that contributes to harmony in the workplace?
If what so many experience in the workplace is discord, tension, and anger how can a parish church help the mission of Holy Unity progress in that environment?
- Experience of harmony, especially in the Sunday Eucharist
- Learning how to maintain inner harmony
- Competencies that facilitate harmony
Much of the discord in our life has to do with our struggles over human gifts—which gifts are most important, which are even needed, our lack of humility in accepting it when we lack certain gifts, our inner resistance to having to act to develop our own gifts, our hesitation to assist others in the development of their gifts.
What we seek in the Eucharist and in all of parish life is that the diversity of gifts may be brought into harmony to the glory of God and in fulfillment of God’s purposes.
Basil Moss offers an image of that harmony rooting it in prayer.
I’m fed up with this ghastly picture of prayer as a private telephone line with or without a voice at the other end. It’s much more like you and me playing our second fiddles in an unending heavenly orchestral symphony of praise and joy. When we pray, we take up our fiddles, and when we stop we put them down again—but the music never stops. -Basil Moss, quoted in Spirituality for Today (London, 1967)
Maybe if we want more harmony the place to begin is:
- By the parish offering a public daily office
- Training and coaching members to say the Office on their own
- Training members in ways to be more reflective, in contemplation and meditation, how to do Lectio Divina
- And offering a Sunday Eucharist of grace, beauty and rhythm.