IVP - Strangely Dim - Is the Employee of My Employer My Friend?

October 10, 2003

Is the Employee of My Employer My Friend?

by David Zimmerman
Let’s say you sleep eight hours per day. (It’s OK, we can say it, at least.) Now let’s say that you are employed in full-time work—another eight hours per day. Then let’s say that you spend two hours alone (driving to and from work or school, or waiting for other people to get home, or dressing or undressing), one hour eating, three hours entertaining yourself or your loved ones, and two hours doing chores or homework. Quibble all you like about the breakdown, and you’ll still wind up with sleep and work filling the overwhelming majority of your time.

Given the fact that precious little relational activity takes place during sleep (except perhaps the territorial elbow poking and blanket swiping that accompanies bedmate politics—which would be a good topic for some other article), the associations you have during your working hours dominate your relational life. You may live with your kids or your parents or your roommates, but you say goodbye to them after eight hours of sleep and touch base with them for about two hours per diem if you’re lucky. Meanwhile, you work alongside particular people of a particular setting in a predictable pattern much more than that, and you’re supposed to be awake for pretty much all of it. And yet, workplace relationships are often our most superficial.

I can sympathize with the fear of deep friendships at work. Office hierarchy may get in the way of authentic friendship, such that employers might even be tempted to lay off employees just to get some quality time with them. Some jobs are transient—we work while we shop for a better offer. Some workplaces are politically volatile—coworkers wait for you to say the wrong thing, then pounce and feed on your failure. Some working environments are even sexually charged—fast-paced collaborations turn into intense emotional attachments, or coworkers use power as flirtation or flirtation as power.

No one appears more two-dimensional than a coworker. We have our jobs to do, our agendas to pursue, and if our coworkers are not for us, they are against us. End of discussion. But presume for a moment that your coworkers are fully formed human beings with histories and destinies, created by a personal God, infused with life by a personal Holy Spirit, suffered and died for by a personal Savior. Suddenly the coworkers seem more important than the work.

Obviously the work remains, and you shouldn’t expect a big bonus at the end of the year if you can name every coworker’s favorite color but can’t name a single task you’ve completed. Still, a place and occupation that occupies so much of our lives ought to be a place that nourishes our spirits and channels our calling as a royal priesthood. That, ultimately, is our real job, and we all report to the same boss.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at October 10, 2003 4:17 PM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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