How to bring joy to a joyless workplace

Mike McMillan

It’s as if the office itself matched the morale.

The walls were covered in a hole-patching compound that was never sanded down or repainted. Brown stains speckled the white ceiling panels, and the carpet was shabbier than a $10 couch. Everything else felt as if it was lifted from a thrift store, and there was always a new, unpleasant smell to greet us in the morning.

That was my office, and it housed a collection of workers too busy to care the building was falling apart. We didn’t have windows to peek into the sketchy neighborhood surrounding the building. The constant threat of a layoff hung around like the stench of roadkill.

If you can relate to an office that more closely resembles perdition than a workplace, you can take heart in knowing that God gives us abundant life — even in the middle of a funky-smelling stress factory.

Joy Is Tough, but Not Impossible

You might dread the office like the plague, but you can be sure that believers over the past couple millennia have faced tougher situations. Jesus’ original followers faced some of the worst situations imaginable — and faced them with a sense of thanksgiving.

The apostle Paul wrote letters to various churches, which make up a sizeable chunk of the New Testament. In Ephesians 3:1, Paul writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

It is possible to find joy in the midst of the most depressing circumstances you could imagine.

What you might not realize is Ephesians and several of Paul’s letters were written from prison. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon were known as the prison letters. Reading through those books of the Bible show that it is possible to find joy in the midst of the most depressing circumstances you could imagine.

Prepare Your Heart Before You Start Your Work

If your office environment is down in the dumps, the best thing you can do is prepare your heart for the day ahead.

What do you do on your drive to work? Listen to the radio? Perhaps that’s the best time to start praying for your co-workers, bosses, and environment, or to let God’s Word speak to you. A long commute is a great opportunity to turn wasted time into reflection time — something that can benefit you and your office.

Check Your Attitude Throughout the Day

Once you arrive at work, attitude is everything. In Philippians 2:5, Paul tells us, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” Jesus showed an enormous amount of patience dealing with difficult people, and extending grace is the best way we can show Jesus to our workplace. Courtesy, kindness, and respect go a long way.

Don’t worry about tasks you might consider below you. Those are times to show your boss that you’re putting the team ahead of yourself. If you work hard and ignore self, you can be sure someone more than just your boss is watching.

Finally, praise God! If you can use headphones during certain periods of the day, throw on some worship music. If you have downtime, read the Bible or an inspirational book. It’s a great stress killer, and you can share that wisdom with someone who needs it.

Address the Difficult Coworker

Personality conflicts with a co-worker can start off innocuous enough but can escalate quickly — sometimes ruining your career and poisoning the atmosphere in the office.

When you butt heads with a co-worker, remember that person is as important to God as you are. Try to settle problems before they become a catastrophe. Consider meeting for lunch to gently work out your problems. Take responsibility — even if you feel very little of the conflict is your fault — and work out your problems with humility. You might find the other person is as willing to own up to his or her problems as you are. Offering to serve that person could smooth over any hard feelings.

If you’re feeling the sting of workplace bullying, the  “eye-for-an-eye” mentality will only intensify problems in the office. Remember that we will reap what we sow — whether good or evil.

Avoid Hypocrisy at All Costs

Some of the worst-behaved people at work may be folks you see at church. When we act foolishly at work, it not only brings down the morale at the office but it can harden people’s hearts against the Gospel.

If you’re predisposed to lashing out in anger or frustration, seek help for those problems. If you notice others in that position, offer to help or listen to their problems. In other words, don’t be the Pharisee that Jesus warns us about in Matthew 23:1-12.

Looking at practical ways to keep morale high can be as much a full-time job as the one you’re doing, but Jesus gives us the strength to accomplish this (Philippians 4:13). And when we embrace wisdom and take practical steps to honor God at work, we’ll soon see our office lighten up — even if the funky smells persist.

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