Not Managing Today?
Another day, another survey confirming that work just isn’t working any more. This time, it’s Management Today reporting on research from the Roffey Park Institute, which found that the majority of middle managers (72%), senior managers (69%) and board directors (63%) are looking for a greater sense of meaning from their work. The disillusionment has been growing since the survey began eight years ago.
It’s not surprising that managers are craving meaning from their jobs when, according to other research, they have precious little time for anything else – nor, in reality, do most of the people above or below them. Nor is it surprising that they aren’t finding it. Ultimately job satisfaction is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 5:19), but because, despite the rhetoric of corporate values statements, today’s workplace is in reality almost entirely focused on a single bottom line – profit. Profit is necessary, but hardly a cause worth being exhausted by, and anxious about, until the day you retire. Particularly if, as leaked Government documents suggest, we’ll be whirling along in meaninglessness until we’re 70. Indeed, one of the greatest challenges facing Christians in the UK is to live the abundant life of Christ in the face of the dehumanising, relationally destructive and emotionally, physically and spiritually debilitating effects of the contemporary workplace.
This pressure is also, of course, one of our greatest opportunities, precisely because the political parties, business and the medics are long on diagnosis, deft at dealing with symptoms, but woefully short on solutions. However, before we crow too loudly and vaunt the superiority of a Christian approach, we should not forget just how many people working for Christian organisations and churches are also suffering from the negative impacts of the relentlessness of demand, and the shortage of resource. Recent Evangelical Alliance research, for example, revealed a woeful picture of pastoral stress. Some of this may be self-inflicted, but whatever its roots – impossible job descriptions, pride, congregational misunderstanding, lack of accountability – it is hardly likely to be Christ’s desired pattern.
However, for the majority of Christians in work, LICC research reveals that the big issues are stress and burnout, maintaining integrity, relationships, overwork, insecurity and redundancy. Encouragingly, some Christians are bucking the trend: one law company has capped partner hours at 45 per week, and found that people are queuing up to work for less money. Still quite a lot of money, it has to be said, but nevertheless less. Similarly, some individuals are downshifting, or restricting their own hours, others are beginning to challenge work practices. Some have recognised the contribution that Christians can make to the relatively new debates about worklife integration and the bottomline value of wellmotivated, energised employees. Others continue as they are, believing confidently that God wants them to be there, and finding strength through him. Of course, we may know that ultimately we work for the king of the universe (Colossians 3.2324), and we understand God’s transformational intentions for work – but such high purpose was surely not intended to be pursued at such fearsome cost. Sadly, what’s clear is that few of us have the time, energy or even the necessary hope to stop and work out how to make any meaningful change to our work pattern. If this is you, contact a friend now and book a time to start the conversation.
“When God gives anyone wealth and possessions, and enables them to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their work – this is a gift of God.’ Ecclesiastes 5:19