Not My Job
Once, at a party where I didn’t know many people, I found myself in a conversation with other men about work. The conversation quickly advanced from swapping industries to discussing dysfunctional workplaces. As someone who often facilitates interpersonal dynamics for others, I asked the chief complainer what his approach was to make it better. He responded, “Man, my life philosophy is three words: Don’t get involved.”
As people of faith, there is – and should be – a tension in when and how we get involved in situations that may not directly concern us. While we have to be careful to avoid the trap of adopting a “savior complex,” we are also called to be “leaven” in the world and to live out the beatitudes. Regardless of one’s workplace, I believe there are three opportunities to help us intercede in the midst of workplace drama.
When we are the unwilling audience of someone else’s “drama dump,” offering a sympathetic ear seems like the polite thing to do. However, it can spur on more drama and entrench the person deeper in their narrative. In these situations, we can help the person clarify their issue. Consider asking helpful questions that move the person from heightened emotions to a more coherent and constructive articulation of the conflict or concern. This will enable them to be more self-reflective of their own role in the dysfunction, and equip them to engage in the source of their consternation.
Another person’s gripe can actually be an open door for our witness. Giving witness doesn’t mean telling others what to do. It’s sharing our story. Offer a learning or insight from a similar situation. Done well, this intervention will help the other to feel heard and point them to a more constructive next step. It’s important to emphasize that this perspective shouldn’t be phrased as “I think you should …” but rather, “What I found helpful was …” or “What I realized was …”
As Catholics, we are armed with a very powerful, game-changing belief – namely that the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us. We can assume that, deep down, others want to live fully the person God created them to be. Beginning our response to drama with phrases such as, “I know how important relationships are to you and that’s why …” or “I know how much you believe in our mission and so what can you do …” can call a colleague to a deeper alignment with a greater purpose and be a subtle reminder of their call to sainthood.
As disciples, we aren’t called to be judge and jury; we are called to be peacemakers. We shouldn’t butt in or put our heads down. If we can remind people of their God-given goodness through our patient and productive witness, we can be agents of the Holy Spirit to help “make earth as it is in heaven.”
Dan Cellucci is the CEO of the Catholic Leadership Institute.