As the self-appointed communication evangelist, when I’m out in the corporate world training, my job is to help people talk to each other so they can do their real job. There are lots of different program titles, but there is one overriding question: “How can we get through this challenge and still want to be on the same team?” I’m in serious persuasion mode, trying to convince people that how we talk to each other requires skill and that communication has a tangible effect on the bottom line. Undoubtedly, I will say, “Your success as a communicator will determine your success in every other area of your life.”
During the training, we strategize on intent, tone, word choice, listening, eye contact, volume, content and clarity in a variety of ways including games, videos, introspection, and role play. These skills never fit nicely on a spreadsheet. There is always, and I mean always, one person who will ask me, “If I’m doing my job, why does all this other stuff matter?” What they don’t ask is, “Why are we wasting our time in here with you? The only thing that matters is the work I produce.” But to me, it’s kind of the same question. I get it. We are paid to do a job, not to be someone’s BFF.
However, it matters because we aren’t robots. Take a moment to Google “emotional intelligence” sometime.
If we were robots, people wouldn’t irritate us. If we were robots, we wouldn’t be defensive and make assumptions about the evil intent of others. If we were robots, facial expressions wouldn’t matter and I wouldn’t react to what I think you think about me. Robots don’t get embarrassed, they don’t worry, they don’t work harder when appreciated or rewarded. Robots don’t feel a sense of accomplishment, joy, or pride in a job well done. I could go down this road for a very long time, but I do have a limit on my word count, so I’ll stop now. By the way, a robot doesn’t include mildly amusing side notes in a blog.
I sincerely respect and understand the question because, on the surface, it makes sense that relationships shouldn’t matter at work. I urge this task-oriented individual to think about “just doing your job” at home. What would the outcome be if you just did your job at home with your family? Check all the boxes but don’t ever worry about how you talk to the other people in your house. Complete every duty with excellence but don’t feel obligated to work on getting closer, having fun, establishing security, or showing compassion. I dare you to try it for one day.
The principle is the same at work. We aren’t robots at work any more than we are robots at home. And relationships, which are highly formed by how we talk to each other, matter when it comes to production, retention, and problem solving. Granted, your relationships are different at home than at work, but relationships have a very tangible bottom line at work just like they do at home and require some human investment. The good news is that it doesn’t require a whole lot of investment, I’d say a 5% increase above your current investment.
When I’m in the corporate world I’m working up a sweat convincing people to invest relationally, but oddly, when I’m working with churches, I find myself swinging the pendulum toward the production side as well. Within our church families, I fear that we don’t expect serious production, or serious commitment, like we naturally do at work and within our families. It’s entirely possible to be hyper focused on avoiding relational tension. When making decisions, at the very top of the priority list is the question, “Who is going to be upset?” This question can nip any further action. While we can’t adopt the popular “I’m not here to make friends” stance, neither can we allow relationships to hold us hostage from the healthy tension that growth and maturity require. For a business, the tough calls will often determine the life or death of the organization. It’s no different for a church.
Let’s continue with our “try this at home” experiment.
Try this stance at home. Just make people happy. Make sure no one is ever upset, especially the children. No one should be required to clean bathrooms, work, pay bills, say, “No,” or, “I’m sorry.” Your job is just to be nice. While I’m pretty tempted to take advantage of the no cleaning policy, I don’t want to reap those moldy rewards. Work is simply required at home just like it is on the job. Within a functional family we intuitively understand and practice both task and relational efforts. Yet we are sometimes shocked when the same efforts are required within our church families. Somehow, church is just supposed to be what we want it to be.
Church is exponentially complicated for lots of reasons including large numbers of flawed people dealing with layered, complicated issues. When an organization faces the normal shifts and changes that accompany any living body, both task and relational efforts are critical. Hopefully this little blog reminds you of Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor 12 for the body to work together. And guess what? Chapter 13 is the love chapter. Isn’t Paul answering the question I have to answer in my corporate training? “How do we meet this challenge and still want to be on the same team at the end of the day?” To recap Paul, we have to work together and we have to love each other. These instructions live and breathe side-by-side in our holy Scriptures. My prayer is that we can live them out side-by-side in our churches. Let’s try that at home too.