By Greg Aitkens
Watch Those Vows
Early in my work career, I established some vows, which were important to me at the time. I made these prior to the time I came to know the Lord. My first vow had to do with becoming “successful”. To me this meant making lots of money and gaining notoriety and recognition while doing it. I will now admit this vow was very worldly, and quite selfish. It was more influenced by the standards of this world, rather than a call in the workplace from Jesus.
After many years, I heard our Lord say to me “serve my people”. In my work as a financial advisor, this meant learning everything about every aspect of clients’ financial lives—from estate planning, to insurances, to investments, to Social Security benefits, to tax planning, and even living expenses. In learning how to Serve His People, I did become successful, however, it wasn’t the worldly path of having money as an idol or chasing money at all costs. It came from answering his call and doing well in serving his people.
A few years ago, I heard a wonderful guiding question in this realm: “Whom do you serve, and for what purpose?” I believe our workplaces will operate far better when answering this question while doing His work with care and integrity.
Working hard is a good thing, however, too much work just wears us out, and makes us exhausted and ineffective as Kingdom workers. Jesus calls for us to have a balanced life, while doing things in moderation. The 40-hour week was the standard for many years, however, these days the workweek is really contingent on the kind of work we do.
We can all have very busy times at work, where we really don’t even count the hours because of the workload. However, I’ve seen the damaging effects on people who just work “all-the-time”. I’ll want to ask, “is all this overwork necessary? Is it due to demanding bosses? Or is it due to our personal compulsions, or drive to “get ahead?” I can assure you that it’s not God’s plan to have our work drive us to exhaustion, or weariness which may cause physical or mental issues.
As a worker who began very early each day, I realized that it was important to get the rest I needed to be effective. I found that shutting off my phone by 6pm was a good way to “get-off-the-grid”, and unless there was a dire emergency, the business began again the next day, after 8am. In addition, our home became my “sanctuary” after 6pm. This meant no business calls or work. Home time was family time! This enabled me to restore and gain energy for the next day.
We’d all agree that communications with clients, vendors, and co-workers etc. is crucial in becoming an effective worker. Someone sends an email, or calls me, or sends a text. Yes, we can be busy and not answer at all. This is so common these days.
As a worker, I felt it was very important to respond in some way. If I were called, I would call back as soon as I was able. If a text, a response was sent back. If an email, I’d write back. More often, than not I’d say, “I’ve received your request, and will get back with you within 24 or 48 hours,” or whatever was reasonable at the time. People like to know their request has been received, and if work is needed, that I’m working on it in due course. Responding in my view is just basic courtesy and acknowledging that others have reached out to us.
Things happen at work at times, which just makes us mad. There are delays, someone doesn’t get back to us, someone sends an inflammatory email, or says things which are aggravating or bothersome or even unethical. Our human nature is to “respond-in-kind,” or we want revenge. We mutter to ourselves, “they cannot do this to me!”
I learned the hard way that it’s best to not respond in the heat of the moment. I learned it was best to wait 24 hours before responding. I’d frequently write notes, or journal what happened to convert my rage onto the paper in front of me. When I had prepared an email response, I would not send it while angry.
After cooler heads prevailed, I was able to sort out what happened, and in many cases communicate more clearly and without emotion with the people who had caused the problems. I also realized that the problems may have been me.
Pick up the Phone
Email communications are good for some things, however, in the business I was in, it was often better to call the client to explain things. Since we managed peoples’ money as part of our service, it was common for misunderstandings to occur. I was able to form the practice of calling clients with a colleague who was the manager of our Money Management department. The moment I detected any kind of issue whatsoever, we’d call the client.
Almost always, the issue was resolved quickly on the phone. Since our services were complicated and detail oriented, there were misinterpretations, and clients were shocked when we called to help them resolve issues. It surprised most people that we were calling. We made these calls regularly together over many years. The amount of goodwill created by these simple calls was amazing, and sure helped us deepen relationships with our clients. When in doubt, pick up the phone.