Part 5 of 5, The View from 40 years: The Art of Employeeship

Rick Mattson Devotion, Leadership 4 Comments

Trigger warning: Boring post to come. Readers vulnerable to snoozing may wish to simply skip it.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

(The prior post, Part 4 is here: “The Heart of Leadership and Wise Counsel.”)

In the present post I’d like to revive an outdated concept that I never hear about in the workplace or in the blogs and podcasts I frequent: employeeship.

It’s a cumbersome, stale word. “Employeeship” bespeaks of duty, routine, and submission to others within an institution.

The Bible says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)

“Slaves,” here, of course, refers to first-century household servants in Christian and Jewish homes. Not a bad parallel to employeeship.

Many employees, however, both within and outside ministry settings, seem to feel it’s their job from day one to oppose their earthly masters. Sometimes this is necessary after a history of wrongs, but certainly not as a normative posture. Again, Ephesians 6:5, quoted above.

Myself, after a few years of much needed growth and change, I came to adopt the following rules of employeeship. See what you think of them.

  1. Support my boss and my team. Even if I disagree with where things are headed, I need to do so in a respectful, constructive manner. I still regret the times I failed in this by uttering blunt statements of “wisdom” from an assumed position of superiority.
  2. Fill out reports on time, be punctual to meetings, respond to all requests, and don’t expect special treatment because my case or the demands on my time are so extraordinarily exceptional.
  3. Make myself the easiest possible person to supervise. Follow the rules, even if they’re a bit annoying at times. This is a tangible way to submit to the earthly master God has placed over me.
  4. Remain teachable, even if I’m, well, graying out of late (the truth hurts!). Frankly, I dread the thought of becoming that cynical older employee who’s “seen it all” and knows everything . . . who’s lost his innocence and his first love . . . whose tender heart for the work of God has vanished. May it never be.
  5. Expect ABC from my boss, not ABCDEFGHIJK. That is to say, this boss or that boss is good at three or four things, but not a dozen. So I need to have realistic expectations and play to their strengths.
  6. (Then when the day comes that I need a special favor or need to voice a philosophical objection to the direction we’re headed or in some other way be a true contrarian — which sometimes I am — I’ve built a place of trust on which to stand.)
  7. Sometimes this whole employeeship motif is called “managing up” or “managing your supervisor.” That doesn’t quite capture it, for me. I need to manage myself, with God’s help, to be a productive employee. And I believe this counts for something — for something quite a lot, actually — in eternity.

I’d like to recommend 1-7 above as representing something of the art (heart) of employeeship.

OK, you can wake up now!

Click here to return to the first post in this series.

Comments 4

  1. Ah, not boring at all. Obviously you’ve spent time (and maybe gotten some bruises), learning this humility. I get the blunt response and the wisdom of experience that should be passed on to the younger ones who have a lot to learn! Lots of introspection here.

  2. Hey friend, I have enjoyed this 40 year reflection blog series so much. The main reason is because I have had a “front row seat “to your leadership for the past 30 years and I have seen you live with integrity into these words of wisdom you have shared. Not only are you bringing a message to us, your life IS the message. Thank you for being such a great example to me as a leader. I am grateful to be able to walk this journey alongside of you! With deepest appreciation and affection, Jim

    1. Post

      Thanks so much for those kind words, Jim. We walk the path of ministry not alone but in community! Glad to be in it together, brother.

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