Serving at work is hard to do consistently. I work for a Christian ministry and struggle with serving. I teach the stuff. I write on it. And still.
In a recent meeting I was presented a “new” idea to react to. Part of the reaction was easy – I had suggested some version of the idea several months ago. I liked the idea. But part of the reaction was hard – I felt that familiar pang in my stomach that had me wanting to make sure that I was getting credit, as if my job were on the line. Thankfully, maturity prevailed and I didn’t do any posturing (this time).
Why wasn’t I heard a few months ago? Who knows? Maybe the timing wasn’t right. What matters is that there is energy around the idea now. Who cares who gets official “credit,” as long as we do a good job developing and executing on a great idea?
What about you — do you care more about getting personal credit or organizational success?
It’s a good question to ask, and you have to ask it often. Servant leadership has become a ubiquitous enough model that many of us intellectually know that serving others and the team is the best route for building a strong culture and doing great work.
Yet all of us some of the time and some of us most of the time act in a way that is self-protective, self-seeking and risk-averse.
Why is that? Why are we afraid to serve?
The reasons are many; here are a few. Maybe you resonate with one of these:
- We have a blind spot. It could be a misguided understanding of what it means to serve. It could be busyness, a lifestyle that has no margin to notice others.
- We have an incorrect view of self. We believe that we are entitled, either for things to work out our way, for people to serve us, or both.
- We have an incorrect view of God. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). In his service – to the point of death on a cross – he enabled us to be reconciled in our relationship with God. God’s opinion of us is the only one that matters, and God thinks highly of us if we are in Jesus. The more we understand what Christ has done for us, the easier it will be to serve others even when it disadvantages us.
As Christians in the workplace we have to continuously examine our hindrances to serving others. We have to pay attention to when we are feeling or acting entitled and examine why. When we do that, we will find ourselves feeling freer to serve. And the more that we are free to serve, the more people will benefit from and notice the attractiveness of our faith.
And we just might get to help develop some great ideas, too.