Pursuing Peace in the Workplace
WHY do some people pick on others? The Bible provides insight into the matter. It explains that we are living in “the last days” of this system of things and that this is why we are experiencing “critical times hard to deal with.” Many people are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) In these turbulent times, such behavior is widespread, and mobbing is one of the unsavory results. How, then, can you pursue peace in the workplace?
Harassment often begins with an unresolved conflict between workmates. Hence, without being a busybody in the affairs of others, give prompt attention to misunderstandings in which you are personally involved. Calm hurt feelings with tact and respect. Deal with your colleagues as individuals, not as a group. If someone appears to have something against you, try to sort out matters. Keep in mind Jesus’ admonition: “Be about settling matters quickly with the one complaining against you.”—Matthew 5:25.
Furthermore, everyone benefits by keeping the lines of communication open. Try, then, to communicate well with your supervisor without giving the impression that you are merely attempting to curry his favor. Remember, too, that good communication with your peers and subordinates will act as an antidote to stress. King Solomon wrote: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk, but in the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment.”—Proverbs 15:22.
Make every effort, therefore, to get along with your workmates. This does not mean being a “people pleaser,” weakly agreeing to everything that is demanded of you and compromising your principles just to maintain peace. But a warm and friendly manner can melt an icy atmosphere. Be careful not only of what you say to others but of how you say it. Again, the Bible offers sensible advice: “An answer, when mild, turns away rage.” (Proverbs 15:1) “The calmness of the tongue is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 15:4) “By patience a commander is induced.” (Proverbs 25:15) “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”—Colossians 4:6.
“Let Your Reasonableness Become Known”
The apostle Paul advised Christians in Philippi: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.” (Philippians 4:5) Following this principle, set reasonable standards of conduct for yourself. Avoid being either overconfident or too shy. If colleagues tease you, do not try to match them by doing the same. You gain nothing by blurring the boundary between good and bad behavior. Treat others with respect and dignity, and you are more likely to receive the same from them.
Give thought not only to your conduct but also to your dress. Ask yourself: ‘What impression do my clothes give? Is my appearance provocative? Do I present an unkempt appearance? Would I do well to adopt a sensible dress code for work?’
In most cultures, industrious and conscientious workers are respected and highly valued. Hence, try to earn respect by performing high-quality work. Be reliable and trustworthy. This does not mean fretting over every task. One woman who fell victim to harassment later admitted that she had contributed to her own downfall. “I wanted to be perfect,” she says. This woman came to realize that perfection is an impossible goal: “I’m a good worker, but I don’t have to do everything perfectly.”
Do not be oversensitive to negative remarks. Not every unfair criticism is tantamount to harassment. In the Bible, King Solomon wrote: “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended . . . Also, do not give your heart to all the words that people may speak, . . . for your own heart well knows even many times that you, even you, have called down evil upon others.”—Ecclesiastes 7:9, 21, 22.
Granted, following such sound principles does not guarantee that you will never be the victim of harassment. Despite your best efforts, some colleagues might still pick on you. What then?
“When I got the cold-shoulder treatment for several months, I went through emotional turmoil,” admits Gregory. His experience is typical of victims, who endure a wide range of painful emotions—anger, guilt, shame, confusion, along with feelings of worthlessness. The pressure of being harassed can drive even a normally stable person to despair. Indeed, the Bible states that “mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) So, what can be done?
Studies indicate that it is best not to try to deal with harassment on your own. Where can a victim find support? Some larger companies have established a means for assisting their employees who feel that they are being intimidated. Such companies know that it is in their own best interests to eradicate harassment. According to one estimate, workers who harass a victim are distracted for up to 10 percent of their working time. Wherever such an arrangement is available, a victim could seek help. A neutral counselor—either from within the employer’s organization or from outside—might open the way for all parties to discuss the situation and lay down rules of conduct at work.
No Guaranteed Remedy
Of course, it must be acknowledged that there is no guaranteed remedy for harassment. Even those who apply the Bible principles outlined in this article may find that mistreatment on the job persists. Such ones can be certain that their endurance and their efforts to display godly qualities amid adversity do not go unnoticed by Jehovah God.—2 Chronicles 16:9; Jeremiah 17:10.
Depending upon the level and frequency of the mistreatment, some in this situation choose to look for other employment. Others have little choice, as jobs may be scarce and resources that could provide help may be few. Monika, mentioned in the preceding article, found that, in time, the problem was taken care of when one of the main harassers left the job. As a result, the work atmosphere entered a period of relative calm, and she was able to complete her training before deciding to find work elsewhere.
For Peter, mentioned in the first article, complete relief came through early retirement. Even when enduring the harassment, however, Peter benefited from the support of his wife. “She knew what I was going through, and she was a tower of strength,” he says. While enduring their trials, Monika and Peter drew particular comfort from their faith as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Engaging in the public ministry strengthened their feelings of self-respect, while association with fellow believers reaffirmed their stable friendships.
Whatever your situation, do your best to pursue good relations in the workplace. If you are harassed, strive to follow the apostle Paul’s admonition: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. . . . Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Romans 12:17-21.
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A friendly manner can melt an icy atmosphere
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“If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”—ROMANS 12:18
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Give prompt attention to personal misunderstandings