CAN each of us really make a difference in our own workplace? Many would say, “Sure… if you are the owner or the CEO. But I am just an entry-level worker.” It’s a common predicament: an employee sees some aspects of his job that needs changing, but feels powerless to do anything about it. It can be the attitude of his co-workers, the stifling nature of some procedures, perhaps the whole corporate culture.
Dr. Gini Graham Scott, a management consultant, has this advice, “[In] a situation where you are a new employee in a low-power position, think of yourself as a kind of gardener facing barren soil that needs fertilizer and water. The best you can do is to plant some seeds and ask for some fertilizer and water, but you can only ask. You don’t have the power to demand it, because if you do, you may not only be refused what you want, but you also might be forced to leave the garden.” She contrasts this to dropping bombs, which more likely leads to a big, messy explosion.
So what do you do when you are this “new, low-power” employee? Sow seeds, not bombs. You may not be able to ignite a corporate revolution, but you can plant the seeds for change. Here are some seeds you may want to sow:
Sow seeds of kindness. Many workers find themselves in a dog-eat-dog, “What’s in it for me?” environment. Or they have to breathe a toxic atmosphere of intrigue and backbiting. They don’t want to be carried away by such negative currents, but they don’t want to be known as holier-than-thou, moralizing guys, either.
Why not do an act of kindness and let it speak for itself? Preaching against workplace ills is like dropping bombs. But modeling sought-for traits is the sowing. It can be as simple as a smile, a word of appreciation, a helping hand, a pat on the shoulder or a sharing of a meal. Simple, but it is manna to a soul starving for encouragement and affirmation. Hopefully, the empathy-challenged people around will take the hint and eventually do the same thing.
Sow seeds of integrity. “Oh, but everybody’s doing it!” Sounds familiar? We hear of people exaggerating their accomplishments, accepting kickbacks or padding their expense accounts. But there are many conscientious workers who are bothered by the unethical practices they see being done by their colleagues.
What to do? Some may be tempted to be a “team player” and keep quiet. Some decide to do the same wrongdoing, citing the proverb “If you can’t beat them, join them.” There are still others who struggle whether or not to play whistle-blower, especially if they are not holding any tangible evidence or if the wrong-doer is a powerful figure in the company.
Sow seeds of ideas. Most companies have their share of nay-sayers and whiners, those who keep talking about the problems but don’t bring solutions to the table. Why not stand out by being someone who’s constantly figuring out ways to improve productivity, morale, company image and the like? That way, we have ideas to sow.
But we also need to sow our ideas smartly. It is one thing to present your ideas as a know-it-all. It is another to do so with respect and humility. We cannot go wrong if we preface our ideas with “May I propose…?” It recognizes the dignity of the people you are talking to. It also opens the door to making a good idea even better. Then again, it also gives the other person the freedom to turn you down, but with no hard feelings.
Lastly, sow seeds of prayer. What if despite sowing kindness, integrity and ideas, you still see crop failure? Then do what farmers do in a drought: ask God for rain and to give you the harvest. Don’t be disheartened if your concerns and efforts are ignored, belittled or even shot down. Rather, sow your workplace with prayer. You may not be able to change the attitude of your co-workers, but God can. You may not be able to control your circumstances, but God is sovereign over everything. Do all you can, to the best that you can, and ask God to do what only He can do. Then, step back. Who knows, God will do something immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.
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