Finding Meaning for Millennials in the Workplace

Frustrated Worker

Much ink has been spilled in business journals about how to integrate Millennials into the American workforce. People make a lot of excuses about how the education system has failed us, how student loans are crushing us and how the instant gratification of modern technology has disabled our social skills. As Christians, however, we must overcome these excuses and view the workplace as part of our ministry.

We’ve talked before about how in a properly ordered Christian life, our full-time work is our primary way to serve others in a God-glorifying way. In his recent book, “Get Your Hands Dirty,” Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute draws an excellent point from Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats, in which the King says, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Ballor explains that “from the context of Jesus’ parable it’s not clear at all that the sheep explicitly have in mind the idea that they were serving God through their service of others… They even ask the King, ‘Lord, when did we do these things for you?’” Doing work is so important to Ballor that he included it in the very title of this book. He further argues that:

If we sow a culture that disdains work, then we will reap a dysfunctional society that pits class against class, labor versus management, rich against poor, strong against weak… But if we sow a culture that celebrates all kinds of work as inherently valuable, as valid and praise-worthy of serving others and thereby serving God, we will reap a society that promotes flourishing in its deepest and most meaningful sense.

I thought that Ballor could have included “generation against generation” in this passage when I read a recent Forbes article entitled, “How To Handle A Bad Boss: 7 Strategies For ‘Managing Up.’” Not that all Millennials have bad bosses per se, but often young adults entering the work force struggle to relate across inter-generational barriers or the employers themselves believe myths about the Millennial worker, as IFWE’s Gabrielle Jackson discusses in her article, “Five Myths About the Millennial Worker.”

The seven strategies discussed in the Forbes pieces include:

  1. Identify [your boss’s] prime motivations.
  2. Support [your boss’s] success.
  3. Take the high road: Your “Personal Brand” is riding on it.
  4. Speak up: Give your boss a chance to respond.
  5. Know their preferences: Adapt to them.
  6. Don’t be intimidated.
  7. Be Proactive: Do your research before jumping ship.

While the entire article is worth reading, pay particular attention to number 3. The author, Margie Warrell, explains this point, saying:

All too often, people start feeling entitled to slack off, take longer and longer lunches, lose interest or stop performing well because of their bad boss. Don’t do it. Keep your mind focused on top performance… Actually handling a difficult boss well can really set you apart. You never know who is watching or listening but be assured, people who can open or close future opportunities for you are doing just that!

For Christians in the workforce, this rings true with Colossians 3:25 which commands, “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” We know that our work environment and the attitude of our coworkers take nothing away from the fact that we ought to be serving others and working for the Lord.

I’ve likened this God-serving, others-focus view of our work before to the symbol of the rainbow:

Our vocation is more than a job, it is a promise. Through our vocational callings, we are deputized as agents of God’s Kingdom with important roles in the redemptive narrative playing out in the world around us. Our jobs are actively moving us closer to the peace and wholeness of God’s will for our communities. They should remind us, like the rainbow, that God restores.

If you are a Millennial struggling to find work or struggling to find satisfaction in your work, I would encourage you to remember for whom we actually work, and keep your eye on the Kingdom which He will direct our labors to create.

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