Encouraging Your Colleagues
by Paul White
Work is demanding (as my father would say, “That’s why it is called ‘work.’”). As we do our work, we encounter obstacles and barriers. We don’t hear back from someone from whom we need information. Something in the process of providing our services to others goes awry. We believe we are offering valuable goods and services, but the marketplace doesn’t seem to have the same view, and sales are slow. Team members don’t follow through on their responsibilities (at least, not in the timeframe we expect or in the way we would complete the task).
Eventually, we get worn down. We become discouraged (literally, “without courage”). We start to avoid tasks that take more energy and are difficult for us. We put off calling a client or vendor about a situation that will require some mild confrontation. We start to question ourselves (“Is this what I am supposed to be doing?” “Maybe I missed my calling?”). Or, more directly, we start to think negatively about ourselves (“I’m no good at this.” “If the truth were told, I’m a failure.”)
But God has given us the resources and process to combat discouragement. It is called “encouragement”—the ability to walk alongside one another and give each other support. In contrast to the mainstream culture’s view of “I can make it happen on my own,” we know God brings the results from our efforts and that we need one another. Life (including work) isn’t meant to be lived alone. We are to walk together, encourage one another, and even communicate appreciation to others for the work they do.
Some Christians have said to me, “But you aren’t supposed to do things for the ‘praise of men’ (John 12:43). You should ‘work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people’ (Colossians 3:23).” And I agree. Our motivation should not be to gain status and praise from others, but that doesn’t mean we should treat others in ways that are unkind or take their efforts for granted.
Is it wrong to become discouraged? I don’t think so. There are plenty of examples throughout Scripture when godly men and women became tired and worn down (see I Kings 19:1-5; Psalm 22).
Is it helpful and Christ-like to encourage others and communicate appreciation for their work? Apparently so, because we are exhorted to in I Thessalonians 5:11-12: “So encourage each other and give each other strength. . . We ask you to appreciate those who work hard among you.”
When you are discouraged, isn’t a word or act of encouragement refreshing? Then I would ask that you “do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Don’t worry, they won’t get addicted to praise and expect it all the time!)
Identify someone in your world of work that it would be good for you to offer a word or act of encouragement to. That person may be discouraged. Or he just may be someone whom you want to make sure knows you value who he is and the contributions he makes. Then either send him an email, give him a call, or attempt a small act of kindness to give him that message.
Paul White, PhD. is a Christian psychologist, speaker and consultant who “makes work relationships work.” Along with Dr. Gary Chapman and Harold Myra, he co-authored Sync or Swim, which is a fable that demonstrates the concepts from the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace in story-form.
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