LESSON 7: EMBRACING Healthy RELATIONSHIPS IN THE WORK PLACE

Lesson Aim
To help the learner appreciate the importance of embracing healthy relationships at the workplace.

Lesson Objectives
By the end of the lesson the participant should:
• Understand the importance of having healthy relationships in the workplace
• Appreciate the benefits of healthy workplace relationships for maximum productivity
• Commit to build strong, positive relationships at their work place

Introduction
Work is an integral part of the human existence. Without work, human life will be limited if not become unworthy of living. God created human beings to manage His creation and this is only possible through work. Therefore, we all need to have the right attitude towards work and those we work with.

We need to value and embrace healthy work relationships at the work place since we spend most of our time in a day with those we work with. Consequently, work is more enjoyable, fulfilling, and more productive when we are in harmony with our colleagues.

1. What is work and healthy relationships?
To work is to manage or operate something to gain benefit from it. It involves doing something that involves physical interactions and mental effort, especially as part of a job (The Oxford English dictionary).

Human work in light of Gods’ work can be defined as “rearranging the raw material of God’s creation in such a way that it helps the world in general and people in particular, thrive and flourish”
(Prof. Mark Shaw).
Relationships at the workplace refers to the manner in which two or more people or colleagues relate in the work place based on the work at hand.

2. Biblical understanding of work and healthy working relationships.
i. God worked for six days and rested on the seventh day. Work is part of God’s overall purpose for man. God’s calling to work covers all vocations and generations; it is an act of worship for the committed follower of Christ. God sets an example of work and healthy work relationships by working in harmony with the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Genesis 1:26
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Genesis 2:2
‘’By the seventh day God had finished the work he has been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”
In the same way in the fourth commandment, God commands man to work and rest on the Sabbath day and defines ways in which man should relate with those he or she works for and with. These include the son, daughter, manservant, maidservant, aliens, and animal relationships.

Consequently, the idea and blessing of work must define and govern our workplace relationships.
Exodus 20: 8-10
“Remember the Sabbath say by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.”

ii. Jesus set an example for us on work and healthy work relationships. He worked in collaboration with both his earthly father who was a carpenter and his Father in heaven.
Mark 6:3
“Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.”
John 5:36
“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.”

iii. Apostle Paul also set an example on work and healthy relationships.
He was a tent maker and a preacher, and is a great example to believers today not only on work but also on hard work and healthy work relationships.
Acts 18:1-3
‘’After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.’’

Colossians 3:17
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Implication
Work and healthy work relationships are a blessing from God. Believers are called to carry on God’s act of redemption through work. Besides, how we relate with others at work is important to God.
Work and work relationships are worthwhile especially when performed in the Lord’s name. Work done ‘in’, and ‘for’ the Lord glorifies Him and man’s genuine faith is proved by the quality of His works and relationships.

3. Characteristics of healthy relationships at the workplace
Several characteristics make up healthy working relationships:
i. Developing trust and confidentiality is the foundation of every healthy relationship.
When you trust your team and colleagues, you form a powerful bond that helps you work and communicate more effectively.

If you trust the people you work with, you can be open and honest in your thoughts and actions, and you do not have to waste time and energy “watching your back.”
We therefore need to put every effort into building trust and confidentiality at the workplace for healthy relationships.
Proverbs 11:13
“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.’’

ii. Mutual Respect is an ingredient of developing healthy relationships.
When you respect the people that you work with, value their input and ideas however small, and they value yours; work will be lighter. It becomes easy to develop solutions based on collective insight, wisdom, and creativity.

Titus 2:7-8
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

iii. Being mindful of your colleagues
This means taking responsibility for your words and actions. Those who are mindful are careful about what they say to colleagues, and they do not let their own negative emotions impact the people around them.
Ephesians 4:29
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’’

iv. Being flexible to accommodate people of various cultures and opinions.
People with healthy relationships easily accept diverse people and opinions. For instance, when friends and colleagues offer different opinions from yours, you take the time to consider what they have to say. In addition, factor their insights into your decision-making process.
Romans 12:18
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’’

v. All healthy relationships depend on open and honest communication.
We communicate all day, whether we are sending emails, telephone calls, or meeting people face-to-face.
Proverbs 12:18
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.’’

4. The benefits of healthy work relationships
Human beings are naturally social creatures – we crave for friendship and positive interactions, just as we do food and water. Therefore, it makes sense that the better our relationships are at work, the happier and more productive we are going to be.

Healthy working relationships give us several benefits:
i. Work is more enjoyable and fulfilling when people have healthy relationships.
Healthy relationships at work produce a cheerful workforce that enjoys its work leading to higher levels of innovation and creativity. The overall result is high levels of productivity.
Proverbs 17:22
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.’’

ii. Healthy work relationships result to efficiency at work, hence we achieve more results together.
Ecclesiastes 4:9
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.”
iii. Healthy work relationships provide an environment where people work in freedom.
This enables colleagues to freely express themselves without fear of victimization.
1 Peter 2:16
“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.’’

iv. Healthy work relationships help us in identifying opportunities.
Instead of spending time and energy overcoming the problems associated with negative relationships, focus is on exploiting new opportunities.
Galatians 6:9-10
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’’
John 9: 4
“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”

v. Healthy work relationships form a platform for career growth and development.
After all, if your boss does not trust you, it is unlikely that he or she will consider you when a new position opens up. Overall, we all want to work with people we are on good terms with.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.’’

vi. Healthy work relationships help us attain a healthy work life balance.
Conflicts at the work place due to unhealthy relationships result in some people working in fear and tension, which affect the level of their productivity. We need to be in good health and right state of mind in order to deliver and be productive at work.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
“Make it your ambition to lead a quite life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders, and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

vii. Healthy relationships at work become an avenue for witnessing.

5. How to build healthy relationships at work
So, what can we do to build better relationships at work?

i. Develop people skills and talents.
Skills such as collaboration, communication, and conflict resolution techniques are key foundational factors in developing and sustaining healthy relationships.
Individuals need to identify areas of weakness and work on them to improve their people skills in addition to their God given talents that enhance their work and relationships.

James 1:19
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry….”
2 Timothy 1:6 a
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gifts of God which is in you.”

ii. Understand and identify relationship needs.
Look at your own relationship needs. Do you know what you need from others?
In addition, do you know what they need from you? Understanding these needs can be instrumental in the building of better relationships.
2 Peter 1:5-6
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness….”

iii. There is need to schedule time to build relationships.
Devote a portion of your day toward healthy relationship building. For example, you can pop into your colleague’s office during lunch or ask a colleague out for a cup of coffee. These little interactions help build the foundation of a healthy relationship, especially if they are face-to-face.
1 Peter 4:10
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

iv. Show your appreciation whenever someone helps you.
Everyone at a workplace, from the supervisor to the office cleaner, wants to feel that his or her work is appreciated. So, purpose to genuinely compliment the people around you when they do something right and do it well. This will open the door to greater productivity and relationships at work.
Note:
“Always remember everyone is hungry for praise and starving for honest appreciation.”
David Berg.
Hebrews 3:13
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

v. Focus on being positive.
Positivity is attractive and contagious, and it will help strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. No one wants to be around someone who is negative and overbearing all the time.
Philippians 4:8
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

vi. Define and manage boundaries.
Set and manage boundaries related to work properly. Boundaries discourage inappropriate behavior and help define what is appropriate on the job. Moreover, boundaries define what behaviors are acceptable as people relate and work together.
All of us want to have friends at work, but then, occasionally, a friendship not handled well can affect one’s delivery at work, especially when a friend or colleague begins to monopolize our time or overstep boundaries regarding physical interactions.
If this happens, it is important that you are assertive about your boundaries, and that you know how much time you can devote during the workday for social interactions. Boundaries are key foundations for all relationships but most importantly when relating across genders at the workplace.
READ: MATHEW 5:27

vii. Do not entertain gossip at the work place.
Office politics and “gossip” are major relationship killers at work. If you are experiencing conflict with someone in your group, talk to them directly about the problem.

Gossiping about the situation with other colleagues will only intensify the situation, cause mistrust, and heightened animosity between you.
Ephesians 4:29
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
James 1:26
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

6. What are the threats/ dangers that hinder healthy relationships at the workplace?
Include Partiality at the workplace, Indiscipline at work such as coming to work late and leaving early than the stipulated time.
Mistrust acts as a barrier that hinders the development of healthy work relationships.
Romans 12:17-21
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:17-21
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

ii. Laziness on the part of some may result in overworked and underworked colleagues.
Consequently, relationships among colleagues are strained due to the stress and pressure that comes with work.
Proverbs 6: 10-11
“A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.”

iii. Threats from supervisors and employers result to a tensed and fearful workforce, which affects relationships.
The Bible admonishes supervisors and employers not to threaten their employees but to treat them with consideration.
Ephesians 6: 9
“And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.”

iv. Discrimination on the basis of tribe or gender may hinder development of healthy work relationships and productivity.
Colossians 3:11
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.“
v. Immoral behaviours among colleagues can threaten the development of genuine and healthy relationships at the work place.

1 Corinthian 5:9-11
“I have written you in my letter not to associate sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy, or swindlers, or idolaters. In that case, you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate yourselves with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral, or greedy, idolater, or a slanderer, a drunkard, or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.”

7. How then should we relate with our colleagues: seniors, peers, and juniors in the work place?
The Bible gives clear instructions to the seniors, peers, and juniors on how they should relate with one another:

• Seniors
Ephesians 6:9
“And masters treat your slaves in the same way, do not threaten them since you know that he who is both their master and yours is in heaven and there is no favouritism with him.”
i. Do not threaten, instead, care for those under you.
ii. Pay acceptable wages.
iii. Model Christ-like behaviors to the juniors.
iv. Pray for and mentor the juniors.
v. Peers relate well by protecting one another in the work place”

• Peers
Peers in the place of work should always aim at working and relating as a team, offering support and respect to each other.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls but has no one to help him up!”

• Juniors
The Bible commands slaves to obey their supervisors, serve wholeheartedly, and expect a reward from God.
Ephesians 6:5-8
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you are serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.”

Note: Just before the conclusion on page 77 that, : “Where either the master or servant has done their part and the other party does not appreciate this or honour their part of the relationship, then one should be content with the knowledge that God is the ultimate rewarder of our efforts,
READ: 1st Corinthians 15:58”.

Conclusion
Hard work, teamwork, unity, healthy work relationships, and visionary leadership can surmount any form of opposition and obstacles to achieve the desired results.