#019 – Blue Pill Brokenness – Work As Usual

We call the blue pill “business as usual”, and the last several posts have shown ways in which it is broken.  If a business is just an association of human beings working together (which it is), is it any surprise that “work as usual” would be broken as well in related ways?  Organizational cultures that are broken through toxic assumptions and motivations lead to “work” in those cultures becoming something far from God’s good and live-giving design in Genesis.  At Integrous, we believe there are four key aspects of toxic “work as usual”:  Idol and Identity; Power and Money; All Consuming; and Unhealthy Relationships.

If you have been following our Integriosity posts (hopefully you have!), you have seen how the workplace is broken, how that brokenness is breaking workers and how various unhealthy aspects of “business as usual” contribute to that brokenness.

In the next several posts, we will explore four aspects of “work as usual” that we believe are at the core of its brokenness as well as the problems they create and how they flow from “business as usual“:

  • Idol and Identity:  The idea that “work as usual” means our work has come to define “who” we are, rather than being a place to express “who” we are.
  • Power and Money:  The idea that “work as usual” prioritizes the pursuit of money and power rather than the development of relationships.
  • All Consuming:  The idea that “work as usual” has become a burden that we can’t wait to “retire” from rather than a blessing and a reflection of God’s character that is essential for humans to experience the fullness of their humanity.
  • Unhealthy Relationships:  The idea that “work as usual” is characterized by unhealthy human relationships rather than prioritizing strong community.

We will then dig into broken aspects of “faith as usual“.

The world has been pulled over your eyes. (Morpheus)

In a recent post, Seth Godin wrote “The current crisis is a vivid reminder of how empty a job focused on getting by really is. Because getting by is a lousy way to spend our days.”  So is allowing a job to define who we are.  Integriosity and “business a better way” is about helping us re-imagine work as a part of life in which people can express who they are rather than something competing with life that defines who they are.  It is also about creating environments of Shalom in which all people can find meaning and fulfillment in their work, whatever the activity.  Seth Godin went on to write “Doing work we’re proud of is a fine alternative to being seen as less than human. And spending our days doing as much human work as we can is far more appealing than hoping to do as little as possible.

At the core of Integriosity is the belief that the blue pill of “business as usual” and, as a consequence, “work as usual” are broken precisely because they ignore God’s design for His creation–including humanity and work.  The red pill of Integriosity is an “ancient path” back to our design–back to our humanity, back to beauty and back to our ultimate purpose of glorying the God in whose image we were created.  Like Nehemiah, our job is to dig into the rubble and begin rebuilding business and work according to God’s design–in alignment with Biblical principles.

SPOILER ALERT:  Future posts will explore why we believe the desire to “retire” is closely tied to the desire for “work/life balance”, and why we believe they are both “unBiblical” because they both flow from our having been deceived into no longer viewing work as part of our life (part of the rhythm of life and part of makes us fully human) and into having a very narrow concept of work.

PERSONAL NOTE (from PM):  Our relationship with work is certainly not “one-size-fits-all”.  I grew up in an industrial town where work for many people was monotonous–factory shift-work (and even piece-work) that was just a way to pay the bills (barely).  Retirement was a dream and “work/life balance” was not even a concept, because work fell into a very defined part of the day.  Work was a job but probably not an identity or idol for most, and it was likely viewed as a burden most days.  It almost certainly was not source of power for those on the line (but may have been for supervisors).  My career was one in which work became all-consuming (there were periods as an associate when a typical week was: 9:00am to somewhere between 11:00pm-1:00am, Monday through Thursday; 9:00am to 8:00pm Friday; 10:00am to 7:00pm Saturday; and 11:00am to 6:00pm Sunday), but I rarely viewed it as a burden (in fact, when friends told me I was crazy, I recall telling them they were crazy to be in a job where they were watching the clock until it struck 5:00pm– loved what I was doing).  It certainly became an idol and an identity and sometimes provided a sense of power (like when a wire transfer with lots of zeros wasn’t sent until “I” said all looked in order).  “Work/Life Balance” was a phrase used by colleagues, and for some it was about figuring out how to do just enough (they usually moved on).  Retirement was more of a mixed bag.  Some partners took “early retirement” as soon as they could.  Others pushed out retirement as long as possible.  I watched some partners retire and never come back.  Others retired and continued showing up at the office most days in a suit.

Sadly, I believe “work as usual” is broken in the factory and in the professional services firm.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” description of the problems of “work as usual”, but when you dig down below the surface, there are surprising similarities between the tall shiny skyscraper on “Wall Street” and the factory on “Main Street”.  Before we can start following the example of Nehemiah and begin rebuilding, we need to explore the rubble–that is the focus of the next few posts.

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