Workplace Friction

Straight Talk

The Question

My problem has been going on for almost a year. I have a co-worker that was also a friend until we went up for promotions. She changed and we have never been the same. She got a promotion and then I received one but she still didn’t want to be friends anymore.

About eight months ago she decided to get into business for herself. She has been coming to work here but using company time to work her own business. We are both Christians but she takes advantage of me and the company daily by leaving for hours on end, calling in sick and announcing she is working from home. I’m loaded down because she isn’t here. I’ve talked to my supervisor about the strain on me but her response is that we are short handed and that’s the way it is.

My co-worker tells me that the favor of God is what allows her to do these things but I have a hard time reconciling that with the Word of God. I am tired and this has affected me more than I ever wanted it to. I want to keep a good attitude but my days are almost impossible. What can I do to cope with these issues?

— DJ from Houston, Texas

The Answer
Part 1: Friendship in the workplace
Part 2: God’s refining hand

Friendship in the workplace (Part 1)

Reading your question threw me back to my old business days but not with nostalgic yearning. After 26 years in corporate America I pretty much saw it all so I understand your difficulty and your frustration.

Basically, I think you have two problems. One is the condition of the friendship and the other is your work environment. The fact that you and your co-worker are each Christian influences both. Let’s break these apart and see if we can bring some clarity and solutions.

As for the friendship, unless I’m missing some part of the story, we don’t actually know what changed the friendship though somethingdid. The fact that you both went up for the same promotion only works to explain things if you got the promotion and she didn’t. Since that didn’t happen, what went wrong?

You really don’t know because somehow the friendship was not tough enough to weather hard times. The two of you might have talked it over at the time of the promotion and honestly worked through those things which cooled feelings. The fact that you didn’t might make you question how deep or real the friendship ever was to begin with. Why would that be helpful? Because it could lower expectations to a more realistic level as you continue in your work environment with a colleague who is disappointing you on a professional, ethical and spiritual level.

As for the workplace, you can reduce your frustration by taking your eyes off your co-worker. Even if she is unobserved by your boss she is not unobserved by God. Release her into his hands. Maybe it would help you to go so far as to pretend she isn’t even there and work as if you were down a person. That doesn’t mean you need to feel responsible to carry her workload. That’s not your problem. Just do your own job to the best of your ability as unto the Lord and let her be accountable to God for herself. Let the supervisor be responsible for anything that doesn’t get done.

God’s refining hand (Part 2)

One good thing to remember is that this situation will not last forever. Something will change and you will be out from under it. What you learn from it, however, can last you a lifetime and longer. That’s how God views it and you’ll have an easier time if you see it that way too.

Take this opportunity to seek the refining hand of God for yourself. Not as a victim or as a martyr but to truly accept whatever killing of the flesh is needed in YOU. God is economical: he may not approve your co-worker’s actions but he isn’t above using them for your good – to help you take on more of the character of Jesus.

Your handling of a very tough situation now can buy you the “gold refined by fire…” (Revelation 3:18) Remember that “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Verse 19)

The time may come when your colleague’s work ethic becomes public knowledge in the office (the truth usually comes out in the end) but even if it doesn’t, you will be far ahead. As you look at God rather than her and do your job with integrity you are preparing to hear these prized words: “’Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’” (Matthew 25:21)