I used to think that engineers had a life relatively free of “work politics”. After all, the stereotypes suggest engineers are shy, awkward and harmless, right?
So fresh out of college, I took up a role in a company that provided a service meant for public use, where I could impact the most people – plus they had a good training programme that I thought would help me in my engineering career.
I even thought I could set up a Christian workplace fellowship there. I was ready to make an impact in the world for Jesus and build his Kingdom through my engineering work.
But like all plans made in blissful ignorance and presumption, I was in for a rude awakening.
The company decided to second me to one of its subsidiaries which was working on a “new cutting-edge project”. But they subsequently withdrew all the promised training programmes and told me I could not be rotated to various departments, unlike the other management trainees, due to this subsidiary’s “business needs”.
I was ready to make an impact in the world for Jesus and build his Kingdom through my engineering work. But I was in for a rude awakening.
Despite drawing the short straw in this, I saw the value and potential of the project, so I stayed on. Yet, it was just the beginning of my troubles.
My whole perception of engineers being “shy, awkward and harmless” was thrown out the window as a I watched a real-life Game of Thrones unfold before my eyes at my workplace.
I saw corruption, money laundering, backstabbing and sandbagging. Shortcuts were taken for personal gain at the expense of operational safety. Work was discouraging as we watched the project get delayed week after week because of all the politicking going on.
The company was bleeding money due to all the unscrupulous siphoning of company funds. When we approached HR/finance to find out more about the matter, we were told that something would eventually be done, but we had to pull through to deliver on the project for now, as the project was deemed to be critical to the subsidiary’s survival.
The situation hit rock bottom when we lost seven staff in one month – they were terminated due to political reasons or had quit because they had had enough. There were rumours of insolvency.
I was confronted with a choice – bail from the sinking ship or stay and fight on. As I looked at my engineering peers who were earning more in other companies which had better work environments, I struggled with where God had placed me.
It forced me to really think through what I was trying to accomplish through my daily work.
What happened to my grand plan of impacting the world for God and His Kingdom? I didn’t ask to be put in this place – should I seek my self-preservation instead? I spoke to some of the supervisors that I could trust and sought counsel from my church mentors and cell group.
The answers I received could be distilled to a few key issues …
ASK YOURSELF: HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR WORK?
1. How does my understanding of Christ and the Gospel shape my work?
Just as my heavenly Father’s work consists of creating and sustaining all things, my work should mimic His work, to the benefit of society and for the common good. It’s the primary way in which I can love my neighbour, both Christian and non-Christian, through my vocation.
Where God has placed me, I should also seek to expand Jesus’ Kingdom and participate in His redeeming work. That also involves me fighting for His kingdom values and shining His light where it is darkest. Where there is corruption and deceit, I should seek truth and pursue engineering and financial integrity. Where there is politics and bullying, I should seek justice for the oppressed.
And just as the Spirit’s work is to give life through the Word of Christ, I should also try to speak life to my colleagues, encouraging them in difficult times and lending them a listening ear. And, if possible, finding opportunities to share the true Word of the Gospel.
Rooting my idea of work in the work that my heavenly Father is doing helped affirm my choice of jobs – that while it is a difficult and often discouraging work, it is a good work.
2. If I understand that my work is to be shaped by Jesus’ Kingdom and mission, how does that affect the way I view my workplace?
If I accept that my workplace is my mission field, then my primary response should be to pray for my workplace, just as we would pray for any other mission field.
In particular, the desperation of the situation drove me to pray for God’s justice to prevail and for the work to be completed in a way that honours God.
Getting involved in the lives of my fellow colleagues also gave me opportunity to pray for them in a more personal manner. And I also discovered the power of the Holy Spirit – just as Jesus had promised to be with us where we do his mission in all the world, His Spirit could empower me to work.
Not just in terms of technical competency, but also in giving me the wisdom to navigate tricky and complex situations, with the right words or actions to bless those around me.
All I had to do was ask.
3. How should I factor job security into my career choices?
I came to the realisation that understanding God’s sovereignty and purpose in my life meant that I need not worry about job security. My career is not my primary work: Jesus’ Gospel and mission are.
And if I lose (or quit) my job, it just means that my time in this job is done and that God is moving me from one mission field to the next.
Neither would I have to worry about my training programme – God promises to supply all I need to do His mission through my job.
God is at work for His Kingdom, just as I am working for Him in my job. Knowing this has freed me up to be truly rested in my workplace despite the circumstances.
As my boss told me: Never be too afraid to lose your job that you can’t do it properly; focus on one task at a time and eventually you’ll be able to sort things out.
As long as I know that Christ is my boss, then whatever work he calls me to is a good work.
After much deliberation, I decided to stay and persevere at my current job. It is encouraging to see a few loyal colleagues, my boss included, in engineering, HR and finance who want to fight for the future of the company and the good of the public.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t go through tough days where I have second thoughts.
In my discouragement I had a monthly ritual of scrolling through job portals and looking over the fence to see how much greener the grass could be on the other side. Even as I write this, the project is six months behind schedule and there are rumours that management might still want to shut down the project.
But it helps that my cell group shares and bears my burdens with me and keeps my mind focused on Christ. For as long as I know that Christ is my boss, then whatever work he calls me to is a good work.
“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” (Colossians 3:22-25 ESV)
The writer’s name has been changed to protect his identity.