It was an ordinary day at work. Svend was frantically shuffling through the papers, his eyes fixated but his body language giving way to the tension that filled the air. In my new role as HR Business Partner, I quickly learned that Svend occupied the position of Drilling Manager for a reason—he was one of the brightest minds in the industry. But I was also aware that he was rough, rude, and curt.
That morning, I heard that his son was critically ill. As the sound of papers filled the air, my heartbeat grew louder. After much resistance I finally uttered, “I heard your son is ill. I hope he is alright.”
I often think back to that moment and wonder why I struggled to speak. Was I afraid to lose my job or afraid to look too “religious”? How could I show integrity without hiding parts of myself? As a believer I didn’t want to live with two lives: my work life and my spiritual life. I wanted my life to be integrated.
A Mission Mindset
From Jesus, we learn courage and faithfulness at the workplace. The Gospels beautifully portray Him working as a carpenter, giving us a glimpse into His “secular” labor.
Think about the men He chose. They were called straight out from their workplace with no “religious” credentials. The biblical command is clear: we are to reflect Christ in our day-to-day lives. How much more, then, at our workplaces, where we spend the majority of our adult lives? How can we use that time wisely?
Second Vatican Council’s Gaudium et Spes states:
One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives.
The biblical worldview leaves no room for secular-sacred dualistic thinking. Saint Paul iterates:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. // Colossians 3:22-24
The world is desperate for witnesses. We need to see our workplaces as mission fields if we desire opportunities of influence. Having a mission mindset will also allow us to see purpose in our work, our co-workers and our stewardship.
Witnessing Versus Witness
Working in a multinational company with people from different religions has allowed me to think deeply about how my actions reflect Christian principles and how I can be an example to others. As a new believer, I was tempted to be radical and assertive: avoiding people who were not like-minded and using Christian jargon to ensure my spirituality was evident.
Over the years, God has been teaching me to maintain a strong God-honoring character both in my personal and professional life. He has used the many challenges and conflicts at work to teach me what it means to be a “witness”.
Pope Francis says, “Today’s world stands in great need of witnesses… It’s not so much about speaking, but rather speaking with our whole lives.”
We can confuse witness with witnessing. Witnessing is doing—say this; do that. Witness on the other hand is being. It is organic. We can only be who God calls us to be and rest knowing that it is God who changes hearts. The question is not, “Did you witness?” but rather, “Are you a witness?”
What Do Others See?
In the last 10 years, I have served bosses of other faiths. My present boss is Muslim, a remarkable woman through whom I have learnt integrity, commitment, and consistency. We have shared many experiences, even spiritual, without imposing our beliefs on each other. I have been intrigued by her appraisal of my work, which she often attributes to my Faith.
Our good attitude matters. Faithfulness, selflessness, and charity are markers of Christian influence. On the other hand, dishonesty, unpunctuality, gossip, desire for power, and inappropriate language can rob us of being the light that Christ desires.
Deadlines and profits are important but we must be careful that they do not fuel competition and comparison, causing us to work in silos rather than in unity. Our colleagues will recall not only how well we did our job but also how we treated them in the process.
Do those around you see a positive reflection of God in your work ethic?
I am learning to ask, “What do I want people to remember about Michelle?”
I mentioned about Svend and how I reluctantly inquired about his son. “He’s not too good; thanks,” was the cold response I received. At first, I was tempted to end the conversation, but I could sense the Holy Spirit asking me to surrender that moment. As I yielded, Grace took over and I responded, “Svend, I will pray for him. God heals.”
That afternoon, Svend sent me a thank you email expressing that no one had ever said that to him before. That conversation was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with this man who was twice my age, a widower who lived alone, and who I discovered as one of the most generous men I would ever encounter.
Over the months, Svend accepted Jesus as Savior and eventually came to the Catholic Church.
Ways to Witness in the Workplace
This experience taught me to invite the Holy Spirit into my conversations to discover the human person before me, beyond skill and work experience. Instead of getting stuck in the “me versus them” mentality, I have been intentional to practice regular heart checks. How can I work with people whose worldviews are different from mine? Where do I need to give up control and let God in?
I need the fruit of the Spirit in my witness. I need His Presence to see opportunities as they arise.
Here are some ways you can grow in your witness at the workplace.
Begin your day with God. Pray sincerely for your boss and colleagues. Even a simple prayer like, “Come Holy Spirit,” can help you mindfully walk the path of freedom and holiness.
If someone invites you to a gathering that clashes with your commitment at church, instead of saying, “I’m busy,” simply say, “I have to go to church.” Just be honest.
3. Heart Checks
When you are tempted to lie, exaggerate, or altogether avoid people, reflect: why am I behaving this way? Am I a witness?
True success and fulfillment requires that we develop and practice the virtue of excellence. You can witness powerfully with your reliability, punctuality, hard work, and humility.
When you face conflict, it is essential that you seek resolution, face-to-face. Asking for and extending forgiveness is a gateway for God’s peace and His wisdom into that situation.
A Higher Calling
Let’s face it. Bringing God into our workplace is a challenge. Even so, we can be freed to embrace successes, challenges, and failures while resting on the blessed assurance that we are held in the loving Heart of God.
Dear sisters, whether you are qualified or have no degree, whether you are a business woman or struggling to make ends meet, I urge you to invite the Holy Spirit into your workplace daily. We need His Power to break through the narrow limits of biases, religions, and cultures. This Lenten season, let Him drive your witness with selfless (agape) love and lead you to your higher call of holiness.
Your workplace needs your witness and your time begins now!