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Being Professional in the Workplace

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Yeah, I know. People who work for a living are told to act professional-like, and are constantly reminded of it. Here is an example that shows professionalism — or the lack thereof — in action.

Just a few days ago, I was in town with Roland Meadows, the fiancĂ© of my prospector friend Stormie Waters. Since Roland wanted to get Stormie a gift, we then headed for a bigger town that has one of those big box stores with a passel of stuff.

People who work for establishments, retail and restaurants, are its representatives. They can influence how customers react. Similarly, Christians are ambassadors for Christ.
Clothing for sale, Pexels / Marcus Winkler
While he was browsing for a gift, I was also wandering. I saw an employee putting things back on the shelf (people ransack these places), and someone came up to him.

"Do you know that person working the counter over there?"

"I don't —" the employee began to reply.

"Well, I asked a question and was told it was stupid and was laughed at! I've had a hard life..." He went on for a few more seconds with a profane tirade, apologized to the employee for cursing, then ranted and cursed some more. Then he hurried away to the customer service department, fussing to himself.

Let's study on this a spell. First, we only have this angry fellow's story. (For that matter, readers only have my account and no corroboration.) Second, his tirade gives it an element of suspicion, and he may have been off his medication or something. Third, this store chain and others like it have job descriptions saying that if one wants to work there, they must be pleasant and strive to please the customer. It's not impossible, but unlikely. The employee listening to the rant was being professional by listening and not arguing, especially since he didn't see the encounter.

For the sake of the illustration, mayhaps the employee he was angry about was indeed rude. Although I am not making a defense, keep in mind that customers of retail and food establishments often treat employees of those places quite poorly. Also, employees often deal with overbearing supervisors who in turn are pressured by corporate bigwigs, passing the negativity downward; it slides downhill. Even the most professional server or cashier can get on the prod when nerves are worn down; they are people too. Show some respect for them, willya?

Okay, we're assuming the employee laughed and said the customer asked a stupid question. That got him very angry. What happens next? Loss of a sale and a customer, bad word-of-mouth advertising or posts on social(ist) media, violence... Employees don't know if someone is unstable, had a series of setbacks, or whatever else, but they can be respectful and compassionate to people in general. In this example, the man would not have become enraged and the situation was diffused before it began.

Regular readers know that I often use observations and experiences for spiritual purposes, and this is no exception. Anyone working for a company, especially wearing a uniform of sorts visible to the public, is their representative. I remember a manager saying that one of his employees was involved in a robbery, and was wearing the company shirt. When the handcuffs went on, he was fired. On a more prosaic level, employees can influence the public's perception of a company both inside and outside of the area of operations.

As Christians, we are ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:18-20). It's not easy sometimes. Like the situations above, we have our personal struggles. As ambassadors or representatives, we have to be mindful of Christ and let the Holy Spirit take charge. Yes, we fail and sin, but we must repent and mount up again to keep riding the trail. 

People are responsible for their own decisions. Whether to personally boycott an establishment or to claim they reject the gospel because of Christians, such choices strike this child as excuses to justify existing views. Even so, we are to help remove stumbling blocks that may hinder unbelievers from trusting Jesus, not put down more.