During my first few years as a corporate professional, there was one phrase I heard more than any other, “It is what it is”. Nearly every question I asked was answered with that phrase. Why do we have three meetings every week to talk about the meetings from the week before? It is what it is. Why are we using a spreadsheet as a database instead of an actual database software? It is what it is? Why does everyone stay to 5:45pm even when their work is finished at 5pm? It is what it is.
Was it irritating? Frustrating? Maddening? All of the above. But the moment I tried to suggest or initiate a change, I felt a distinct sensation of being categorized as a loose cannon, a rebel, a dissident. Not exactly career building references.
The expectation to comply with company norms is strong, even if it’s based on familiarity rather than functionality. It’s almost tribal, nothing is written down but everyone follows the tradition like a law. However, the nature of a Christian is to stand out, which often takes the form of questioning human traditions and practices. As we read the gospels, it is easy to see that Jesus often questioned why people were so committed to nonsensical and burdensome traditions that God never required. They never told him it is what it is however, He was treated like a trouble-making rebel. But that’s not a very desirable reputation for us to carry in the workplace.
So how can the Christian professional sync up with God about not being a slave to company traditions without killing their career? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Investigate Before You Postulate
Just because a company process or practice appears to be totally pointless doesn’t mean it is. Appearances can be deceiving. Be humble and assume there may be a reason. Do your due diligence to find it before expressing all your suggestions for improvement (Proverbs 18:13). If you continuously come to an “it is what it is” dead end, then it’s time to postulate options to simplify and eliminate wasted time/resources.
Be a Helper Not a Grumbler
Ok…so maybe power point is the bane of your existence and every time you have to format a presentation with embedded charts the program freezes and you lose all your work and you feel like stabbing yourself, but your company is addicted to the software even though it doesn’t meet anyone’s presentation needs. Don’t grumble about it (Philippians 2:14). Instead, offer to do a stretch assignment to evaluate if there’s another solution that meets everyone’s needs more effectively. Collect input from others about what would help them be more productive and efficient and make it a critical element in your research. In this way, you demonstrate a commitment to helping rather than complaining.
Timing is Everything
It’s great that you identified an inefficiency in a company process. It’s wonderful that you have found a better solution that will save time and increase productivity. But it’s a bad idea to suggest it during a meeting about potential layoffs for some of your coworkers. Timing is important. Be sensitive to the concerns of others and aware of what competing priorities may make is wise to postpone your suggestion (Philippians 2:4).
Prepare for Le Résistance
No matter how sensible your suggestion, no matter how beneficial it is for everyone, there are always people that are going to resist. They’re not necessarily resisting your idea as much as they are resisting change. Most people hate change. In fact, most people rather stay with what traditionally has never really worked than try something new that may. It’s human nature and we are called to be sensitive and patient about it (Ephesians 4:2). Sometimes breaking change up into bite-size pieces helps. Perhaps, the whole “it-is-what-it-is” process doesn’t have the be tossed out at once. Try altering just a part of it as a start. This gives people time to digest the change little by little and can ward off a revolt.
Faithfully Know When to Let Go
You know what? Sometimes it really is what it is. A company’s culture can be so steeped in traditions that even the most convincing and considerate argument for change can fall on deaf ears. This is when you have to make the decision to let go and hold on to the peace we have in Jesus (John 14:27). In some cases, you may even have to let go of the job if the company traditions oppose the values of your faith and family.
Words for Syncing
Sync a little deeper…
What company social or operational traditions drive you crazy?
Are you trying to help or have you been more of a grumbler?
What fears make it hard for you to speak up about it?
What are you going to do differently starting today?
Share your thoughts by posting a comment below.