One of my favorite movies is Blast from the Past. In this film, a young man who was raised in a fallout shelter with 1950s values, is sent out into 21st Century California culture. His parents have taught him ballroom dancing, French, and perfect etiquette among other things. When his new friends ask him why he behaves the way he does, he states, “Manners are our way of showing respect to other people.”
In the workplace, professionalism is our way of showing respect to other people. It is a currency which can be traded across departments, cultures and conflicts. We build equity in our relationships with professionalism. If an occasion should arise in which we need or desire something from a colleague, our reputation as a professional will provide the grounds for which they come to our aid.
As a Christian, professionalism creates a foundation which will allow us to build our testimony. Our unsaved coworkers are likely to be more accepting of our personal viewpoint if they find us to be credible and fair in our interactions with them and others. We obtain favor with those in authority because we are supportive and perhaps easy to work with. Individuals who have established a reputation as being unprofessional may create a variety of obstacles for themselves. Using inappropriate language, being sloppy, rude or inconsiderate leaves others with the wrong impression. Others may resist working with those whom they consider unprofessional and may be leery of their integrity, thoroughness and dependability.
Daniel is an example of someone in the Bible whose righteous conduct protected and secured favor throughout his life. As a teenager he was selected to be one of just a handful of elite Hebrew youths to be trained in the literature and language of Babylon. During that time, he sought an exception to follow a diet which differed from that of the other students. Although his request was denied, the leaders accepted a special proposal from him. He insisted that his simple and healthy diet would render him healthy at the end of a ten-day period. During this time, he and his friends abstained from the king’s rich food by consuming only vegetables and water. At the end of the ten days they were healthier than the other students, resulting in a change of diet for the entire group. At the end of three years of study, Daniel and his friends were ten times smarter than the others. King Nebuchadnezzar appointed him to a political career during which he served in the administration of three different kings. Even decades later, Daniel’s skill, ability and reputation were so consistent and stellar that King Darius planned to elevate him as a leader of his colleagues. He was considered a model among leaders. The other governing leaders plotted against him, resulting in him being thrown into a den of lions. However, the king, having realized the injustice, rescued Daniel and had the governors and their families thrown into the same den, where they were instantly torn apart. His professional standards were impeccable and unimpeachable.
Professionalism enables us to be effective witnesses in the workplace. Our colleagues observe our conduct and may recognize that our motivation comes from within. However, they may not realize that our desire to please God is what they see manifesting as our behavior and productivity at work. These occasions provide opportunities for us the share Christ or at the very least, plant or water a seed which has already been sown.