Faith and the Office Ogre
Pat was a screamer. She’d worked as a clerk in the government office in her small town for about ten years and she was entrenched. She hated to actually do anything unless it involved others knowing how hard her job was and how lucky they were to have her in their office. In our weaker moments of honesty none of us could think of her presence as being remotely related to good luck. Yet the fact remained, she held the key to getting certain things done and not everyone enjoyed the security of tenure like Pat did.
Her direct boss made a show of being her friend and appreciating all the things she did. Actually he was scared of her and her tantrums. He would do anything to avoid yet another confrontation with Pat screaming so all her silent “sympathizers” could get the message loud and clear, “I’m way too busy for that and anyway it’s not my job!”
“You gotta problem with that?” The problem was that was her job and she was frustrating everyone. Everyone had a problem, no one dared to voice it. Pat in a good mood was bad enough; no one wanted Pat in a bad mood!
Newcomers to the staff wouldn’t know this about Pat who always acted friendly and accommodating for their first few days. The other staff would exchange knowing glances as she lined up a fresh victim. They’d all been through it themselves so they knew what was coming. Pat was nice until the day arrived when she was directly asked to add her part to a process. The other staff always cooperated by ensuring it was the unsuspecting newbie who drew the short straw. All that remained was to listen from a safe distance as Old Faithful got ready to spew scalding hot water everywhere. She never failed to perform and the act was great for the onlookers. The newbie was faced with a raging monster when he expected to find a cooperative and caring colleague.
There’s no doubt that Pat had deep psychological problems but so too did her gutless boss and self-serving colleagues. This sort of scenario is common enough in many offices in its milder forms but it takes a government office to entrench such a person in a position of process control. She probably got promoted because her superiors didn’t know what else to do with her and hoped she’d either straighten out in a new position or become someone else’s problem. No such luck – her first position was undoubtedly way beyond her ability and competence and she was already several stages past the limits of the Peter Principle [everyone gets promoted until they become incompetent]
That’s how it goes with problems we choose to pass on to others instead of solve. To be fair to Pat, her contribution to this mess was her insecurity, her irrationality and her vile temper. Empowering her to behave like that and allowing it to continue was a group exercise. Most likely she stayed in that position and maintained her performances until she retired.
So here’s the dilemma of faith: knowing that Pat was struggling with her incompetence and the realization that her job was way beyond her skills; knowing that the other staff didn’t really know what to do and were actually making the situation worse; knowing that her boss was clueless and stumped for answers, and knowing the drain this impasse placed on office productivity and morale, what could a person of faith do to bring about change?
Usual responses on encountering a Pat are to:
- do nothing and look the other way (not my problem)
- become Pat’s arch enemy by pressing for change (the kamikaze response)
- enjoy the performances (definitely your problem)
- bandage the victims (compassionate cruelty)
- do the work yourself (just like everyone else learned to do)
- put in for transfer (the great escape)
In her grotesque way Pat is an inspiration! Imagine if there was an “anti-Pat” who was competent and took great pains to help the others in that office – someone who didn’t care if a task was in their job description or not, someone who willingly offered to help the others and didn’t care about assigning blame for every little thing, who was willing to multi-task for the benefit of everyone. Most offices would prefer not to have a Pat but most would be drawn to an anti-Pat.
Now for the kicker, Pat was a devout church member. She’d covered all the bases. Having Pat for an advertisement probably didn’t do much for church attendance.
Does that mean the church was a terrible one? Not necessarily! They had an out-of-control member.
Does it mean that churches are powerless and unable to produce lasting change? Most likely! Change is not a function of the church. Change is a direct result of relationship with Jesus – if the relationship is weak or non-existent, don’t expect any transformation. The only way to help a Pat is to gain her trust and foster her friendship with Jesus. That’s hard to do. Faith says that even Pat is a person of value with real challenges in her life and a desperate need for genuine answers. A church can foster that process but it can’t guarantee it.
The person of faith is challenged to find response number 7 when dealing with a Pat. Now whatever could that response be?
- The problem of growth and the need for discipleship (christopherlazo.com) – they’re taking a refreshing approach to being effective – it’s worth a look
Posted on October 1, 2011, in Active faith, Leadership and tagged church, Competence, discipleship, Peter Principle, Religion & Spirituality, Teamwork and Teams, transformation. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.