When supervisor and employee don't see eye to eye

A Christian Science perspective.

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When I worked as a Teamster for a large delivery company, I appreciated the union-scale pay and benefits, and the support that the union gave to its members in negotiations and grievances with management. I found even greater support – you might call it “tough love” – from God when I went through a rough time with one of my supervisors.

Each morning at 4:00 a.m. I punched in. Soon after, the long conveyor that carried jumbles of packages through the building came up to speed. On either side, my fellow workers and I strained to see labels, grab “our” boxes, scrawl a code on the ends, and accurately place them in delivery order on the trucks.

I was still a rookie at this when a new supervisor came on the job. She didn’t cut me much slack. When the conveyor stopped at break or at the end of the sort, she would yell from the end of the building for me to retrieve the packages I’d missed, “Right now!”

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I’d do it, but argued all the way, either with her or to myself. Didn’t she know I was new and working hard? Didn’t she see that the belt was crowded with packages, and there were so many codes to write, and so many addresses to memorize, and...?

My disagreements with her went on and on, and we weren’t always civil with each other. For weeks I complained about her to my co-workers. Though my productivity slowly improved, the antagonism I felt continued. Then I started to pray about the situation.

First, self-justification had to go. It wasn’t helping me listen to God or see a way to follow the example Jesus set for us. After getting nowhere with a prayer to improve my performance so that she’d have nothing to complain about, I realized I was still seeing her as unreasonable, unfair, and determined to give me a hard time. So I asked myself, “If genuine prayer leads to healing answers, as Jesus showed it would, then what do I need to pray about here?” The answer came quickly: our relationship, and specifically, where God fit into this supervisor-employee dynamic.

Frankly, improving this relationship didn’t look doable. But I wanted to be truer to my notion that I was a Christian, so I admitted that I had to start seeing her as God saw her, as God created her. I started looking for the good in her, the spiritual qualities she expressed as a child of God.

I struggled at first. She showed up on time. She was clean, well groomed. She didn’t swear when she yelled at me from the end of the building. This was a start, and searching for some genuine appreciation opened my eyes to more of her good qualities, and to God’s presence at work.

The Bible says: “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 3:17, 18). I stopped the constant complaining and commiserating with my co-workers. I took another supervisor up on his offer to help me learn the addresses I needed to know. My speed and accuracy increased significantly.

But the biggest change was in my attitude toward my supervisor. I stopped grumbling and started appreciating her determination to improve productivity. Once I stopped judging and blaming her, I found that she was actually friendly. Our work relationship became positive and stayed that way, and several months later she was transferred.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science, wrote, “Spiritual living and blessedness are the only evidences, by which we can recognize true existence and feel the unspeakable peace which comes from an all-absorbing spiritual love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,”
p. 264). In that experience I learned God’s purpose for each of us is no less than harmony and peace, and that acknowledging the divine influence, which is the source of harmony and peace, enables us to live up to this high calling.

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