The relationship between employee and supervisor is probably the most crucial relationship in the workplace. This is especially true if your projects do not require you to work in a team with other people on a daily basis.
Supervisors can serve as great mentors, peers, and guides who sincerely look out for your best interests and help you along in your career. However, there are the unfortunate cases where supervisors are deceitful and manipulative, whose main concern is making themselves look good even at the expense of others.
If you do not get along with your supervisor, it really takes a lot of forbearance to continue working under what may seem like excruciating conditions.
LABAN: THE DECEPTIVE BOSS
Genesis 29:15-30 records the perfect scenario of a deceptive boss.
Jacob fell in love with Rachel, Laban’s daughter. For her hand, Jacob agreed to work for his uncle Laban for seven years. However, Jacob was deceived by Laban when he gave him Leah, Rachel’s older sister, instead.
What Jacob was given was not what he was promised after his hard work and loyal dedication for seven whole years of work. Rather, the crafty Laban received seven additional years of work from Jacob.
The Knee-Jerk Reaction to Deception
Although our projects may not last seven years, it is common practice to be rewarded after a long and grueling assignment that may require extended hours plus 110% effort. Perhaps, the driving motivation to take on such projects (aside from it being part of the job description) is the hope or promise of a bonus or promotion.
If that contract were denied at the project’s end, feeling unappreciated and upset would predictably occur. This could even lead to the planting of a seed of sin in the form of resentment, contempt, and conceit.
In situations like these, it is easy to get angry and very natural to feel that you’ve been wronged. In a worst-case scenario, supervisors who purposely manipulate to achieve their own goals thrive on victory, and they put their subordinates down to feed their egos.
Lessons Learned from Jacob
In this story, Jacob gives a good example of what our behavior should be like when deception that derives from selfish ambitions occurs in a relationship with a supervisor or primary boss.
Remain Calm and Collected
When faced with a stressful situation provoked by your boss, the knee-jerk reaction would be to let your boss have a piece of your mind. But hindsight would most likely tell you otherwise when your relationship with your boss has gone awry. Even advice from a business perspective would not encourage storming into your boss’s office in attack mode, because it is just not proper office etiquette. Anger management classes suggest things like counting slowly to ten, removing yourself from the situation, or taking a walk to cool off.
From a Christian perspective, the best thing to do is to remain calm and collected before taking any action. To indulge in negative impulses is not abiding by the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23)—with the emphasis here on peace, gentleness, and longsuffering.
The attributes of the fruit of the Holy Spirit come from God. Therefore, if we find that we are lacking in any of these areas, which are more important than the welfare of a professional career, we may need to be extra mindful to cultivate our spiritual lives.
The longsuffering Jacob exhibited in his pursuit of Rachel would have been in vain if he were not peaceful, gentle, and longsuffering when dealing with his uncle. Even though Jacob was frustrated and upset that his uncle deceived him, he respected Laban and kept his composure (Gen 29:25-28).
Communicate with Godly Wisdom
Laban consciously knew what he was doing and didn’t intend to give Rachel to Jacob before giving Leah, his first daughter. However, the Bible did not record Jacob complaining after he was cheated. He did, however, inquire of his uncle why he would deceive him so.
And [Jacob] said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?” (Gen 29:25)
Although we should be tolerant and forgiving like Jacob by bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we must also communicate the situation with our boss. Communication needs to be paired with godly wisdom, so that we can benefit ourselves, edify others, and glorify God’s name.
When faced with bad bosses, many of our coworkers try to fight back by documenting incidences or reporting how they were wronged, in hopes of benefiting from the situation. Unfortunately, very few of them can do so in a manner that actually touches others, removes negative thoughts, and rectifies the unethical practices in their workplace.
Being proactive in communication isn’t always easy; it is especially difficult if we are accustomed to being submissive and putting others before ourselves. However, we do not need to shy away from contesting for what we believe to be ours.
Jacob did not leave the situation idle and just settle for what was handed to him. He got what he wanted, but this was only possible because he communicated with wisdom.
Know when to be Submissive
When a decision is made and it is not the one you completely agree with—even after trying all means to reason with the boss—then it comes down to submission. Sometimes, we need to learn how to deny our views and accept those of our boss as long as it is ethical.
It can be hard to be submissive, because our own thoughts and emotions may not be in the right place. Personal career goals can get in the way. Also, constantly thinking negatively about supervisors and management does not contribute to a healthy working atmosphere. Even though it is difficult, we need to ask God to transform those negative thoughts into thoughts of submission.
It is often hard to see hope in the future, especially if the current times are difficult and we are hard-pressed to submit against our will.
“There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes. Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands.” (Gen 31:40-42)
Jacob submitted to the conditions Laban gave in exchange for Rachel by working an additional seven years. This requires an abundant amount of self-denial and patience that only God can provide. Jacob did not let his pride interfere and maintained his respect towards Laban by honoring the new conditions.
It is important to remember that being submissive is not a sign of weakness; it is actually a sign of inner strength that God uses to mold us into being better-equipped Christian soldiers. Through lessons of submission to the authorities that God has placed in charge of us, we are learning to deny ourselves and be submissive to God.
Learning to deal with a deceptive boss takes a great amount of prayer, patience, and wisdom. If we do not cultivate ourselves constantly it would be easy to get discouraged and frustrated enough that we may be affected outside of the workplace.
Jacob teaches us a humbling lesson to be submissive and respect the authority that God has put over us, even if we have truly been wronged. He was able to achieve his goal amidst a bad situation by staying within godly boundaries.
Later on, Laban’s attitude toward Jacob changed. He made a covenant to serve as a witness between Jacob and himself to end further disputes and make peace. Jacob gave all the glory to God for guiding him to prosperity. By the time Jacob left Laban’s house, he had a strong conviction that the God of his fathers took care of him through those twenty years of hardship.
God teaches and takes care of His children for good. He would not do so in such a way that will harden our hearts to be bitter or vengeful. Sometimes, He molds us into a worthy vessel by means of our careers. Applying God’s words to our daily lives at work will not only please God, it will reap wonderful benefits for our spirituality and for those around us.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Col 3:12-15)