#50: Red Carpet Treatment

#50: Red Carpet Treatment

It is a common scene in Hollywood, especially during awards season. Bright lights, swarming paparazzi, beautiful people in designer dresses and tuxedos. Moments when a red carpet is no longer a simple floor covering, but a symbol of status and achievement.

It is odd to have red carpet on the brain, so you might reasonably assume I spent a little too much time watching E Network’s Oscars coverage this past weekend. But the red carpet I have in mind wasn’t rolled out for actors or directors. The dress code was a little more relaxed. The paparazzi were ordinary people, playing a part for fun. And the people walking the red carpet were my co-workers, receiving awards for 5, 20, 25, and even 30 years of service.

You might think that a nonprofit would be a little chintzy when it comes to recognizing their employees. The one I work for is very cost-conscious and careful with its spending. But in recent years our leaders have bent over backwards to show their appreciation for the dedication and hard work of our staff. This past week, there was a literal red carpet at a one-time, big-time event, but happily it is also an attitude than is prevalent throughout the year.

I have to admit, red carpet treatment was not always the order of the day. Past administrations consistently expressed, “You should feel a calling to be here. Be loyal, or be gone.” Anyone with a stable job and paycheck is familiar with those messages, and I don’t know that there is anything wrong with them, necessarily. But when those are the only messages given, over and over again, it can be hard to maintain a positive attitude. A few years ago, “You should!” was an order that fostered fear and resentment in equal measure.

I confess, I spent years in that less-than-positive work situation doing nothing but complaining about it. My bad attitude was infectious, and I’ve since recognized the damage it can do to a team. Not to mention the damage it did to me when I counted the hours of sleep I lost and the number of pills I took to treat an ulcer.

We’ve had an almost complete leadership change since the “You Should!” days, and the difference is like night and day. The red carpet attitude now flows from the top down, and when you see acts of appreciation and hear words of trust and encouragement coming from upper management, it becomes a joy to reflect that behavior back. But I wonder what my life and ulcer would have been like, had I tried modeling that same generosity before I saw it in action. Had I tried, for example, to:

  • Give others the benefit of the doubt.
  • Stop assuming their motives are negative.
  • Stop letting little irritations accumulate.
  • Actually try applying the Golden Rule, rather than just giving it lip service.
  • Think of others more than I think of myself.

Can you imagine a workplace in which most of the people applied most of those rules, most of the time? How different would that be from business as usual?

A ministry is an unusual, imperfect mixture of the corporate world and the church world. There is still the occasional middle-management turf war. Christians are just as likely to argue over who changes the copier toner as non-believers. And “I’ve prayed about it, and believe God wants us to do ____” can be the ultimate, irritating trump card played in many a strategy meeting. But when you are able to see the person in the hall, across the desk, or on the other side of an e-mail, as someone who has been called and equipped to do the work they are doing, it’s easier to interact with them in a positive way, no matter where you work.

In even the smallest details of day to day life, we have an opportunity to reflect the grace that has been extended to us. The bonus is that we’ll probably sleep better. And we might not need as much Zantac.

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