Thursday, March 31, 2011



In the modern workplace such a negative atmosphere can be very destructive. When we speak of an individual, we speak of his presence. Presence is the way a person's individuality comes towards you. Presence is the soul texture of the person. When we speak of this presence in relation to a group of people, we refer to it as atmosphere or ethos. The ethos of a workplace is a very subtle group presence. It is difficult to describe or analyse an ethos; yet you immediately sense its power and effect. Where the ethos is positive, wonderful things can happen. It is a joy to come to work because the atmosphere comes out to meet you, and it is a happy atmosphere. It is caring, kind and creative. Where the ethos of the workplace is negative and destructive, people wake up in the morning and the first thought of going to work literally makes them ill. It is sad that so many people have to spend so much of their short time in the world in a negative and destructive work ethos. The workplace can be quite hostile; it is often an environment of power. You are working for people who have power over you. They have the power to sack you, criticize you and bully you, or compromise your dignity. This is not a welcoming atmosphere. People have power over us because we give our power away to them.

It is an interesting exercise to ask yourself what image you have of the people who have power over you. A friend of mine works in a school which has an insecure principal. He is weak and defensive. He uses his power in a very negative way. Recently at a meeting to start the school term, he berated the staff. The next day my friend met this man in town with his wife. She was shocked to recognize that outside of his power context he looked totally insignificant. This startled her because she had projected such power onto him as school principal.

Sometimes we allow people to exercise destructive power over us simply because we never question them. When falsity masquerades as power, there is no force that can unmask it as swiftly as a question. We are all familiar with the story of the Emperor's new clothes. The Emperor paraded through town in his new suit; in reality he was stark naked. Everyone cheered and said what a wonderful suit the Emperor wore. They were all in complicit agreement until a little child blurted out the truth. The word of truth is completely powerful. In the New Testament Jesus says, 'If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.' This maxim is relevant to every situation. Gentle, non-confrontational questions which pursue the truth, as you see it, can prevent a person from taking over all the power in a situation. This will save complex and gentle people from being reduced to the function of an external controlled role.

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