Australia Christian Living Theology Worship

Letter from Australia 25 – The Case of the Broken Bookcase and The Joy of Work

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I’m not the most practical of people – as Annabel will confirm!   But I like to try.   So when our dismantled bookcases from Dundee arrived in Sydney I thought I would have a go. Much to my shock I managed to put them up and even more shocking they seemed rock solid. Well – at least one of them was. The other one was a bit wobbly but who cared?…it was only a couple of loose screws – what did they matter?    I proudly placed all my books and revelled in my new status as a born again handyman.

533555511808007780127884Until a couple of days ago. I came home early and walked into my study, ready to do some home work. I couldn’t believe my eyes.   There were books everywhere and my bookcase was in bits all over the floor. I was gutted. What had caused this unraveling of my good work?   I suspect that a set of John Owen and the Nicene Fathers was probably not the best books to put on top of the thinnest shelf! But whatever the reason the room had to be cleaned and the destruction undone.

So before my good lady returned home I set about repairing the damage. Two hours later a somewhat reduced bookcase was reassembled and most of my books were returned to their home.

I guess there are many lessons to be learned from this.   Pride comes before a fall. We think we are able to fix and sort things – but even at best these are only temporary fixes. Despite all the appearances my bookcase was fundamentally flawed. We live in a broken world – in which the creation groans – waiting for its redemption. We are broken people. I used to say to people who came to St Peters looking for help – our motto is not Coldplay’s Fix You! We are not the healers but we can point to the Christ who is.

Serve with Joy

I don’t think I will ever get the job my Saviour had – a carpenter! But I am reminded of something my father taught me. When I was a teenager we lived at Nigg above the oil rig yard. My father was a farm worker – which was not exactly a highly paid job. I knew 16 year olds who were living school and getting paid more than him at the yard.   “Dad, why don’t you go and work at the yard? You would get a lot more money”. I will never forget his answer: “Son, yes I would get paid four times as much…we could get a house in town…go on fancy holidays…but I would be miserable. My advice is…if you can, because not everyone has that privilege – do a job you enjoy”. I have never forgotten the wisdom of that advice.

And was reminded of it in Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening for January the 9th – this is an extract:

Those who serve God with a sad countenance, because they do what is unpleasant to them, are not serving Him at all; they bring the form of homage, but the life is absent. Our God requires no slaves to grace His throne; He is the Lord of the empire of love, and would have his servants dressed in the livery of joy. The angels of God serve Him with songs, not with groans; a murmur or a sigh would be a mutiny in their ranks. That obedience which is not voluntary is disobedience, for the Lord looks at the heart, and if he sees that we serve him from force, and not because we love Him, He will reject our offering. Service coupled with cheerfulness is heart service, and therefore true…Do you serve the Lord with gladness? Let us show to the people of the world, who think our religion to be slavery, that it is to us a delight and a joy! Let our gladness proclaim that we serve a good Master.”

I remember speaking to a very faithful and diligent Christian who was leading some church youth work. But he hated it. It was a pressure and a burden. He found no joy in it. He did it out of a sense of duty – which was highly commendable.   But my view was then – as it is now – that it is far better to do our work because we love the Lord and we love his people. Spurgeon was correct. That’s not a excuse for selfishness or emotional flightiness. It’s just that since the joy of the Lord is our strength – if we serve without joy – we either won’t last long or we won’t do a good job. The line attributed to Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire is apposite – when I run I feel his pleasure.

Him serve with mirth, his praise forthtell….come ye before him and rejoice (Ps 100 1650 psalter).

Have a great week –

Yours in joyful service of Christ,

David

PS.  Thanks for all your prayers re the bushfires.  We have had several days of rain and many of the fires are out.  Continue to pray that there would be enough raiin to break the drought.  But speaking of joy – this farmer brought a smile to my face…his joy is evident.  May the Lord send spiritual showers as well!

Letter from Australia 24 – Tall Poppy Syndrome

2 comments

  1. Hello Ptr Robertson

    My spouse and I are readers of your site. We have been looking at it for quite some time. Thank you for letting us write here. We would like to tell you about my spouse’s recent terrible workplace experiences and the spiritual lessons we have learned from these. Talking/writing about it is therapeutic for my spouse. Thank you for this opportunity and God bless.

    What you wrote about your father really resonated with my spouse and I:

    “My father was a farm worker – which was not exactly a highly paid job. I knew 16 year olds who were living school and getting paid more than him at the yard.   “Dad, why don’t you go and work at the yard? You would get a lot more money”. I will never forget his answer: “Son, yes I would get paid four times as much…we could get a house in town…go on fancy holidays…but I would be miserable. My advice is…if you can, because not everyone has that privilege – do a job you enjoy”. I have never forgotten the wisdom of that advice.”

    For the past several years my spouse worked as a Content Author, writing documentation for a computer software corporation in their Brisbane office, which was their main hub for Australia. It was mainly because of the prestige and opportunities it opened up and because, being “open source” software, it could help other people. However, the workplace culture was not particularly enjoyable because of a number of things, especially the “woke” culture of the company.

    However things became much worse when a new person was promoted to be line manager. It was a woman , M. Unfortunately, M was a tyrant and workplace bully. Before she married her husband, M was a fornicator, openly living in sin with him. Soon after her appointment, she ordered staff to lie to external customers about the extent of software testing “for their own good” – my spouse came home very distraught after that.

    M was a former science graduate, coming from an astronomy background in Saint Albans in the UK, and she was totally lacking in the people skills to be a manager. She changed R’s culture overnight by micromanaging everyone, even people who had been at the company for years longer than her, often with disastrous results, breaking processes that were already working perfectly well. This made the staff feel she distrusted them. She aggressively bullied anyone who tried to resist her. In fact, my spouse has described her as “breathtakingly arrogant and imperious”, coming to Australia from the UK with an “I know better than thou” attitude when, in fact, her own skills were only mediocre at best. She was simply too arrogant to listen to any one else.

    M covered her own lack of ability with bullying, bluster and intimidation. She even “gaslighted” more experienced and capable employees to make them doubt their own abilities.

    Some read the writing on the wall quickly, especially as they became aware that M was given free reign to do this by her superiors in the US and Switzerland as they wanted to close a number of Brisbane departments down. Anyway, you won’t approve of this but one very experienced man left quickly and joined the Ladbrokes gambling company. He should really have become a manager instead of M.

    Another one, (whom you will definitely approve of much more!), was a deeply conservative evangelical Christian, who was one of the most experienced and talented staff members of all. He was an extremely quiet and introverted, gentle person. She was constantly negative towards him, possibly due to jealousy, even though he was much more skilled and intelligent than her but had different priorities in the end due to family needs.He clung on for a long time but was sick of the bullying and undermining in the end. His father was sick with cancer and nearly died multiple times from a series of severe life-threatening postoperative complications – with M showing zero empathy – and he had a severe anxiety disorder too, exacerbated by her gas lighting and micromanaging – so he left and obtained a job running a marketing project for a Christian evangelical charity promoting the Bible, which he loved. After this, he became a freelance editor and couldn’t be happier, proof-reading and amending academic papers and putting his writing skills to great use. He has also written some books about Christian historical figures under a pseudonym.

    A third person who was also bullied out of the company by M had bought some farming property south of Brisbane and went down there to work on developing his land.

    What was really shocking was M’s complete lack of empathy for other people. She was the stereotype of the cold, unfeeling scientist. She once confessed that she couldn’t relate to any situation unless she had been in it herself. She was utterly ruthless and callous. It is hard to imagine such people really exist but they do, according to my spouse. M was therefore entirely the wrong person to be a people manager. She was also “woke” in her own way being a feminist and a vegetarian and displaying other left-leaning views. The workforce at R had been fairly self-motivated until she took over and morale plummeted and exhaustion took its toll on staff as she pushed even highly dedicated staff past all reasonable limits. Her only way to incentivise was via money – offering quarterly bonuses to those who she perceived to do well – often her favourites – and withholding them from others, often those whom she had a set against.

    M was also extremely judgemental and negative but often her discernments based on her “judgements” were invariably wildly wrong as she always completely misunderstood people’s motivations.

    M also hated it when her team members received awards from others for good work and she did not agree with the decision. She made them feel like they did not deserve it.

    M came to work with a sour look on her face every morning and morale plunged more and more as people feared for their jobs under M and she was constantly tactless and rude and utterly refused to listen to advice from anyone – including more experienced and emotionally mature staff. It was clear she did not even like her staff or take any interest in their lives as unguarded comments she let slip on a few occasions made clear. It was clear that M interested in her feathering her own career nest, and not even remotely in the welfare of her staff.

    She set vague expectations and even when people were able to work out what she wanted and met her benchmarks, she often went back on her word and promised bonuses failed to materialise.

    It reached the point where M’s staff were openly speculating behind her back as to whether she had a psychiatric problem or if she was simply a sadist and a bully or if she was drunk with power. I know of people who still hold to the theory that she was mentally ill. At any rate, it was clear that something was very wrong and it was not with her underlings who had all worked at the company for years. Perhaps she was just disguising her own blatant incompetence. She was “only” a scientist and certainly not a talented writer or even particularly skilled with Linux. Maybe she thought her background in astrophysics made her superior to humanities and IT graduates or maybe she thought her Englishness made her superior to colonials. Some people certainly suspected so but those who knew her say it was hard to fathom her true motives and what gave her this arrogant superiority complex, so lacking in substance though it was.

    Staff hoped she would grow more compassionate after the birth of her first child but it was to no avail.

    People were too afraid to complain to M’s manager in the USA, even in quarterly feedback surveys fearing it was a trap as the online surveys could be traced back and staff blacklisted.

    At any rate, by this time, the Brisbane R staff had already known for well over three years that they would lose their jobs eventually, no matter how much they trier to prove their worth to their masters in the US and their local lackeys like M. Dome departments such as Localisation (is document translation into foreign languages) had already been gutted and American offices had already begun hiring to replace the Australian writers, the rationale being that they wanted writers in closer physical proximity to software engineers. They were also possibly seeking the incentives offered by Trump early in his presidency to hire locally. A lot of the new writers in the USA were ex-IBM staff (this was before IBM’s acquisition of R).

    Another Brisbane R manager, B, who was also a devout Christian, left at this time as he saw the writing on the wall. He knew it was only a matter of time before the department closed and he would not do the US and Swiss managers’ dirty work for them and bully staff out of their jobs, unlike M who was an all-too-willing accomplice. Despite this, we know that M kept at least some of her bullying actions hidden from her own manager.

    Fortunately Bwas able to find a job at another Brisbane IT company and go straight there from R.

    Of course things became even worse then because there was no one left to stand up to M at all; she now had unopposed power at the local level. Fortunately she went on leave again to have a second baby which offered the Brisbane R writers some respite before the end.

    There were other problems with Rs culture besides M: the company had a growing number of military contracts, which made some staff deeply uncomfortable for ethical reasons. It also did business with some other unsavory customers, like the banks responsible for the 2008 Wall Street Global Financial Crisis. For some reason, the company also attracted a disproportionately large number of openly homosexual employees, both in Brisbane and globally. One example in Brisbane was an employee named L. L openly identified as bisexual, was a militant feminist and dabbled in neopaganism. She began to live together with another employee named D. After some time, D began to dress effeminately. Finally, he “came out” as transgender and announced he wanted to be known as a female from henceforth. He began the hormone treatments, etc, to turn into a “woman”. Some people blamed L’s corrupting influence for this but many were just horrified to see their colleague and friend mutilating his body in this way. At any rate, L and D were now effectively living together in a lesbian relationship as two women. When R later set up an Orwellian “diversity council” to ensure tolerance, L was of course elected to it. The liberal M was delighted. When the departments in Brisbane closed and D lost his/her job, it will come to no surprise to Australians to learn he was picked up by woke/PC Central, the ABC and now works on web content for them. Despite disapproving of their lifestyle, my spouse wishes to emphasise that L and D ever showed them the utmost kindness.

    When eventually almost everyone, including my spouse, lost their jobs, it came as a relief to many of them. A few docs planners survived as well as M herself, of course, who is now in a marketing management role in what is left of R Brisbane.

    Despite this, my spouse has had a stress-related condition due to their experiences under M at R. It would have been wiser to leave earlier. Please learn from our family’s mistake. On reflection, my spouse realised that they never once received even one “thank you” from M for all of their hard work. M’s emails never once contained a single positive statement or kind word. It was a constant barrage of negativity. Other people noticed the same thing with the emails they received.

    We do feel, as do many other people in the community, that it is culturally-inappropriate for English people to manage Australians generally. There are exceptions of course but often the cultural gap is just too wide.

    One good example us the infamous case of the English coach Eric Hollingsworth alienating the entite Australian athletics team, including Sally Pearson:

    https://www.afr.com/companies/disgraced-coach-eric-hollingsworth-put-policy-before-people-20140802-j6ys1

    There have been many other examples in corporate Australia in recent decades. M adds to this list.

    The Brisbane R office itself is now just a shell of its former self. Globally, the company has lost much of its prestige as people discern a wide gap between the values it espouses and what it actually practices. In many ways, the acquisition by IBM was seen as the final step in the process of “selling out”.

    My spouse’s recovery has been helped by the fact that they are
    now working somewhere else with a Christian ethos, a good manager and lovely, caring, warmhearted people full of empathy, the total opposite of M. Furthermore, that doing a job they care about that helps people and makes full use of their writing talents.

    The main thing is that my spouse’s faith in humanity has been shaken. We realise all are sinners, especially including ourselves, but we never knew someone so complete cold and totally lacking in empathy as M could exist.

    My spouse recently read a book about Hitler the private man and noted how, away from politics and his obsession with the Jews, he was warm and kind hearted to his personal staff, even sending flowers or visiting them in hospital. That is part if the enigma of the man, I suppose – that he could be so caring on a personal level yet ruthlessly sit down at his desk and order the death of millions. Nevertheless, my spouse notes it is a very sad indictment of M that Hitler was a more caring, warmhearted, empathetic boss than her.

    Despite still recovering from the stress, the experience has helped make us better Christians though and less worldly and more able to put our faith in Christ alone.

    Our final lessons are these which go back to the lesson from DR’s father at the beginning:
    Don’t do a job just for prestige (that is worldly vanity) or even to help others if you do not enjoy it or have a bad manager, – M being an extreme case – as there are plenty of other ways to contribute to God’s Kingdom.

    Secondly, don’t be unequally yoked. I know this verse is often applied to marriages but we think it also applies to the workplace, which can be a corrupting influence if it does not have Godly values. You spend so much of your life there so try to find a place with like minded Christians and a good, holy ethos. Step away and be apart from the world, not a part of it. Also, don’t do a job for any worldly reasons like money, fame, glory or promotions. Life is short and these are ultimately of hollow value.

    Finally pray for everyone being bullied in the workplace. So much if it goes on. Also pray even more for the workplace bullies themselves, including M. My spouse and I will be found so tonight. It seems hard to imagine such a cold, ruthless, amoral, callous person ever being saved but through God all things can happen and even the hardest hearts can soften. Please pray earnestly for her that she may come to know Christ and be saved. I just fear something terrible will have to happen in her life – some family tragedy – to shake her up and make her see righteousness and we do not want that to happen to her.

    Also please pray for D and L and all those confused by their sexuality that they may come to know God and heed His word. In the name if Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.

    1. That is an extreme sad story. There are some monsters in this world. Sin has hardened hearts so much.

      Yes, I will pray for those people. Take care.

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