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Loud laborers, quiet quitters – Let's bring healing to work relationship

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Most of us have worked with someone who seems happier to discuss the highlight reel of their work history than they are to actually get work done. We all know (and may very well have struggled with) this sort of colleague. They’ve even been given a name, recently dubbed loud laborers by one researcher.

Another familiar workplace type is the “quiet quitter.” Where the loud laborer finds too much identity in work, quiet quitters subtly disengage from their work in order to perform the bare minimum.

Both of these coworkers can be frustrating in the workplace. As remote and partially remote workplaces become increasingly mainstream, bragging has become an easy way to make sure managers notice you from afar — even at the cost of real productivity.

On the other hand, many hard-working colleagues go uncompensated, unrewarded and unsupported as they labor quietly to keep the company running. So they decide, in some cases, to quietly “quit.”

Neither is a healthy relationship with work. And importantly, neither of these pathologies are ever limited to the workplace.

I spent years working as a counselor before I got started in professional career coaching. I saw a lot of brokenness there: anxiety, depression, failed or failing relationships. The men and women who came to me struggled to know who they were, or what their purpose was. They felt disconnected, rudderless and terribly alone.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” Proverbs 29 tells us. God knows how we suffer, and why. He sees how we languish unless we know how we belong to His plan, within His creation. Feelings of isolation and confusion are symptoms of deeper suffering.

That’s why feelings of disorientation and loneliness don’t stay neatly in anyone’s personal life. They always influence how you feel about and relate to your employment. People become workaholics, “quiet quitters,” “loud laborers” and more in an attempt to cope. Time and again, I saw how a broken private life so often leads to a broken professional life.

I saw how the personal lives of these men and women affected their work lives, and how work lives affected their personal lives. I knew there had to be a way to help bring about healing and balance in both their work and private lives.

I once had a successful businessman come to me looking for answers. He was anxious, depressed, and his family relationships all felt wrong. He didn’t feel like he was leading his employees well. He felt like he was spinning his wheels, at home and at work, and dragging his family along with him.

So, we worked together to help him rebalance his life which felt like chaos. We set goals. We took an inventory of his life and walked through his values and priorities for over a year. We helped him apply those insights to his family, business and community. He said the process was “life-changing,” and walked away a new man. He had finally found a way to trust and rest in God’s will for him and to lead from a place of obedience and spiritual abundance.

His case isn’t unique. Work is so much more than a paycheck and so much less than a life. Yet we often lose sight of where it fits in, and how.

I’ve found that few people, if pressed, can correctly identify why we get lost in the first place. Why brag, as with loud laborers? Why risk the goodwill of your colleagues for the sake of higher visibility in the workplace? And why do quiet quitters seem unable or unwilling to speak up for themselves, even when their emotional and professional well-being is at stake?

The answer for every person is, in one sense, complex. The ways each person hopes, works, strives, wonders, and despairs are unrepeatable because every person is unrepeatable.

But in another sense, it’s simple: These men and women don’t know their purpose, their mission or their specific goals — so they make noise to compensate. They try to make themselves seem more impressive in order to counteract what is fundamentally an unhealthy, disorganized approach to their own careers. They don’t know what they want, so they seek the highest possible status.

But status can’t replace real, mission-driven competence and insight. It can’t replace passion. It can’t replace balance, happiness, and a holistic vision of your life’s mission. This just isn’t how God wants us to work.

In large part, that’s because God wants us to center our lives around Him. If we lead and work from a place of abundance — namely, joy in knowing and following His will for us — all else will follow.

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord,” Proverbs 16 tells us. “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

But so many men and women work without even knowing the “plans of their hearts,” let alone the peace that comes from entrusting their work to Christ.

We’d do well to remember that one person’s healthy relationship with their work benefits countless others. Their families, colleagues, patrons, and their communities all stand to benefit from one person leading and working from a place of abundance.

Maybe it’s your own work life that needs to be balanced. Maybe it’s your all-too-talkative coworker. Regardless of rank, reputation or role, every disordered relationship with work is an opportunity to transform not just one life, but many.

Find your balance so that you may lead humbly, from abundance. You were created for nothing less.

Jesse Parrish serves as the manager of programming of WinShape Teams, where he develops programs and resources that equip clients in their journey toward better leading, teaming, and following. Prior to joining WinShape, Jesse served six years as a licensed professional counselor.

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