What's your "thing" in the workplace?

In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Marshall Eriksen, one of the main characters of the show, is worried about keeping his job. His friend and colleague, Barney Stinson, tells him that what he needs to do, is to get a “thing.” 

There’s the “toy guy” from HR who keeps toys in his office - everyone loves “toy guy!” Or take “YouTube guy” who shares the best video clips and internet memes. And, of course, “food guy” - he’s only mediocre at this job and is financially expendable, but he has job security because he’s always bringing in amazing food to meetings. ‘Be careful choosing your “thing” though,’ Barney warns Marshall… ‘you don’t want to be like “creepy back rub guy!”’ [1]

Almost a decade on from when it aired, that short scene still resonates when I look back upon my workplaces. There’s “sports guy” Ian who organised the yearly footy tipping. There’s my mate, “comic book guy” Zac (I mean “graphic novel” guy. Sorry Zac). And of course, there’s Roger - don’t know where to go for lunch?...Just ask “coupon guy.” Long after I’ve moved on, I’ve forgotten their job titles, but I remember their “thing”.

What’s my “thing”? I’ve probably got a couple.

I’m definitely the “movie guy.” If you’re after a personalised recommendation for what to watch this weekend, I’m the go-to person in the office. I’m also currently experimenting with being “Costco guy” - I can’t really bake, but bulk size Chupa Chups definitely pull a crowd.

And, of course, I’m also “Christian guy.” 

Jesus’ words, as he sends out his twelve disciples, are instructive here for those of us who are sent out into the workplace. As challenging as it might seem, we must ‘acknowledge Jesus’ amidst our colleagues.

Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

- Matthew 10:32-33

So, yes, ask what I did on the weekend and I’ll invariably say I went to church. And, yes, when hot topics about the church arise in the news, I’m the one who may be singled out.

But is this type of “acknowledgement” too small an interpretation? People knowing that I’m a Christian is a good first step, but does it make me the “Christian guy”? If Jesus is a core part of who I am; what would it look like if “Christ” was my “thing”?

For myself, it looks like a couple of things - I want to share the fullness of the gospel and I want to love my colleagues.

On the one hand, I try to demonstrate a depth of thinking about what really matters in life; showcasing God’s wisdom against the shallowness and fickleness of this age - on the weekend I didn’t just “attend church”, I learnt something profound and transformative that is worth living and sharing. [2] The gospel of Jesus has something to say about all of life!

On the other hand, I want to be intentional about seeing people beyond their job description - to truly care about how they’re going; knowing what makes them tick; loving my colleagues. It means doing good work in a way that is not dehumanising - valuing people as people; not simply using them as “human resources;” acknowledging rather than dismissing people’s efforts. My hope is that when hot topics arise, I wouldn’t be singled out, but sought out; not as a scapegoat, but as a friend. [3]

Long after they’ve moved on, your colleagues may have forgotten your job title, but they’ll remember your “thing”. What would that look like, if your “thing” was Christ?

[1] “Mosbius Designs”, How I Met Your Mother. April 2009. Following the convention of this episode, I’ll continue to use the term “guy.” However the sentiment of this reflection is intended to be gender neutral.
[2] Thinking through how you’d share Sunday’s sermon with colleagues is a helpful habit to practice. For example, last Sunday my pastor preached from 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul prefers the gifts of prophecy over tongues. Perhaps I could share something like - “people who act ‘super spiritual’ at church are seen as selfish and shallow. Of much greater worth are people who use their gifts for other people and not themselves. Church is not for me; it’s a place where we try to build up others.”

[3] Actually these two elements dovetail with my “movie” and “Costco” “things” respectively; movies and tv are an easy shared cultural experience that can open up to bigger life questions, and having the food area near where I sit fosters conversations beyond work. It also helps make being the “Christian guy” not something that is weird and to be avoided (like “creepy back rub guy!” Though some weirdness is unavoidable… and good)