This morning I was reading the Bible about Jonah -- remember him? He was the one swallowed by the whale and when I thought about it, his story has a great workplace lesson. Jonah actually survived his whale experience and was later spit out just in time to complete an important task assigned by God. Jonah's job was to go to the town of Nineveh and tell the people they must repent for their sins or else they'd be destroyed within 40 days.
Jonah apparently did a great job, because the king himself took the leadership in a massive display of public humility. God was impressed and rescinded his previous plan to destroy Nineveh. Interestingly, Jonah felt that God had let him down by not following through on his destruction promise. Jonah was so upset that he said he wanted to die. God scolded Jonah for his attitude, although the story ends before we find out what happened to Jonah. (Maybe Jonah started a whale watching business -- he certainly had the credentials. Another possibility? Consultant to Sea World -- oops, different millennium.)
The workplace lesson I take from this passage is that sometimes we actually succeed at our jobs and sometimes success disappoints us because it may indicate that we are no longer needed. I think this happens to entrepreneurs who start businesses, or to people who begin projects at work, or even to parents. It routinely happens to teachers, who care so passionately about their students, and then those students graduate to the next grade. How about nurses and doctors who help their patients through a sudden illness, developing a deep and intimate relationship, and then see those people move on? One moment you are at the center of an important enterprise and the next minute it's rolling along just fine without you, thank you very much. Tough on anyone's ego.
What's the answer here? I'm not sure, but patience is probably part of the picture. Jonah obviously had gifts of oratory and persuasion, whether or not people believed his story about being swallowed by a whale. Most of us have our gifts too, and we need to keep looking for the best ways to use them, including on the job.