The #1 Reason Why We Become Mindless Zombies at Work

zombie at work

If you add all the time spent at workplace, commuting to and from work and add in the time spent thinking about, preparing for, or conducting work-related activities in and outside of work, work consumes a significant amount of your life – about 30% by some estimates.

Now, here is what alarms me. Recent studies by Gallup report 13% of employees are happy at work worldwide (around 30% in U.S). In other words, globally, almost 9 out of 10 people dislike or hate their job.

Frankly speaking, I too have suffered from countless days feeling robbed from a sense of purpose, meaning, and joy from work. As a Christian, I have wrestled with the idea of viewing work as my God-given calling and living a life of excellence. Work felt at times like a cage where my potential was stifled, strength underutilized.

There are only a few things that are more painful than working in an environment that sucks out the joy in your life, becoming a mindless zombie at work.

But why don’t more of us experience joy at work? According to Susan Gibbons, the answer is two-fold.

First, false self promotes self hate. Brennan Manning in “A Glimpse of Jesus” describes false self as “the dominant malaise crippling Christian people and stifling their growth in the Holy Spirit.” All of us have grown up with cultural biases and parental pressures that constantly bombard us with messages like we’re not good enough, smart enough, or disciplined enough to acquire the virtues that would make us what we think we ought to be, torturing us spiritually and emotionally with “intense feelings of guilt, shame, remorse, and self-punishment.” The outcome becomes a pernicious one: a debilitating, unhealthy, and negative self-image.

The false self deceives us by living a life of constant comparison. Instead of looking within, we are looking outside.  We have bought into the lie of finding joy in external matters such as wearing the latest fashion, getting the next promotion, buy that new car, or even on our spouse’s and children’s success.

The false self stands in complete opposition to the biblical idea of being made in the image of God as His workmanship. In Jeremiah 1:5, God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” It is a beautiful thing to know that we are known – known by our very Father, Creator, and Author in life.

As someone who wrestled with “inferiority complex” in my formative adolescence, I have experienced the devastating effect of this incorrect understanding of self in my life. Life becomes devoid of love, joy, and peace. 

Second, Gibbons says that our workplaces are designed and populated by a host of false selves, looking for joy outside of themselves where it simply cannot be found. She says, “the workplace becomes a marketplace where the false self barter in values in order to manipulate structures, systems, and other people to produce outcomes that satisfy their intrinsic desire for personal development in pursuit of their highest human potential.

I love what she says next: The fundamental problem with that is, of course, that our highest human potential falls woefully short of God’s potential in our lives as lived out through the authentic self-growing and thriving in the new covenant love-relationship.

So as leaders, what can we do? Though we may not be able to directly give joy in our people, we can certainly help others find joy by creating a workplace that is conductive to growth in which people can find their God-given purpose through utilization of their God-given talents.  

Question: How can leaders help others discover joy at work?