When to Be Silent—and When to Speak Up—in the Workplace

The Gospel Coalition | 9/23/2019 | Charlie Self
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Scripture tells us to obey and submit to our “masters.” Assuming this applies to our bosses, does it mean I shouldn’t push back on bad ideas from management? Should I never “ask forgiveness rather than permission” on activities I suspect my boss will disagree with—if I suspect the outcome will be preferable to him or her? And along those same lines of knowing when to speak up and when to be quiet, where’s the line between water-cooler discussions that constructively critique company goals and activities, and harmful chatter Christians should avoid?

Every day in our workplaces we’re surrounded by dissonant conversations—from practical scheduling to salacious gossip, from helpful inquiries to overt subversion of authority by ambitious colleagues. As followers of Jesus, we’re probably familiar with biblical passages demanding respect for employers (“masters” in Eph. 6 and Col. 3), as well as warnings about gossip and unwholesome communication (Eph. 4).

Challenges - Dilemmas - Speech - Bosses - Employees

Challenges arise when we’re faced with ethical dilemmas concerning our speech, particularly when it concerns our bosses and fellow employees. Leaving aside obvious insults and overt rebellion, and friendly joking and celebrations, how do we discern when to be silent and when to speak?

Here are seven insights that can help us wisely listen and speak in our places of work.

Tongues - Pause - Situation - Words - Prov

Are we unreflectively reacting or wisely responding? When we restrain our tongues and pause to consider the situation, our words will be more carefully chosen (Prov. 10:10; James 3).

Friendly banter must be distinguished from ungodly gossip. “What a colorful outfit!” must not give way to “What a peacock!” Motive, word selection, and tone all contribute to joy or sarcasm (Prov. 12:14).

Issues - Judgmentalism - Persons - Example - Way

Critical thinking about issues is different than judgmentalism toward persons. For example, “I think there may be a better way to craft the budget” is quite distinct from “Accounting is full of...
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