I am working with three clients right now who entered counseling due to a toxic relationship with a coworker. I have been reminded of a time when my father had to deal with a toxic supervisor. Dad had spent his career on the railroad, retired, then was given an opportunity to help a neighbor by working as a security guard. While on the railroad, Dad had been involved with many coworkers who struggled with addictions and interpersonal relations problems. Even there, he had not worked for anyone as toxic as his new supervisor.
He called me one day and discussed all that he had tried and how frustrated he was dealing with this man every day. He said, “You’re a counselor, so what should I do, quit?”
My father had read through the Bible more times than anyone I’ve ever known, including my professors in seminary, who were very familiar with the Bible.
So, I asked, “Dad, what does the Good Book say about dealing with your enemies?”
He mumbled his reply, “pray for them.”
“What did you say?” I confronted.
“Pray for them,” he replied a little louder.
“Let’s just do that,” I suggested. He agreed. I started praying every morning for his boss.
A couple of weeks later, we were talking again, and I brought the subject up, “have you been praying for your supervisor?”
“Yes, twice each day,” Dad answered.
“Has anything changed?” I asked him.
“Well, yes it has,” he admitted. Dad described some of the changes he had noticed over the last two weeks that were big improvements in the attitudes and behaviors of his supervisor.
“That’s great!” I congratulated.
“It’s not just that,” Dad continued. “I’m not sure that all of the changes were from my boss.” Dad elaborated that praying twice a day for his supervisor may have also changed my Dad. My father thought our Heavenly Father must have also changed Dad’s perceptions of the man he was praying for.
Perhaps that is what Reinhold Niebuhr had in mind with his serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
It’s difficult enough to change ourselves, much less others. My father accepted that his co-worker had things that needed to change. I am glad that he had the courage to recruit help and that he took Biblical advice.
If you are going to work every day and spending more waking hours with coworkers than with your family, then recruit help like my father was humble enough to do. You might try what my father tried and pray for the most toxic employee. Observe what changes in your coworker and in you. You will at least be proud of yourself for doing something courageously and you’ll become more compassionate through your prayers. If you need more help, then call us at (509) 466-6632.