How can I find the right workplace, or the right business partners?
The Baha’i writings say that work is a tool for worship that can fill life with meaning:
The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 51.
But to properly dedicate myself to work where I find purpose, it’s helpful to be surrounded by the correct environment. As I think about dealing with bias as a black woman in professional spaces, it becomes clear to me that it’s easy to miss the signs of a looming unhealthy professional situation. I don’t always get a true idea of what a professional relationship will be like until I’m already in it.
Finding work not only sustainable, but actually beneficial to my well-being can be difficult. Here are a few attitudes from the Baha’i teachings that I strive to practice, and which may increase my chances at finding the right workplace – and the right people:
1. Find Like-minded Organizations and Teams
As a new model and a social worker, I go into situations heavily relying on the belief that things will work out. While faith is a powerful tool, I also want to ground myself in reality. Baha’is believe in using a scientific and systematic approach to explore reality, and that can be useful when choosing who to work with.
Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, said:
Take heed that thou resign not the reins of the affairs of thy state into the hands of others, and repose not thy confidence in ministers unworthy of thy trust, and be not of them that live in heedlessness. –Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 233.
In social work and writing, I’ve learned that just because an organization says it is aimed at uplifting certain populations doesn’t mean that it’s truly committed. Contradictions and hypocrisy are very real parts of the professional world. When I look at an organization intended to support young black and brown people, I don’t just get excited without investigating further: I examine how they define “help.” I ask questions, like: are the employees actually implementing the approaches they claim to believe in?
Once I’ve taken a serious and intentional approach about gaining information from those who have worked for an organization, reading reviews, or even seeking out the perspectives of clients or participants, I move forward in my job search with more knowledge. Being protective of my energy means making decisions out of knowledge rather than naiveté.
2. Nothing is Ever Perfect – but Some Circumstances Are too Disruptive to be Productive
The Baha’i teachings emphasize just how connected we all are to each other:
… this endless universe is like the human body, and … all its parts are connected one with another and are linked together in the utmost perfection. That is, in the same way that the parts, members and organs of the human body are interconnected, and that they mutually assist, reinforce and influence each other, so too are the parts and members of this endless universe connected with, and spiritually and materially influenced by, one another. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 285.
With this in mind, I always strive to treat others with kindness – to trust others and to heal and compensate for one another’s weaknesses. Honoring our oneness with the rest of humanity sometimes means that we must overlook the shortcomings of others.
This deep interconnectedness means that I want to help my co-workers, but it also means that sometimes I might have to separate myself from destructive relationships to thrive. It’s important to avoid enabling negative behavior:
Strive ye then with all your heart to treat compassionately all humankind – except for those who have some selfish, private motive, or some disease of the soul. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 158.
This quote reminds me to set boundaries; to protect myself from manipulation, not only so I am safe, but also so that others can overcome their harmful tendencies. Abdu’l-Baha continued:
Kindness cannot be shown the tyrant, the deceiver, or the thief, because, far from awakening them to the error of their ways, it maketh them to continue in their perversity as before. No matter how much kindliness ye may expend upon the liar, he will but lie the more, for he believeth you to be deceived, while ye understand him but too well, and only remain silent out of your extreme compassion. – Ibid.
By speaking out against wrongdoing, I help uphold the spiritual health of my workplace, and ensure that I can allocate my energy to its most productive route: building a team characterized by honesty and dignity. Being selective about the character of the organizations or people I work with ensures that I can encourage those who treat others unfairly to get their act together.
3. Don’t Make Decisions Out of Desperation
Thinking that I will never find another opportunity like the one I have, or worrying about the future of my career, may drive me to jump into a job that will later cause me trouble.
Building up trust that God will help me figure things out is difficult. Prayer, meditation, and genuine attention to the changes that happen after I put forth effort help me build up my trust in God, and raise my confidence in my own decision-making. The Baha’i teachings describe the attitude that helps in trying times:
… placing complete trust in God, reliant on His all-sustaining power and confident in His unfailing assistance… – The Universal House of Justice, Message to the Baha’is of the World, April 2010, p. 6.
If I embrace the many ways to contribute to the betterment of the world, while also supporting myself financially, I can make a clear-minded decision about my next move. Panic makes it hard to see things clearly and investigate true reality, making that investigation less rational and less scientific. By feeling trust that God will provide, I can open myself up to opportunities I didn’t even know existed.