Anxiety in the Workplace: Underfunctioning

4 Feb

Not only working, but working togetherAccording to systems psychology, systems like workplaces, churches, and families can become anxious.  When the system becomes anxious, people normally manage their anxiety in one of five ways:

  • Underfunctioning
  • Overfunctioning
  • Blaming
  • Distancing
  • Gossip, gossip, gossip

I’m quite sure that we’ve experienced many of these personally, and observed all of them from time to time.  Since the last few weeks have been extremely anxious at my job (we’re all feeling crabby) I want to think about what the bible has to say about these responses.  Let’s talk about underfunctioning for a moment.  Underfunctioning is, of course, doing tooo little.  (I teach my students the Goldilocks Principle–a principle I’ve made up.  It’s the idea of searching for the “just right” in everything.) In education we see underfunctioning in the teacher who has given up.  They teach the same lessons over and over again in the same way.  We see it in the teacher who sends the students on to their next class before the bell rings.  The teacher who spends planning periods Internet surfing–and not for innovative teaching ideas.  We see it in the teacher who watches the clock c-r-a-w-l toward the last bell.  This teacher may not do the boring parts of the job just because they don’t like it.

Now, I’m not preaching AT anybody.  I’ve experienced these behaviors myself in the last week.  I messed around with Pinterest just waiting for the bell to ring one afternoon.  I was discouraged, I was crabby, and so I underfunctioned.

Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise.  Proverbs 6:6

This week at school I noticed what appeared to be a path left in the grass by a hose.  It was about two inches wide and for some reason drew my attention.  I followed it along, and it dead-ended at a tree.  It obviously wasn’t a hose impressions.  I sat down to watch it and discovered it was an ant highway.  I can’t imagine the work entailed, the back-breaking labor, but the ants had created their very own interstate.  God used this to convict me of my underfunctioning response to workplace stress.  I’m grateful for the many ways he teaches me.

Photo credit:

Lerner, L. (2004).  Fear and other univited guests:  Tackling the anxiety, fear, and  shame that keeps us from optimal living and loving.  New York, NY:  Harper Collins

4 Responses to “Anxiety in the Workplace: Underfunctioning”


  1. Anxiety in the Workplace: Overfunctioning « Fearless - February 7, 2012

    […] Underfunctioning […]

  2. Anxiety in the Workplace: Blaming « Fearless - February 10, 2012

    […] Underfunctioning […]

  3. Anxiety in the Workplace: Distancing « Fearless - February 13, 2012

    […] Underfunctioning […]

  4. Anxiety in the Workplace: Gossip « Fearless - February 16, 2012

    […] Underfunctioning […]

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