Spirituality of Work Conference I: Good Work, Bad Work

In these conferences I’m going to share some insights I’ve gained from talking with men and women about their workplace experiences. I’ll also be giving some of the Catholic Church’s teachings about work. Hopefully this will give you other ways of viewing your work world and your role in it.


Before we begin speaking about a “spirituality of work”, it might be helpful to analyze your own work situation a bit. Some authors speak of “good work” and “bad work”. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of “good work”:

Good Work

  • Good work helps me use my talents and abilities.

  • Good work gives me a sense of accomplishment.

  • Good work brings serenity.

  • Good work gives me a sense of pride in what I do.

  • Good work fosters good relationships with fellow workers, bosses, customers, and suppliers.

  • Good work enhances cooperation, and not just competition.

  • Good work brings care about doing the job rite, and not just collecting a paycheck.

  • Good work encourages honesty, generosity, responsibility, self-respect, and compassion, as well as getting the job done well, efficiently and productively.

  • In good work people don’t sell themselves short and starve their souls.

  • Good work gives a person time to spend with his or her family.

Vignette (Woman)

I love my job. I’m paid adequately and I enjoy the people I work with. My talents and training are being used well. I like what I can do for my customers. I can help them feel good about themselves. I relate comfortable to them and can make their lives a little better. I have a sense of satisfaction and achievement with my job. While it’s not perfect, most days it’s a joy to go to work. It’s more than a paycheck, and it doesn’t consume my whole life. My family can attest to that. Sometimes I just feel like I lucked out.



What about “Bad Work”?

  • Bad work has little sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

  • Bad work settles for shoddy work, without full use of our skills.

  • Bad work cares little for the dignity of the worker.

  • Bad work can be combative, competitive and stressful, or boring, lazy, and unable to motivate.

  • Bad work has those with authority victimizing those under them.

  • Bad work doesn’t lift the spirits of workers, but demeans them.

  • Bad work insists on too much overtime, which robs life of family and leisure.

  • Bad work can lead to sadness of soul, listlessness, and laziness.

  • Bad work hampers self-development and a joy in working.

Vignette (Man)

I am a craftsman, a skilled cabinetmaker. I work for a small construction company. My boss is tough and mean. He pays me as little as he can get away with and insists I work overtime. In a way that’s ok with me – more money to put food on the table and to save some money to send our oldest to college next year. But I still don’t see enough of the family. What’s worse, my boss insists that I cut corners and get the job done fast. I know some of our customers are overcharged, and I feel bad about this, but what can I do? I guess you have to go along to get along.


Look at your present job, or a job you had in the past.

How do you feel about it?

Are you happy to go to work?

Does your job use your skills and training enough?

Is it challenging?

Are your fellow workers happy with their job?

Are you and they motivated to do a good job?

What is your relationship with your supervisor and other bosses?

Who has the power at your job, and how is it used?

Is your job too competitive, maybe even combative?

Is your job boring, listless, and unchallenging?

When something goes wrong, whom do you blame?



Would you describe your job as mostly “good work” or mostly “bad work”? Take some time to analyze your job to get some insight into your experience of work. Perhaps talk it over with someone. Can you discuss this with anyone at work? It might be helpful, but be prudent!

In the course of these conferences I will be talking about a “spirituality of work.” It’s important that you bring an expanded awareness of your job, what you think about your job, and how you feel about your job. I will present a Catholic understanding of work, an understanding that flows from our Sacred Scriptures and from our Traditional Catholic teaching on work that has developed over the past 100 years. I will also try to give our culture’s understanding of work. I’ll describe how work is defined in the market system – a rather narrow, limited appreciation of the reality of work.

Joe Farris