Article: Spirituality and Workplace


Spirituality and Workplace

Today, we live in the transition period between the old definition of work as survival and the new definition of work as livelihood. New management techniques and new organizational structures are needed to handle this emerging context.
Spirituality and Workplace

What do Southwest Airlines, Hewlett-Packard, The Men’s Wearhouse, AES, Wetherrill Associates and Tom’s of Maine have in common? They’re among a growing number of organizations that have embraced workplace spirituality. Southwest Airlines, for instance, is strongly committed to providing the lowest airfares, on-time services, and a pleasant experience for customer. Tom’s of Maine strives to sell personal care household products that are made from natural ingredients and are environmentally friendly. AES, the world’s largest independent power producer, seeks to provide electricity around the globe and to fundamentally change people’s lives and their economic well-being.

A study shown in MIT's Sloan Management Review shows people are hungry for ways to practice their spirituality at the workplace without offending co-workers or causing acrimony. Many employees are interested in bringing their core spiritual values, such as integrity and honesty, to the workplace. A poll published by USA Today showed 6 out of 10 people believe workplaces would benefit from a greater sense of spirit in the work environment.

Companies are increasingly hiring chaplains to support employees. Tyson's Foods has a large number of part-time chaplains at more than 70 sites. Coca-Cola Bottling has chaplains helping employees at more than 50 of their locations. Pizza Hut hires chaplains to guide employees who are struggling with personal problems, and they believe they have reduced the turnover rate by 50 percent.

Management and consulting firm McKinsey & Co. might be a strange place to find meditation happening, but the company is embracing meditation as part of a new HR strategy aimed at keeping employees happy and health.  In one case, a meditation program developed by McKinsey for an Australian client saved the business more than $20 million.

Workplace Spirituality or Spirituality in the Workplace is a movement that began in the early 1920s. It emerged as a grassroots movement with individuals seeking to live their faith and/or spiritual values in the workplace. Spirituality in the workplace means that employees find nourishment for both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of their spirituality at work. Spirituality in the workplace is about individuals and organisations seeing work as a spiritual path, as an opportunity to grow and to contribute to society in a meaningful way. It is about care, compassion and support of others; about integrity and people being true to themselves and others. It means individuals and organisations attempting to live their values more fully in the work they do. 

Spirituality is a state or experience that can provide individuals with direction or meaning, or provide feelings of understanding, support, inner wholeness or connectedness. Spirituality is shown in a workplace in the form of following activities:

  • Bereavement programs.
  • Wellness information displayed and distributed.
  • Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Programs that integrate work/family.
  • Management systems that encourage personal and spiritual transformation.
  • Servant leadership – the desire to serve others first in preference to self.
  • Stewardship – leadership practices that support growth and well-being of others.
  • Diversity programs that create inclusive cultures.
  • Integration of core values and core business decisions and practices.

Characteristics of a Spiritual Workplace

Emphasizes Sustainability: A systemic view of work and contribution in the world promotes links between sustainability and an awareness of limited resources. This approach to design, production, and commerce is being increasingly associated with spirituality because it seeks to contribute to the greater good in the world.

Values Contribution: More than providing excellent service for customers, global service indicates a larger sense of responsibility to contribute to the betterment of the world. While the local family business may not provide products and services that will improve the quality of life in third world countries

Prizes Creativity: Creativity is a necessary part of the business cycle. When technology, markets shifts, and demographic changes force organizations to rethink products and services, creativity is the key to successfully navigating those changes.

Promotes Vocation: Companies that understand workplace spirituality go beyond being supportive of learning and development by helping employees develop a sense of “calling” or identification of passion about their lives and their work. Such companies emphasize the discovery and appropriate utilization of individual giftedness and encourage employees to use their unique skills within the organization.

Develops Principles: Organizations have begun to realize the benefits of treating the whole person by actively supporting the formulation of ethical principles that promote personal growth, long-term character development, and personal connections of faith and work development.

While profits may be important, they’re not the primary values of the organization. Maximizing profits may excite investors but it rarely stirs employees’ emotions or imaginations. People want to be inspired by a purpose that they believe is important and worthwhile. Work can be a stressful place, and with companies trying to keep an eye on the bottom line while simultaneously improving productivity, many workers may find themselves with more responsibilities than ever before. While there is no way to totally eliminate stress from the workplace, some companies are doing what they can to help employees relax, and many, like those that we feature here, are doing that through on-site meditation.

If a single word best captures the meaning of spirituality and the vital role that it plays in people’s lives, that word is “interconnectedness.” Those associated with organizations they perceived as more spiritual also see their organizations as more profitable. They are able to bring more of their “complete selves” to work. They could deploy more of their full creativity, emotions, and intelligence; in short, organizations viewed as more spiritual get more from their employees, and vice versa. They believe strongly that unless organizations learn how to harness the whole person and the immense spiritual energy that is at the core of everyone, they will not be able to produce world-class products and services.

Today, we live in the transition period between the old definition of work as survival and the new definition of work as livelihood. New management techniques and new organizational structures are needed to handle this emerging context. Our job, as leaders, is to facilitate the discovery of spirit, to esteem it, to celebrate it, and to hold others accountable for their expression of it. Support employees and colleagues in being clear that part of their job responsibility is to fully express their spirit, their life purpose, and their gifts. Spirituality is becoming more openly recognized as an integral part of work. Workplace spirituality is not about organized religious practices. It’s not about God or theology. Workplace spirituality recognizes that people have an inner life that nourishes and is nourished by meaningful work that takes place in the context of community.

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Topics: Culture, Life @ Work

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