The article ‘A Study of Spirituality in the Workplace’ (from the Sloan Management Review)
highlights the importance of bringing out more of the hidden potential in the employees – not concentrating on only the intelligence but also emotional and personal energy.
Through spirituality achieve greater employee commitment. Some of the key findings of the research are that the respondents strongly differentiated between religion and spirituality. In that religion is a topic highly unsuitable in the workplace whereas spirituality was appropriate. Spirituality was defined as the basic feelings of being connected with one’s complete self, others and the universe – in other words it is ‘inter-connectedness’. The perception was that ‘more spiritual’ organizations were ‘more profitable’
Some of the reasons that spirituality has not been studied are that:
- The subject is difficult to define and study using scientific method
- U. S. society has long established norms that religious beliefs should be held in private
- Most academics are overly critical of the study of spirituality
- Most of the studies carried out on spirituality in the workplace are subjective – ‘written from the heart’
Harold A. Mitroff, – the Harold Quinton Distinguished Professor of Business Policy, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, and Elizabeth A. Denton, an organizational consultant carried out the study.
Interviews of senior executive to initially develop a framework for asking questions as the topic was not clearly understood or academically recognized. The questionnaire and interviews were designed to put the respondents at ease. The questions were used to develop a portrait of the organization based on the participants’ perceptions – on dimensions such as happy – sad, ethical – unethical, profitable – unprofitable, caring – uncaring, worldly – spiritual, sane – insane, tolerant of gays and minorities and intolerant.
The general questions framework revolved around:
- What is the meaning of religion? – How important is it?
- What is the meaning of spirituality and how important is it?
- The differences between religion and spirituality.
- Is spirituality relevant in the workplace or is it best discussed outside the workplace?
- Comparison with neutral topics of philosophical value.
Mailed questionnaires were used to five groups the largest of which consisted of 171 individuals and limited numbers of interviews were conducted with a limited number of senior executives.
The research also listed the needs of employees from the workplace as:
- The ability to realize full potential as a person;
- Being associated with a ‘good’ or ethical organization;
- Interesting work;
- Making money;
- Having good colleagues, serving humankind;
- Service to future generations;
- Service to the immediate community.
The individual perceptions of religion and spirituality and differences between the two led to the development of the model shown in figure 1.
- Religion and spirituality can be synonymous to some persons and have a positive view of both.
- A person can be negative about spirituality but positive on religion in this situation the subject concentrates all energy in developing a religious experience.
- Also a person may have a positive view of spirituality and a negative view of religion – he or she sees religion and regimental, intolerant, organized and close minded. Spirituality on the other hand is individualized.
- A person may also have a negative view of both spirituality and religion – in this case his or her action will be regulated by values.
Characteristics of spirituality:
- As opposed to religion that is organized and communal, spirituality is highly individual and intensely personal.
- Belief that there is a supreme power
- Everything is an expression of oneness
- Spirituality is in understanding the ‘interconnectedness’
- Things will always work out no matter how bad things get
- There is more goodness in the world than there is evil
- Spirituality is inextricably links with caring, hope, kindness, love and optimism
Based on the characteristics of the organization they were categorized into the following framework, shown in figure 2, depending on their attitude toward spirituality and religion.
Religious based organizations are either positive toward religion and spirituality or positive toward religion and negative toward spirituality.
Evolutionary organizations are those that have had strong association or identification with religion and over time evolved a more ecumenic position.
Recovering organization are those that adopt the principles of alcoholics anonymous as a way to adopt spirituality. In the situation where most of the executives are recovering from alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling and so on.
Socially responsible organizations the founders or heads are guided by strong spiritual principles or values that they apply directly to their business for the betterment of society.
The values based organizations exist where founders or heads are guided by general philosophical principles or values that are not aligned or associated with a particular religion or even with spirituality.
Due to the difficulty of understanding spirituality in the workplace the following guidelines could be used to better explain this concept.
Spirituality is Creativity – Creativity includes the use of color, laughter and freedom to enhance productivity. Creativity is fun. When people enjoy what they do, they work much harder. Creativity includes conscious efforts to see things differently, to break out of habits and out-dated beliefs to find new ways of thinking, doing and being. Creativity is a natural, normal aspect of healthy human beings.
Spirituality is Communication – This is the vehicle that allows people to work together. In our society, our learning process is based on learning to communicate with teachers and parents. When we go out into the world, most of us have not learned how to communicate with our peers for the purpose of achieving something beneficial for all of us. This behavior leads to subterfuge among employees – trying to figure out how to beat the system, gain extra favors, and say the “popular” thing or to keep our views to ourselves rather than “rock the boat.” How many companies are working to overcome these learned patterns of behavior taught to us, by replacing them with truly effective communication and teamwork programs?
Spirituality is Respect – Respect of self and of others; includes: respect for the environment; other people’s personal privacy, their physical space and belongings; different viewpoints, philosophies, religion, gender, lifestyle, ethnic origin, physical ability, beliefs and personality. We aren’t usually taught “team work” in how to work with other students as equals. When we go out into the world, most of us have not learned how to work together as equals. The old patterns and training come forth through lack of respect for our peers, our management, our employees, and our customers. We try to compete with them, and we try not to get punished. When we learn respect for our peers, we can come to acceptance of their differences. Along with Respect comes Acceptance, which includes acceptance of the inherent right of each person to follow their chosen life path, and acceptance that diversity and variety lead to a rich mixture of humanity. The lack of respect and acceptance lead to conflict and hostility.
Spirituality is Vision – Vision means seeing beyond the obvious – seeing the unseen. It is a trait used to describe leaders and entrepreneurs. Where does vision come from? For some people, it is an inborn trait. They have always seen things that others cannot see. Others learn to broaden their perspective, to question the obvious, to reach beyond where they are, to follow a dream. They see a vision of what can be, of possibilities beyond the status quo. They follow their vision in spite of obstacles or non-believers. The idea that vision can be learnt is also important.
Spirituality is Partnership – Partnership encompasses individual responsibility and trust that other people will perform according to their commitments for the good of the team and partners. Partnership accepts that different people have different viewpoints and beliefs; those differences are used as positive aspects for broadening the team experience. Partnership encourages a balanced and fair way of being and working together, as well as honest disagreement without hostility or warfare. Partnership encourages the female and male aspects of ourselves to work together, without either one over-ruling or dominating the other. The lack of partnership leads to isolation and unhealthy competition.
Spirituality is Energy – Very positive energy forces are released when people feel creative, have the freedom to express their opinions, and feel respect from their management and their peers. The opposite energy force creates Hostile Workplace situations – including: Violence, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Verbal Abuse, Lack of Respect, Loss of Productivity, as well as all dysfunctional or addictive work situations. Your contribution to the collective positive energy is using your own creativity, communicating well, having respect for others, adapting to changing situations, working well with others and enjoying what you do.
Spirituality is Flexibility – Flexibility includes the ability to adapt to changing situations and allowing one’s own beliefs and habits to change as needed. As our world changes at an ever-rapid pace, we need to find ways to adapt and change ourselves with it. Learning to see trends and prepare for them is one way of learning flexibility. Another is to learn about our own strengths, our weaknesses and ourselves. Then, work to operate from our strength, allowing others to help us with our weaknesses.
Spirituality is Fun – People who enjoy their life work harder, make more money, have more confidence in themselves, have more friends and are far healthier than people who worry constantly, fight with others, feel frightened all the time, abuse their health and have low self-respect. Reducing stress requires a willingness to appreciate nature, to see what others are too busy to see – the peaceful way that nature changes and grows all around us.
Spirituality is Finding Your Self – Learning about who you are, how you can control your world by changing your attitude, and learning to respect and accept others helps unite us together, strengthening that universal energy. What this universal energy is called is unimportant. In the workplace or in our personal lives, our attitude about the world defines how our life unfolds.
Use of code of ethics in human resource development will lead to a better attitude to work and a more productive working environment. Some examples of good ethics in organizations:
Honouring our universality – respecting our uniqueness – embracing the truth in all authentic religions and spiritual paths, and agreeing to live by our vision of inclusiveness.
Walking our talk – agreeing to uphold the ethical and practical principles of the spiritual path we follow.
Celebrating honesty – aiming to cultivate conscious communication as the basis for our speech.
Protecting clarity – avoiding using such substances (alcohol, drugs, etc), which would interfere with our purpose and intention.
Honouring physical boundaries – being sensitive and respectful in expressing physical affection.
Maintaining confidentiality – holding any personal information in the strictest confidence.
Representing ourselves accurately – striving for integrity in all of our relationships and acknowledging the importance of not misleading others about our responses or services we can offer, or exaggerating in any way our professional achievements.
Valuing support and supervision in community – agreeing to draw fully upon the resources of our community for support and guidance, and committing to regular supervision of our spiritual counseling work.
Promoting continued awakening – dedicating ourselves to continually deepening our personal spiritual practice, and opening more profoundly to the mystery of our connections with the Divine Source and with each other.
Safeguarding the whole – agreeing to do all we can to live and work by these precepts, and addressing concerns without fear in the atmosphere and compassion and fairness to all.
The concepts learnt in spirituality can be used extensively in counseling and couching. The development of transparent and high trust relationships is recognized as being of great importance in improving work commitment and motivation. Spirituality provides the broad guidelines that can be used in
Human resource specialists have advocated the change of the traditional style of management to meet the demands that are posed by a volatile world where the only constant is change itself.
Features of the new paradigm and old paradigm have been shown below:
|The Old Way||The New Way|
|Low trust||High trust|
|Hiding errors||Uncovering errors|
|Managers design Work||Employees design work|
|Hierarchical – top down||Lateral, collaborative|
|Attention to cost||Attention to adding value|
|Individual training course||Continuous learning|
|Internal competitive||Internal alliance|
The process of transformation to ‘the new way’ can be managed effectively using the singular features of spirituality and ethical behavior that can be adapted to serve to change the overall culture of the organization.
The scope of spirituality and ethics in organizations is very vast and can be used in almost all aspects of business operations in human resource development. Spiritual and ethical guidelines while advocating what is best for the organization also states behaviour that is unacceptable – in doing this it gives the broad framework for decision making. This type of behavioral guidelines is especially useful where clan controls are used in organizations rather than bureaucratic controls. Clan control mechanisms are gaining in importance as the organic and network structure of business organization are being accepted as against the traditional hierarchical structures.
A book written of spirituality in the workplace: