Article: Is there room for “spirituality” at our workplace?

Life @ Work

Is there room for “spirituality” at our workplace?

In an organizational setup, managing people aligning with their spiritual values may establish an overall sense of well-being and health.
Is there room for “spirituality” at our workplace?

It is recognized by the successful leaders in contemporary organizations that a set of organizational values embedded in the culture of the organization positively influences employee morale and organizational performance. A research study conducted by Harvard Business School by selecting 10 U.S. companies with adherence to strong corporate culture (spirited workplace) and 10 with weak corporate cultures, drawn from a list of 207 leading corporations. In a period of 11 years, the researcher established that a remarkable correlation exists between the strength of an organization's corporate culture and its profitability. In a few cases, it is also noticed that in terms of shareholder values, net earnings, return-on-investment the spirited organizations have outperformed the others by 400 to 500 percent. In this context, the question arises, can a healthy, inclusive, and thriving organization culture be created? The unifying concept that has promised to support in this effort is “spirit at work” i.e. a performance-oriented workplace practices that empowers organization culture and its employees to perform their best. 

The word “spirit” that comes from the Latin word spiritus meaning “breath”. It is defined as “the vital principle or animating force traditionally believed to be within living beings”. Therefore, it is essential to find out the elements that is evident in an organization to stand apart? An interview and questionnaire study conducted for human resources and line executives, it is revealed that the most essential thing that gives people meaning and purpose in their jobs is “the ability to realize my full potential as a person”. While establishing and interconnecting the meaning of spirit and spirituality, Ritscher (1998) stated: “spirituality is a kind of awareness that there is something more to life than just narrow, selfish and ego-oriented spirited outlook to one’s surrounding”. And this definition fundamentally explains that there is more to life (caring and sharing) than just living in a pretentious superficial world. More precisely, spirituality at workplace describes an individual’s belief that his work makes a meaningful contribution and deriving a sense of pleasure of connecting to something larger than the importance of work in the context of community. Spirituality helps an individual to experience with direction or meaningfulness and feelings of support, inner connectedness.

Nowadays organizations are in demand for highly committed professionals for its growth and development. In other side, there is a paradigm shift observed among employees to derive psychological fulfillment from their jobs rather than physical ad monetary needs. The nature and meaning of work have undergone an intense evolution. In this context, two forces catalyze the momentum of this process — first one is ‘fear’ and the second is rise of widespread spirituality practices at work. The ‘fear’ is about losing jobs, focusing on to achieve more with less and this has a negative fallout of employees. While the emergence of spirituality in the workplace recognizes people have an inner life that fostered by meaningful work that takes place in the context of community. This is a kind of aspiration to go beyond the job than just survival. Employees always desires for a workplace where he can experience and express a sense of connectedness through high ethical standards, acceptance, peace, trust and sense of purpose etc. Facts have also been demonstrated in my research thesis on “workplace spirituality and human resource effectiveness” about the recent trends of seeking and questioning the employer about the essence and meaning of work-profile right from the entry level of their selection process.

In contemporary times, business organizations have changed significantly, and it’s witnessed that employees are spending more time at work than the previous generations and deriving the social identity from the workplace becomes minimal. A workplace where the individual having good mental health and well-being plays an important role for its human resources and for the growth of the organization. Hence, in an organizational setup managing people aligning with their spiritual values may establish an overall sense of well-being and health.

Few of the predictable characteristics of spiritual organizations are:

  • Strong sense of purpose: It is expected from the employees that they should know the reasons about why the organization exists and what it values the most. 
  • Trust and openness: Employees in an organization thought to be characterized by honesty, openness and mutual trust. 
  • Toleration of employee expression: In an organizational culture where the employees are encouraged to express their feelings without any fear of warning or guilt.
  • Employee empowerment: Here the employees are permitted to take decision-related to their tasks with a strong sense of delegation of authority.

In their presidential column on “Spirituality and Meaning at Work” Wong and Psych, of International Network argued that there is a need of spirituality for integration into the corporate culture. Such kind of work culture can be possible only when senior management and the governing board of an organization embraces “spirituality” as part of their vision. The total benefits and results of spirituality on morale and productivity can only be achieved through a continued, large-scale cultural transformation at all levels of the organization.

During the course of such transformation, one can visualize the following changes at the workplace:

  • Organization will shift towards a purpose-driven and meaning-based. 
  • Management of efficiency and control will replace Management with a mission.
  • A paradigm shifts from fear-based culture to love-based culture.
  • Management practices and decisions will be aligned with spiritual values such as honesty, love, hope, integrity, kindness, and respect and nurturing. 
  • Spirituality* is about bringing passion - bringing one’s heart, soul and spirit - to what one does, because from a spiritual perspective, work has a deeper meaning and serves a higher purpose. 
  • Management learns to truly listen and builds a safe place where employees can speak the truth without fear of repercussions. 
  • Management will break down the walls of hierarchy to create a sense of community and inspire a sense of belonging in their employees. 
  • There is a new willingness to reflect on the meaning of life and moral implications in making important decisions. 
  • There is a shared attitude that products and services need to be beneficial to community and humanity. 
  • Management will value employees based on who they are, what they can become, rather than what they can do for the company. 
  • Bosses will treat employees in a responsible, respectful and caring way, because people are not instruments to be used and exploited. 
  • Management will also resort to spiritual ways of resolving conflict. Therefore, they will be reluctant in issuing ultimatum and slow in the "firing trigger". 
  • There will be a move from command-and-control leadership to horizontal servant leadership, which emphasizes empowering, delegation and cooperation. 
  • There will be an improvement in morale, job satisfaction, loyalty and productivity.
  • Spiritual dimension will be fully integrated with every aspect of work life, such as relationships, planning, budgeting, negotiation, compensation, etc. 

Such an organization sounds like fictional as Shangri-La. Even the core religious organizations which practices spirituality and endorse statements of faith may not have such kind of practices as mentioned. Therefore, efforts to be made to find out the reasons that hinder the Management from creating a truly spiritual work climate. 

One basic fact to be inscribed as truly spirited workplace produce healthy individuals who are more reliable, make better decisions and more productive than others.  A spirituality driven workplace begins with determining how an organization and its employees can become more cohesively connected by experiencing purpose and meaningfulness in work, connectedness through positive relationships, and alignment of personal and organizational values.  It also promotes self-awareness among employees and their surroundings. When these practices are followed in an organization, this will certainly lead to a committed and integrated workplace in this era of change by enhancing productivity and profit. Unless there is a commitment and courage to implement a spirited workplace by the employers, then achieving a high-end organization may be a distant dream.   


*Spirituality and Meaning at Work

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