Spirituality in the Workplace LO5301

John Woods (jwoods@execpc.com)
Fri, 2 Feb 1996 09:22:48 -0600 (CST)

Replying to LO5293 --

Sandy Kettle asks (and I make a few comments below):
> I intend to do my doctoral research to find out about the presence
>of or some aspect of spirituality in the workplace. Examples might be:
>What are the characteristics of an organization that nurtures the
>individual's spirit? How has an individual's spirituality positively
>affected outcomes in an organization? How comfortable are managers,
>leaders, CEOs, etc., with the concept of a spiritual workplace?

First let me recommend some books that covertly or overtly make a case for
acknowledging and nurturing the human spirit in the workplace:

Michael Ray and Alan Rinzler, editors, The New Paradigm in Business
(Tarcher/Perigee, 1993)

William Lareau, American Samurai (Warner Books, 1991) This book never
talks about the spirit, but is about bringing out the best in every

John O. Whitney, The Trust Factor (McGraw-Hill, 1994).

Frank K. Sonnenberg, Managing with a Conscience (McGraw-Hill, 1994).

Carol Orsborn, Inner Excellence: Spiritual Principles of Life-Driven
Business (New World Library, 1992).

Crescencio Torres, The Tao of Teams (Pfeiffer & Co., 1994).

John Cowan, Small Decencies: Reflections and Meditations on Being Human at
Work (HarperBusiness, 1992).

Of course, Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline (Doubleday Currency, 1990).

and lots of others.

Now let's talk more about your goal. When we talk about spirituality in
the workplace, I suppose we are talking about consciously getting at what
it is that animates us as human beings. It is about acknowledging and
nurturing that. It is about understanding that by so doing, we are also
looking out for the organization. It is, further, knowing there is no
best way to do that, but with, still, the clear commitment and
articulation that that is what we are about.

Then the question becomes what about places that don't deal with spirit in
the workplace? What about the secular in the workplace? We should, I
think, recognize, that the secular only has meaning in relation to the
spiritual, both are enfolded into one another. What we are looking at
when we explore spirit in the workplace is not whether spiritual matters
are relevant and useful, but whether managers recognize this. Those who
do not are, in the final analysis, in a kind of state of denial (knowingly
or unknowingly). And like all folks in such a state, are more likely to
cause grief for themselves and others. The mediocrity that permeates many
businesses is the direct result of not appreciating that which we might
call the spiritual side of people. Why? Because, as noted above, that is
the "force" that animates us, that gets us in touch with what's best in
us. Failing to recognize and act on that is the formula for doing poorly.

Finally, with that said, a manager does not have to say directly "We are
going to make ours a spiritual workplace." The fact is that when we
acknowledge each other as human beings, when we work at facilitating each
other's success to our mutual benefit and to the benefit of the customers
and society that we serve (and who provide the resources that by which we
can continue to do this), then we are building spirit in the workplace
without ever saying this in so many words. (That was a long
sentence--sorry about that.) If you read books about spirit in the
workplace, this is what they are talking about. If you read books about
enlightened management, this is what they are talking about. If you read
books about TQM, this is what they are talking about. Do you think this
is an accident, or do you think something's going on here? I do. I, we,
these books, are talking, not about just about getting spiritual in the
workplace, but getting in touch with reality. Of course, for me, those
are necessarily connected and really the same thing. You may do your
thesis on this matter, and it's a good, no, a great idea to do so. But as
you go about this, recognize that you are not exploring new ideas, but
ideas as old as humanity itself. They are about human beings seeking to
make sense of themselves and use that understanding to better adapt to and
shape the world of which we are all a part.

I hope this is helpful.

John Woods