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Spirituality in the Workplace
A spirituality of the workplace offers everyone (Christian, non-Christian, atheist) a way to integrate the many facets of often times very fragmented lives through work. It is not about thumping the Bible, but trying to reach the underlying concepts that promote integration. A work place spirituality respects the religious dimension of everyone involved and is truly ecumenical, while at the same time economical. It fosters the kind of fundamental dialogue or conversation where any religious tradition can find expression and work to integrate human life.
We serve such a spirituality by introducing the basic vocabulary of faith, hope and love in the work place. Simply put this spirituality starts by asking three simple questions of ourselves and one
another. In what do we believe? What are our dreams? And do we truly love?
Spirituality in the work place enables employers, employees, clients and families to acknowledge the relationship between their own spiritual beliefs and handle cultural diversity and social justice issues at work.
Spirituality In The Workplace Information
Spirituality in the workplace suggests that there be more to work than just survival.
The fear is about losing our job and having to do more with less. And the emergence of spirituality in the work place points to the desire that there be more to work than just survival. We yearn for work to be a place in which we both experience and express our deep soul and spirit.
How do we bring spirituality into a work place where aggression is so valued, admired and rewarded?
While no one likes to feel marginalized, unfortunately people often are by gender, race, sexual preference and other areas commonly addressed in social discourse. It is time to come together around the common theme of spirituality, the spirit of the employee, the spirit of the work place, and the spirit which transcends it all to give meaning to it.
Does your business place have a policy on vacations or sick leaves? Or does it have clearly established hours of opening and closing? Does your employer offer you health benefits? These questions, and others like them, seem very consistent with the work place, but if I ask Does your business place have a spirituality? you might find the question odd. How can a place of work have a spirituality? Well this is exactly the question I plan to address.
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Spirituality At Work
I think that the word spirituality has stumped the vast majority of people. For many, they have viewed it with suspicion, as though it bordered on the occult. This is an unfortunate fact. I believe that spirituality provides a vocabulary that has been missing from the work place.
Such a lack, not having some way to express aspects of one's whole life, actually diminishes both human productivity and personal satisfaction. Such alienation Karl Marx perceived and commented on quite differently than I will today. For Marx, alienation was of the worker from the object of work.
The very process of production, as Marx saw, was reduced to the parts of the process, and lacking the sense of satisfaction found in the artisan's or craftsman's previously completing the entire cycle of work. While alienation may have come about for economic reasons, it is the spiritual side of the problem I wish to address.
Spirituality, simply put, can be considered as the integrating principle of a person's life. Given this definition, we can talk about a variety of spiritualities. For some golf or running becomes the integrating principle, or for some power might be the integrating principle, or even a sense of social justice might provide an integrating principle.
However, it is through the integration of truly religious principles that a proper spirituality may be found. For as much as some things can integrate, the religious principles clearly offer us the most satisfying means for human integration. Having said that, I need to explain.
The kind of alienation that plagues our modern post-industrial information society is the tendency toward fragmentation of life. For the sake of managing our lives we tend to compartmentalize even our life itself. No longer an alienation of the means of production but we now face an alienation in our means of living, a self-alienation.
We compartmentalize our lives into fragments: work, play, rest, home, kids, school, church, social and personal blocks. Unfortunately, the end result is a fragmented life. Spirituality provides a way of bring about a kind of completion or wholeness in one's life that is lacking due to this pervasive alienation.
In the work place, spirituality pertains to the ways in which the work place environment lends itself to the kind of integration needed, not only in the work place, but for all of life as well. It takes the chaos and confusion not only of work, but of the many desperate bits of people's lives, transforming them into a mosaic of meaning.
By way of illustration, it is not unlike the holographic posters popular a few years back. Their meaningless bits and dots fell into place not by focusing but by un-focusing so that the image could be seen.
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The Value of Spirituality in the Work Place
Spiritual tradition offers many insights which can serve a variety of religious traditions. In a true sense, the work place is ecumenical not secular, people of many faiths and of no faiths share the nine to five world. Consequently, the question is not about proselytizing, that is trying to win converts, but about dialogue, trying to make conversation. In this context the work place benefits from a dialogue or conversation that is timeless. The value of this conversation is seen in the way people move from alienation to integration which benefits the personal as well as the professional aspects of work.
The value of spirituality, at least what I hope to offer, is that it provides a base-language which focuses us on the real issues of integration. It recognizes that full human flourishing longs to be satisfied at a depth level of meaning and it challenges all impostors and pretenders, especially those of our own making. Spirituality in the work place enables employers, employees, clients and suppliers to bring together the shards of their fragmented life. This is done not by invoking a confessional language, preaching at people, but by exploring a professional language, being with people. Many of us are all too aware of work places which lack even the means necessary to pursue a meaningful life. Often such environments lose out on the fullest contribution of its employees because they will bracket out their job from the rest of who they are.
Not only does a spirituality of the work place foster the meaningfulness of an integrated life, it can also safeguard against the dysfunctionality often present in the work place. Two dysfunctional realities in particular, work-aholism and impersonalism, seem to rob everyone involved, both employer and employee. The first, work-aholism, occurs when a person tries to cope with the fragmentation of his or her life by fixating on just the one facet of life, namely work. Such drive can be rationalized and even socially sanctioned, but in the end it is self-destructive. The second, impersonalism, is equally dysfunctional. It happens when our sense of alienation extends beyond the things in the work place to the very people with whom we work. Impersonalism reduces employer, employee, co-worker to the status of mere object. It seems to me a safe bet that in some form or another, work-aholism and impersonalism account for most absences, illnesses and resignations in the work place.
Work place spirituality. Now that I have defined spirituality and touched on its value, I would like to offer a kind of workplace spirituality built on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. I say built on these virtues because like any good foundation they are out of site yet they support the more apparent structures.
As we saw in the previous talk, the cardinal virtues provide moral strength of character in the workplace but just being ethical isn't enough. We find that the theological virtues enable us to move beyond the ethical to an almost sacred sense of rightness. This added capacity, St. Thomas said, is a gratuitous but necessary gift from God. And while it isn't an essential class taught in the business or management schools, it is an essential piece to achieving the purpose for which we were created in God's image.
Spirituality in the workplace enhances human nature and enables us to excel in our journey to God.
If this is true, and I have no doubt that it is, the concepts of faith, hope and love can provide the missing element in what we might consider a perfectly ethical business or a completely moral life. I stress the concepts of these virtues because in the work place we need to address the underlying reality common to all people suggested by these religious terms. In other words, Jews, or Muslims, or Buddhist, or Christian may not share the terminology but certainly share the concepts of faith, hope and love.
Faith, for Thomas, pertains to God and the things related to God. In fact the real object of faith is simplicity, but the human mind lacks the ability to grasp simplicity as simplicity so it must rely on a variety of concepts to hint at the true object of faith. Our concepts about the object of faith are born of the human encounter with God and are understood as revelation. Belief in these revelations, gathered together by the community of faith into propositions called articles, this enables a person to begin to grasp his or her encounter. However, the act of faith is to believe and this capacity to believe is a vital part of any spirituality, Christian or non-Christian.
Faith is related to the gifts of understanding and knowledge, and by extension I would say that a workplace spirituality needs to be open to the kind of belief that leads to understanding and knowledge. Perhaps a better phrase is the notion of meaning. If our places of work are open to faith, believing not only in the mystery of God, but in that God present and active in the arena of human history, then the meaning of one's life falls into place. Understanding and knowledge as gifts of the Holy Spirit help to integrate a life of faith.
For many "jobs," technical knowledge is needed, but such knowledge is vastly different from the knowledge and understanding spoken of as gifts. The more we are able to interject a language of believing into the work place the sooner the concept of faith begins to shape meaning.
Do you believe in this project? Do you believe in some overarching plan beyond your control? Do you believe in yourself and the gifts that are yours? Such questions give rise to the larger question DO YOU BELIEVE? This becomes part of an unspoken workplace spirituality. The workplace becomes a place where the questions of faith find a home. In what or in whom do you believe?
The next concept is that of hope. For Thomas the proper object of hope is eternal happiness or ultimately God. The object of hope, Thomas says, is a future good, arduous but possible to obtain. His placement of hope between faith and love is particularly instructive. It is faith that leads us to believe that such an object as God is our future good and it is from this perspective or order of generation that hope comes before love or charity. Hope looks to a future, but acknowledges the present struggle as well as the possibilities.
A work place spirituality requires the language of hope that looks to the future. It is very important that people dream dreams. Hope enables an employee to dream into one seamless garment the many strands of one's life, or it sets before an employer or owner the realities of struggles and hardships in light of a future goal. Hope-talk can be introduced into any work place with the question of dreams: What good things would you like to see happen? Where would you like to be in another 5 or 10 years? Am I willing to strive for my dreams? Do my dreams exceed the possible? Are they attainable?
But hope is not only about dreams. Surprisingly Thomas explains that hope's gift is fear. Not fear of God but fear of losing God. Such pure fear leads to wisdom in relating to God. So this gift of pure fear makes us desire all the more the object of our hope. Unfortunately the contrary vices of despair and presumption work against hope. Both of these are telling for a work place spirituality. While the theological notions of despair and presumption are born of despising divine mercy with one and Divine justice with the other, for our work place spirituality they are instructive.
Life, with all its component parts possesses a desirability. Our work place spirituality is not only about dreams but the desire to hold fast to the most cherished gifts. The language of hope casts light into the darkness of despair and presumption. For example, if our employees find their situation at home or work hopeless they will despair of the situation and very likely undermine operations. Hope is crucial to integrating worlds, and the work place is an ideal place to confront the unspoken despair that plagues modern life and the human presumption of inflated egos. For Thomas, such hope leads to love.
Love, or charity, as a virtue in Thomas is about benevolently loving someone for their good and not for your own. This most properly is what real friendship means, and aptly captures the kind of charity that Thomas intends. The object of such charity is not only God but must be our neighbor as well. I find it interesting that Thomas stresses actively loving as proper to charity. He writes A...it is clear that to love is more proper to charity than to be loved.... In an age preoccupied with being loved it is challenging to realize that the key to love is actively to love.
This is a lengthy tract in the Summa covering 23 questions so I will briefly focus on the effects of this love. Internally, love begets joy, peace and mercy while externally it manifests itself in beneficence, almsgiving and loving correction. As you might imagine Aquinas thoroughly treats the opposite vices involved which I will discuss momentarily.
In a work place spirituality we can foster the language of love by moving people from a societal preoccupation with being loved. Love is active not passive and many of us find unhappiness in our looking to be loved. Love is an active benevolence, a willing of the good, and it demands that we ask questions of the inner person: Where do you find joy? Are you a person of peace? Do you have a compassionate heart for others? But love is not only about the inner person, since love must be manifest, a selfless giving: Do I or we do good for one another? Do I or we give something to the needy out of compassion and for God's sake? Do I or we offer correction born of love? These kinds of questions reach to the summit of a work place spirituality for they manifest the noblest aspects of human integration.
Hatred is contrary to love and some of the vices that alienate us from love are: envy, discord, contention, and quarrelling. There are others but these seem a good selection which apply to the work place. When you notice these vices - envy, discord, contention, quarrelling - chances are your place of work is in need of a spirituality for the work place.
A spirituality of the workplace offers everyone (Christian, non-Christian, atheist) a way to integrate the many facets of often times very fragmented lives through work. It is not about thumping the Bible, but trying to reach the underlying concepts that promote integration. A work place spirituality respects the religious dimension of everyone involved and is truly ecumenical, while at the same time economical. It fosters the kind of fundamental dialogue or conversation where any religious tradition can find expression and work to integrate human life. We serve such a spirituality by introducing the basic vocabulary of faith, hope and love in the work place. Simply put this spirituality starts by asking three simple questions of ourselves and one another. In what do we believe? What are our dreams? And do we truly love?
Spirituality for the Business Place
M. Demkovich, O.P.
copyrightę 2000 Dominican Ecclesial Institute
Spirituality involves living core holistic values of your soul
Spirituality in the work place means that you translate your basic beliefs into your daily work life. All human beings are the loving children of the same God. There ought to be a common linkage of love among them all. Kindness, patience, honesty and generosity are basic spiritual qualities and are the essence of all human beings. Making every effort to practice these qualities of spirituality in the work place IS spirituality. You treat people with kindness and respect. You try to be patient with irregularities and when necessary punish people from an attitude of love and understanding. Be as generous as possible with your time, money, ideas and love.
Work offers a perfect environment for practice of spirituality. Opportunities to practice patience, kindness, forgiveness and integrity are plenty. You can think loving thoughts, smile, practice gratitude and accept others as they are. An office boy will not be what he is now if he had education, skills, common sense and intelligence like his boss. You can practice being a good listener and empathetic. You can be compassionate, particularly with difficult or rude people. You can practice spirituality in virtually everything that you do, whether you greet people or deal with conflict. You can exhibit it in the way you sell a product or service – or the way you balance ethics with profit. It's literally everywhere.
Spiritual means not selling yourself for money and being proud that you are the person who can be trusted. Feeling good about oneself is an angle of spirituality.
Spirituality reminds you of a higher purpose of living. It helps you to put your problems and concerns into a broader context. It helps you to learn from your difficult experiences rather than become overwhelmed by them. Even if you have to do something terribly difficult such as punishing someone one can do so from your spiritual consciousness. On the other hand if you are confronted with a hardship or even a calamity there is a part of you that is willing to understand the reason. Having this faith helps you get through difficult times. It gives you confidence in a bigger picture. It doesn't mean that difficulties be eased but situations become a little more manageable.
One of the nicest things that happen to people who are spiritual is that the small things do not continue to trouble and drive them crazy. They are able to take things in their stride, move forward and stay focused. Becoming more spiritual at work can help you to become more successful and fulfilling.
By Madan Saluja
Author of "Human Relations - A Practical Guide to Improve Inter-personal Skills"