A person’s spirit is the vital principle or animating force traditionally believed to be the intangible, life-affirming force within all human beings. It is a state of intimate relationship with the inner self of higher values and morality as well as recognition of the truth of the inner nature of others. Today many individuals are struggling with what their spirituality means for their work since this is where they spend vast majority of their waking hours. The office is now where more and more people eat, exercise, date, drop their kids, and even nap. Many naturally look to their organizations as a communal center because they lack the continuity and connection found in other settings. Moreover, recent polls have found that American managers and leaders want a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment on the job – even more than they want money and time off.
A Call for Workplace Spirituality
Because of this, a major change is taking place in the personal and professional lives of leaders as many of them more deeply integrate their spirituality and their work. Many agree that this integration is leading to very positive changes in their relationships and their effectiveness. There is also evidence that workplace spirituality programs not only lead to beneficial personal outcomes such as increased job satisfaction, and commitment, but that they also deliver improved productivity and reduce absenteeism and turnover. Employees who work for organizations they consider to be spiritual are less fearful, more ethical, and more committed. And, there is mounting evidence that a more humane workplace is more productive, flexible and creative. Most importantly for organizational effectiveness is the emerging research that that workplace spirituality could be the ultimate competitive advantage. Because of this, there is an emerging and accelerating call for spirituality in the workplace.
Workplace spirituality is not about religion or conversion, or about accepting a specific belief system. Spirituality at work is about leaders and followers who understand themselves as spiritual beings who have a sense of calling that provides meaning and purpose for their lives. It is also about membership where people experience a sense of belonging, connectedness to one another and their workplace community. It begins with the acknowledgement that people have both an inner and an outer life and that the nourishment of the inner life can produce a more meaningful and productive outer life that can have beneficial consequences for employee well-being, corporate responsibility and sustainability, as well as financial performance – The triple bottom line.
Religion and Spirituality
The respected Dalai Lama, in Ethics for the New Millennium, speaks to the relationship between spirituality and religion.
Religion I take to be concerned with faith in the claims of one faith tradition or another, an aspect of which is the acceptance of some form of heaven or nirvana. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, ritual prayer, and so on. Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit—such as love and compassion, patience tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony—which brings happiness to both self and others.
Spirituality as manifested through these qualities provides the foundation for most, if not all, of the world’s spiritual and religious traditions. Both non-denominational spiritual practices and world religions all are fundamentally based on hope/faith in a vision of love and service of others. This explains what some people and organizations (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous) mean when they claim to be spiritual and not religious. Consequently, spiritual leadership can be implemented and practiced with or without religious theory, beliefs, and practices. In our work on leadership we have chosen to use the term spirituality to allow for its application to any organization interested in implementing workplace spirituality. However, this is in no way meant to imply that nondenominational or nontheistic spiritual practices are superior to the religious traditions and their beliefs and practices.