Friday, January 9, 2009

Spirituality at Work

Organisations can help employees bring their spiritual beliefs to work without letting it disrupt work place harmony
Key learnings:
  • Spirituality and religion can be practiced at work place if a certain level of restraint is maintained
  • Leaders and managers have to be sensitive to the spiritual and religious needs of others and respect their individuality in this regard
  • Following certain guidelines for nurturing a faith- friendly work place can help de-stress employees

Spirituality and religion are extremely personal. Understanding this very basic aspect of this “universal” issue is important as organisations suddenly find themselves surrounded by beliefs and values that echo intolerance. There is tremendous pressure coming in from all quarters of the society. Today’s staff is highly stressed and therefore needs spiritual healing more than the earlier generations. It is important that organisations allow people to practice their spirituality and religion in the work place to soothe nerves of people. Some however may argue that faith -friendliness may lead to cutting favourites and therefore may result in corporate disharmony. While this fear is not completely unfounded, it surely does not define the whole truth. Corporate sociologists believe that religion and spirituality being extremely sensitive are topics that need to be handled with great care. However, once the right precautions are taken creating a faith -friendly work place will benefit the organisation. It would help workers bond better and would also serve as an effective stress- buster.

Keep the faith Organisations can build a faith -friendly place and refrain from succumbing to the dangers of faith favouritism by incorporating certain measures in their actions and policies. The following is an account of measures and restraints that leaders and managers must practice if they wish to teach spiritual etiquettes.

Respect personal beliefs Every individual has a set of personal beliefs that are rooted in religious and spiritual sentiments. Respecting these, without questioning them would help develop a certain level of comfort. It would enable individuals to voice their feelings without fearing consequences of any kind. In addition , leaders and managers must refrain from using words like “meditation” and “religion” that could ignite undesirable response from individuals and may lead to unnecessary conflict or tension. Leaders should instead choose to use words like “reflection” and “spirituality” that are more neutral.

Go beyond religion Sociologists say that when organisations take the matter of spirituality beyond religion it is reflective of a sense of maturity and calmness. Including concepts like compassion for fellow human beings, care for environment and love for animals are examples of expanded spirituality. Employees justify their spirituality when they begin to feel for others and show their concern for fellow beings. Encouraging employees to embrace spirituality with a flavour of compassion by motivating them to participate in campaigns, marathons and other socially motivated drives can help in building a more rewarding bond between the employer and his staff. Employees begin to respect their leader more as they see his concern for others.

Develop spiritual etiquette Spiritual etiquette is the respect that every individual is expected to show for views, opinions, values and beliefs of others even if they do not approve of it. According to sociologists, maintaining a certain decorum when religious opinions are voiced and not taking things personally are important to build a harmonious work place.

Guard against faith bias Faith -friendliness would lose its purpose if employers fail to maintain an impartial take on faith. Bias towards any faith or religion can create disharmony leading to chaos and internal conflicts. Organisations therefore should be neutral in their approach and provide for all faiths equally. For instance, at Ford Motor Co, the Interfaith Alliance operates on the principle that if you want to incorporate your faith group in the alliance then you must help others of different faiths to meet each other too . In addition every faith group in the alliance has to interact with each other and co-operate on certain issues of social significance. The programme initiated by Ford has been a great success and has helped the company create a stress-free work environment.

Refrain from using religious symbols and teachings Leaders and managers should be aware of the sensitivity of religious issues and therefore should refrain from using symbols and teachings from any given religious scripture. Leaders may want to communicate certain teachings that they believe are essential . Then they should paraphrase the teachings and project them as thoughts from the management and not as teachings of a given sect or religion. In addition forcing employees to use meditation techniques or yoga that may be perceived as teachings from a particular religion should also be restricted.

Know when to interject Given the sensitivity of religious issues, managers should always be watchful and alert of a possible conflict breaking out. They should therefore know when to interject if a conversation or discussion seems potentially damaging and diffuse the discussion for better .

Spirituality is integral to human well-being. Every individual has his own personal beliefs that for him define spirituality. It could range from a simple thing like conserving nature to more elaborate ceremonies like pujas and holy rituals. Irrespective of the definition, leaders should respect and acknowledge individual beliefs and master tolerance for the same .This would encourage workers to get their spirituality to work place as , for all of us spirituality is indeed a great stress buster.

Ref: The Manager Mentor

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