EASTER Sunday is a cause for celebration because it symbolizes hope for the resurrection not only of the physical body but also of the spirit. It promises a transformation from an old order to a new order where humanity achieves wholeness in the loving embrace of our Creator. With this flicker of hope, in the midst of the frailties of humankind and the imperfections of the world, we continually strive to progress towards this resurrection of our existence.
In the workplace, this striving is reflected in the way we search for meaning, purpose and value in our work. It is also reflected in our efforts to make our workplaces better places to work and live in. However, in many workplaces, the desired transformation into a better workplace, a better world, may seem like a faint dream. The reality at work are environments and relationships of strife and shadows that make the workplace far from the haven and heaven we long for.
While many Filipinos can be considered religious, in the sense that we are devout practitioners of our respective religions, whether Catholic, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, there is sometimes a dichotomy in our religious beliefs and how we behave in society, especially at work. This is called the “Sunday-Monday gap.” How we behave on Sunday (or on the day of your worship) in church or mosque or temple may be far removed from how we behave on Monday at work until the end of the workweek.
We observe many behaviors at work that do not reflect our religious beliefs and our spiritual values but many accept as “just part of working.” These are unethical decisions, immoral behavior, corrupt practices, dishonesty, lying, cheating and politicking, among a host of other behaviors that go against our religion. A buyer will consider it par for the course to ask for a commission from a supplier. A boss will not think twice before making a pass at a subordinate. A clerk will not provide efficient service unless he is given a “blowout” from a customer. A co-worker will cover up for an employee who is stealing from the company because of friendship. An ambitious management trainee will fabricate stories about his competitor to get a promotion. A manager will sow intrigues against a co-manager with the CEO and other colleagues in order to earn brownie points for more perks. This list is endless. But many at work just accept these as part of surviving in the workplace.
Many values-led leaders in the workplace realize that such a situation can wreck havoc to their organizations, effectively disabling the capacity of their companies to fulfill their objectives. Many inspirational leaders have also come to realize that it is only by infusing values in the workplace, values that are aligned with the employees’ own beliefs and values, that the deterioration of moral fiber of the organization can be stopped.
This has given rise to the growing movement in workplaces to infuse values at work. There are company-sponsored masses, company-organized pastoral groups or Bible study groups, training programs and organizational development initiatives that focus on “soft” values rather than “hard” skills, and other activities that nurture the soul. These activities have flourished without awareness from management and employees alike that this is “spirituality at work.”
The reason for this non-labeling is that using the word “spirituality” is fraught with so much misunderstanding. Many connect it to religion, which is something that, ironically, causes divisiveness rather than unity. However, in the US and other countries, spirituality in the workplace is a movement, while in its infancy, that is fast gaining ground in organizations seeking to promote “not simply private gain by the common good,” according to Jane Lampman who wrote “A New Spirit At Work.”
To understand this phenomenon, let us define the root work of spirituality, which is “spirit.” Webster’s dictionary defines spirit as “the intelligent, immaterial and immortal part of man; the soul, in distinction from the body in which it resides.” Thus, spirituality is generally defined, according to Mike McLoughlin who wrote the paper “Spiritual Formation in the Workplace: God’s Spirit at Work,” as “the expression of a person’s intelligent, immaterial and immortal being.” He says, “However spirituality is defined, the essence is that there is more to life than the physical and the material. The ‘more’ is to be discovered by pursuing non-material things, ideas, concepts and inspirations.”
Jay A. Conger, author of “Spirit at Work,” defines spirituality further. He writes, “In its truest sense, spirituality gives expression to the being that is in us; it has to do with feelings, with the power that comes from within, with knowing our deepest selves and what is sacred to us, with, as Matthew Fox says, ‘heart-knowledge.’”
Because human beings are both body and soul intertwined, therefore, we bring our spirituality to our organization, which we expect to provide avenues for expressing our spirituality, for our desire to find purpose in our work, for creating meaningful work, and for achieving self-actualization or fulfillment in doing work we were meant to do on earth.
Author: Regina Galang Reyes. First published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer April 11, 2004.
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