Spiritual Workplace

I think we all can see how having religion “too” front and center in the workplace can be detrimental.  If a certain religion is dominantly displayed, especially by the boss or others in authority, it can lead to pressure to conform, caused by peer pressure, or power in-balance.  In extreme cases, this could lead to harassment accusations.  (Infringement on personal religious beliefs can be a basis for an harassment claim.)  Even if there is no “official” religion for the office, if some of the staff are very energetic, public, or even evangelical in their beliefs, whether Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, or other, this can lead to both the same risk of harassment claims, as well as interpersonal conflicts.

But, if a company is going to put emphasis on culture and values (which it definitely should), how can values be separated from beliefs?  I don’t think you can.  It is artificial to try to separate company values from their spiritual, religious, cultural, and philosophical bases — and this separation removes the true power of the value-based company culture.

I firmly believe that there is an important (if not vital) place for spirituality in the workplace.  It is critical that everyone at the company, especially those in authority, are seen as having a moral basis for their business decisions.  This needs to be more than just legality and ethics.  It needs to be based upon a sense of right-and-wrong, independent of whether there is concern about “getting caught”.  However, as I stressed in the opening paragraph, there is so much risk of this morality becoming an obtrusive, overbearing, demoralizing force, in the company. 

The correct balance can be achieved by adhering to a few core (and broad) principles:

— Adherence to, and even expressions of, personal spirituality are prized and encouraged.

— NO ONE is deemed “right” or wrong, a priori, due to rank, tenure, age (young or old), years of experience, etc.  This does not mean there is no right or wrong, but that no one is assumed to be either.

— Questions are encouraged, valued, and never punished.  Second guessing (questioning after the fact) is not allowed.  No one wants to be told “I told you so”.  

— Decision makers get to make decisions!  While questioning and discussion is encouraged, at some point, decisions must be made.  Not every viewpoint can be addressed, every question answered, etc.  Sometimes leaders need to lead — and make tough calls.

— Once decisions are made, the company pulls forward as a team.  Even if I do not agree with the decision, I will hold faith in the process, that sufficient thought went into the decision, and I will do all I personally can, to make the outcome successful.

— Finally, NO ONE (including bosses) are punished for mistakes!  When it becomes clear, that decisions were wrong, or just need to be revised, it is not about blaming or finding fault — but together (and dispassionately) finding the root cause of the problem, and solving it.  And moving ahead (again) as a team.

In four words — Humility, Honesty, Respect, and Transparency — taken together, can facilitate a fertile corporate environment, for moral, ethical decision making, and personal and company success.