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Work Life
The Role of Spirituality in the Workplace: The Implications and Benefits

Understanding the role spirituality plays in workplace excellence and work/life balance among workers and leaders alike.

At a time when there is an uproar regarding spirituality and religion in the nation’s schools, progressive employers are beginning to understand the positive influence spirituality and religion has on their employees. Strong leadership grows from a healthy work/life balance and those who are spiritually driven often strive for that equilibrium.

Employees who have a sense of spirituality or follow a religious belief will have a higher sense of job satisfaction as long as their job does not conflict with their values. Many stable families have spirituality or religion as their cornerstone and this often translates into excellent performance at work.

Men and women in leadership roles, both as small business owners and as leaders in a larger organization, benefit in various ways when spirituality is a part of their lives and is allowed to find expression in the workplace.

More companies are now providing areas for employees to meditate, pray, or read without discrimination or disturbance. This lends to the understanding there is a positive correlation between worker productivity and satisfaction, and the acceptance of spiritual diversity among the workforce.

Employee Characteristics

Kent Rhodes identified desirable traits that can be attributed to spiritual employees, the value they bring to other team members, and the positive impact they have on the bottom line. When a company values sustainability and contribution to the greater good in a global sense, spiritual workers are energized through promotion of services and products that “make the world a better place”.

To cultivate successful behaviors in the workplace, a company must understand the need to support and acknowledge the “whole person,” not just the work life of an employee. Many health care plans support this by providing employee assistance programs, free or low-cost counseling services, mentoring, and training/educational programs on all types of topics.

Spiritual and religious employees often have a strong sense of right and wrong, which permeates every aspect of their lives. Ethical behaviors and principles have a direct effect on the bottom line in less workplace theft and fewer incidents of time mismanagement.

Leadership Performance

Kinjerski & Skyrpnek (as cited by Luidolf Bosch, 2009) state there are “measurable changes in health, personality, mental functioning and behavior” when leaders can feel free to maintain their spiritual experiences in the workplace. This has a direct link to “…increased creativity, honest, trust, and commitment in the workplace…”

Bosch’s 2009 study study concludes “spirituality is a central factor which can contribute to the enhancement and development of leadership, learning and communication in the modern business workplace.”

Allowing employees and leaders to maintain their spiritual and moral compass leads to greater self-respect and increased respect shown to others. Spirituality is going to be as diverse as the people who make up the organization; therefore, respect for other’s belief systems is vital.

Leaders accept greater diversity in their teams’ ideas, methods, approaches and thoughts when their own personal spirituality is respected. Respect for spiritual diversity on the part of leaders ensures strong inter-departmental relationships and a balanced team of people supportive of each other.

Ethical Behavior

Just as important as self-respect, a leader with a strong sense of values and ethics is important when building company credibility. For example, a potential client is seeking a product to meet a specific need. The CEO of the company who wants to sell this client their product knows the product will only partially meet the client’s need. However, the CEO pressures the lead sales manager to sell the client the inadequate product nonetheless. Three things might occur:

1. If the sales manager feels threatened and believes the CEO will only accept the unethical request he or she has made, the sales manager may simply quit, taking years of equitable experience and knowledge. This has a negative impact on everyone involved.

2. The sales manager may go against the CEO’s advice and explain to the potential client they could be better served elsewhere, noting the limitations of the product. This could either result in the client’s willingness to do business anyway thanks to the credibility the sales manager displayed, or perhaps will go elsewhere for that particular product. However, if the client chooses a product from another company for that particular need, the client will very likely give business to that manager again if there is a product or service need they can fulfill. This is because the manager acted ethically in a situation that could potentially cost him or her his or her job.

3. The sales manager will do what the CEO asked, resulting in a frustrated and unhappy client and a sales manager with lowered self-respect, and greater discontent in the job. This could snowball into an unhappy team, lowered productivity in the entire department, and reduced profitability for the next quarter’s numbers.

Job Satisfaction

Joel Bennett, Ph.D., Wyndy Wiitala, and Camille Patterson (2003) interviewed business owners with companies from five to 115 workers with a questionnaire about their employees. They found plenty of information about workplace spirituality for big corporations, but very little on the impact it has on small businesses.

The issues most affecting productivity and safety of workers were personal stress, personal problems brought to work, and stress due to absent coworkers. One surprising discovery from the study: personal issues such as alcohol and drug addiction, chronic health problems, and depression disproportionately affect smaller businesses with fewer employees.

The results show a significant association between spirituality and spillover of personal issues that affect work. Those small business owners with fewer employees need to support the spiritual health of their employees, both by example, and by allowing for a diverse and open atmosphere in respect to belief systems.

Diversity and Religion

Cultural diversity is the key to further understanding the relationship between spirituality and the workplace. Certain cultures are very devout in their beliefs and practices. Disallowing this freedom at work will greatly affect their sense of worth in the eyes of their employers.

Summary

In conclusion, workplace allowances for the diversity in spirituality and religion will have positive effects across the entire workforce

Several recent studies on spirituality and the workplace may not have an all-conclusive final answer regarding spirituality in the workplace; however, they convey the idea that spiritual diversity should continue to be part of a discussion. Previously, diversity was thought simply in terms of race, sex, and ethnicity. Diversity of thought is building into that definition and it deserves attention.

Leaders should promote the spiritual/work balance by providing quiet meditation areas. Strong leadership grown from a healthy spiritual balance will foster employees’ spirituality, resulting in higher job satisfaction, greater performance, better work/life balance, and greater self-respect.




 

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