“Spirituality in the Workplace is a movement that began in the early 1990s. It emerged as a grassroots movement with individuals seeking to live their faith and/or spiritual values in the workplace. One of the first publications to mention spirituality in the workplace was Business Week, June 5, 2005.
The cover article was titled “Companies hit the road less traveled: Can spirituality enlighten the bottom line?” However, prior to that, William Miller wrote an article titled “How Do We Put Our Spiritual Values to Work,” published in “New Traditions in Business: Spirit and Leadership in the 21st Century” edited by John Renesch, 1992, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
Gilbert Fairholm wrote, “Capturing the Heart of Leadership: Spiritual Community in the New American Workplace” in 1997 and Jay Conger wrote “Spirit at Work: Discovering the Spirituality in Leadership” in 1994, both considered germinal works in the field. Spiritual or spirit-centered leadership is a topic of inquiry frequently associated with the workplace spirituality movement (Benefiel, 2005; Biberman, 2000; Fry, 2005; Giacalone & Jurkiewicz, 2003; June, 2006).
The movement began primarily as U.S. centric but has become much more international in recent years. Key factors that have led to this trend include:
- Mergers and acquisitions destroyed the psychological contract that workers had a job for life. This led some people to search for more of a sense of inner security rather than looking for external security from a corporation.
- Baby Boomers hitting middle age resulting in a large demographic part of the population asking meaningful questions about life and purpose.
- The millennium created an opportunity for people all over the world to reflect on where the human race has come from, where it is headed in the future, and what role business plays in the future of the human race.
In the late 1990s, the Academy of Management formed a special interest group called the Management, Spirituality and Religion Interest Group. This is a professional association of management professors from all over the world who are teaching and doing research on spirituality and religion in the workplace. This action by the Academy of Management was a significant step in legitimizing workplace spirituality and spirituality in the workplace as a new field of study.”
A GROWING MOVEMENT
A proliferation of book titles (currently over 500) reflects a growing national movement to bring spiritual values into the workplace: The Soul of Business, Liberating the Corporate Soul, Working from the Heart, The Stirring of Soul in the Workplace, Jesus CEO, What Would the Buddha Do At Work?, Spirit at Work, Redefining the Corporate Soul, The Corporate Mystic, Leading with Soul, etc. Some books on this theme, such as Stephen Covey’s pioneering The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, have sold millions of copies.
There are several national newsletters and associations based on spirituality at work, as well as dozens of national conferences on this theme, including one I organized in Washington in 1998 with over 50 leaders, including many from local businesses such as Marriott International and Riggs Bank. The prestigious American Management Association held a conference on “Profiting from a Values-Based Corporate Culture”-on how to tap into the 4th dimension of spirituality and ethics as crucial components for success.
To the surprise of many, this movement is beginning to transform corporate America from the inside out. Growing numbers of business people want their spirituality to be more than just faith and belief-they want it to be practical and applied. They want to bring their whole selves to work-body, mind, and spirit. Many business people are finding that the bottom line can be strengthened by embodying their values. They can “do well by doing good.”
People at all levels in the corporate hierarchy increasingly want to nourish their spirit and creativity. When employees are encouraged to express their creativity, the result is a more fulfilled and sustained workforce. Happy people work harder and are more likely to stay at their jobs. A study of business performance by the highly respected Wilson Learning Company found that 39% of the variability in corporate performance is attributable to the personal satisfaction of the staff. Spirituality was cited as the second most important factor in personal happiness (after health) by the majority of Americans questioned in a USA Weekend poll, with 47% saying that spirituality was the most important element of their happiness.
Across the country, people increasingly want to bring a greater sense of meaning and purpose into their work life. They want their work to reflect their personal mission in life. Many companies are finding the most effective way to bring spiritual values into the workplace is to clarify the company’s vision and mission and to align it with a higher purpose and deeper commitment to service to both customers and community.
PRAYER AND MEDITATION IN THE WORKPLACE
Many people use prayer at work for several reasons: for guidance in decision-making, to prepare for difficult situations, when they are going through a tough time, or to give thanks for something good. Timberland Shoes CEO Jeffrey B. Swartz uses his prayer book and religious beliefs to guide business decisions and company policy, often consulting his rabbi. Kris Kalra, CEO of BioGenex uses the Hindu holy text, The Bhagavad Gita, to steer his business out of trouble.
The ABC Evening News reported that The American Stock Exchange has a Torah study group; Boeing has Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayer groups; Microsoft has an on-line prayer service. There is a “Lunch and Learn” Torah class in the banking firm of Sutro and Company in Woodland Hills, CA. New York law firm Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays, and Haroller features Tallmud studies. Koran classes, as well as other religious classes, are featured at defense giant Northrop Gumnan. Wheat Internatonal Communications in Reston, Virginia has morning prayers open to all employees, but not required. Spiritual study groups at noon are sometimes called “Higher Power Lunches” – instead of the usual “power lunches.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Marketplace Ministries of Dallas placed freelance chaplains at 132 companies in 38 states. Fellowship of Companies for Christ International based in Atlanta has 1500 member companies around the world. They promote “The importance and practice of prayer in company decisions; a commitment to excellence; following Jesus’ example of focusing on people, not things. “Do unto others in the workplace as you would have them do unto you,” is what they strive for. Fast food companies such as Taco Bell and Pizza Hut hire chaplains from many faiths to minister to employees with problems and credit them with reducing turnover rates by one half.
In addition to prayer and study groups, other spiritual practices at companies include meditation; centering exercises such as deep breathing to reduce stress; visioning exercises; building shared values; active, deep listening; making action and intention congruent, and using intuition and inner guidance in decision-making. According to a study at Harvard Business School published in The Harvard Business Review, business owners credit 80% of their success to acting on their intuition.
Apple Computer’s offices in California have a meditation room and employees are actually given a half hour a day on company time to meditate or pray, as they find it improves productivity and creativity. A former manager who is now a Buddhist monk leads regular meditations there. Aetna International Chairman Michael A. Stephen praises the benefits of meditation and talks with Aetna employees about using spirituality in their careers. Avaya, a global communications firm that is a spin-off of Lucent/AT& T, has a room set aside for prayer and meditation that is especially appreciated by Muslims, as they must pray five times a day.
Medtronic, which sells medical equipment, pioneered a meditation center at headquarters 20 years ago, and it remains open to all employees today. Prentice-Hall publishing company created a meditation room at their headquarters which they call the “Quiet Room, where employees can sit quietly and take a mental retreat when they feel too much stress on the job. Sounds True in Colorado, which produces audio and videotapes, has a meditation room, meditation classes and begins meetings with a moment of silence. Employees can take Personal Days to attend retreats or pursue other spiritual interests. Greystone Bakery in upstate New York has a period of silence before meetings begin so people can get in touch with their inner state and focus on the issues to be discussed.
Lotus founder and CEO Mitch Kapor practices Transcendental Meditation and named his company after a word for enlightenment. A research project by Prof. Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin at Pomega, a biotechnology company that had a very high-stress workplace, found a mindfulness meditation training produced astonishing results in reducing stress and generating positive feelings.
Paula Madison at WNBC TV in New York City prays before each show and says she became the number one news show in the area when she increased coverage of spiritual stories. Apparel manufacturer Patagonia provides yoga classes for employees on their breaks, as does Avaya telecommunications. A Spiritual Unfoldment Society has been meeting regularly at The World Bank for years, with lectures on topics such as meditation and reincarnation.
Executives of Xerox have gone on week-long retreats led by Marlowe Hotchkiss of the Ojai Foundation to learn a Native American model of council meetings and experience vision quests. The vision quests inspired one manager with the idea to create Xerox’s hottest seller, a 97% recyclable machine.
The CEO of Rockport Shoes, Angel Martinez, talks openly of the spiritual mission of his company and encourages employees to spend work time envisioning ways to express their deepest selves in their work. Companies such as Evian spring water have successfully used spirituality in their advertising, as for example.: “Your body is the temple of your spirit.”
The Service-Master Company, with six million customers worldwide, provides cleaning, maintenance, lawn care and food services, and puts its spiritual values upfront in its annual report. It begins with a biblical quote, “Each of us should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
RESEARCH ON SPIRITUALITY
“Are spirituality and profitability mutually exclusive? Bringing ethics and spiritual values into the workplace can lead to increased productivity and profitability as well as employee retention, customer loyalty, and brand reputation, according to a growing body of research. More employers are encouraging spirituality as a way to boost loyalty and enhance morale.
A recent study done at the University of Chicago by Prof. Curtis Verschoor and published in Management Accounting found that companies with a defined corporate commitment to ethical principles do better financially than companies that don’t make ethics a key management component. Public shaming of Nike’s sweatshop conditions and slave wages paid to overseas workers led to a 27% drop in its earnings several years ago. And recently, the shocking disregard of ethics and subsequent scandals led to financial disaster for Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom, Global Crossing, and others.
Business Week magazine reported on recent research by McKinsey and Company in Australia that found productivity improves and turnover is greatly reduced when companies engage in programs that use spiritual techniques for their employees.
In researching companies for his book, A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America, business professor Ian I. Mitroff found that
Spirituality could be the ultimate competitive advantage.
A study reported in MIT’s Sloan Management Review concluded that, “People are hungry for ways in which to practice their spirituality in the workplace without offending their co-workers or causing acrimony.” The word “spirituality” is used generically and seems to emphasize how one’s beliefs are applied day to day, rather than “religion”, which can invoke fears of dogmatism, exclusivity and proselytizing in the workplace.
Research by UCLA business professor David Lewin found that “companies that increased their community involvement were more likely to show an improved financial picture over a two year time period.” A two year study by the Performance Group, a consortium of seven leading European companies such as Volvo, Monsanto, and Unilever, concluded that environmental compliance and eco-friendly products can increase profitability, enhance earnings per share and help win contracts in emerging markets. Investment returns on the Domini 400 Social Index (publicly traded, socially responsible, triple bottom line companies) have outperformed the S&P 500 over a ten year period ending last year.
Business Week reported that 95% of Americans reject the idea that a corporation’s only purpose is to make money. 39% of U.S. investors say they always or frequently check on business practices, values, and ethics before investing. The Trends Report found that 75% of consumers polled say they are likely to switch to brands associated with a good cause if price and quality are equal.”
SERVICES IN WORKPLACE SPIRITUALITY
Our spirituality in the workplace services helps organizations to grow and to contribute to society in a meaningful way. It is about care, compassion, and support of others; about integrity and people being true to themselves and others. It means individuals and organizations bringing their values more fully in the work they do.
Faiez’s work in this area has been focused on the following services:
- Organizational Spiritual Analysis (to determine organizational and its people readiness for introducing spirituality in the workplace
- Facilitation/Development of Strategy for Workplace Spirituality
- Review, advice, and development of ethical plans and programs to support strategy including:
- People Management Practices
- Employee Relations
- Workplace Health, Safety and Security
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Procurement practices
- Supply Chain Management
- Quality and Production Management
- Supply Chain Management
- Customer Services/Care
- Vendors/Associates Relations
- Corporate Governance
- Financial Management
- Workplace Spiritual Audit
- People/HR Audit (to determine employee satisfaction/stress level and their needs)
- Work-Life Balance strategies and programs
- Corporate Vision Statement and its Spiritual Impact analysis
- Corporate Social Responsibility and its Spiritual Impact analysis
- Values-centered leadership practices
- Developing a value-based workplace culture