"Spirituality Affects Performance at Work"



By Ms. Neetu Jain


Work, which consumes more time and energy than just about anything else we do, for the majority of employees, remains a tiresome necessity rather than the source of pride or satisfaction. Our daily work is no longer separate from our inner life. Employees have started asking from themselves the hard questions: What do they want out of work and what they are willing to give up to get it. Now a days, employees of both sexes in every age group want a better deal out of work: less stress, more stimulation, better professional growth and more recognition. People are looking to work for fulfillment as it is a part their identity.

It will not be an exaggeration to say that nurturing energy and creativity of employees is very important for keeping the company competitive because unless they take care of their employees as much as they take care of business as the two are inextricably linked they are not going to become efficient and effective. When creating the good place to work means that the people who work there will be inspired and that they will stay with the companies then it's worth the cost. A healthy inner life for oneself as well as one's employees is as critical to a company's survival as a healthy market. There is an increasingly felt need for people to integrate the spiritual dimensions of their lives into what they do for most of the day. People are starting to realize that is they are going to spend a good part of their lives in the office, they would like that time to be spiritually as well as materially rewarding.

This is a new paradigm shift taking place in business : the realm of the spiritual is being linked with business. The researchers have found a new topic for research 'Spirituality at Work Place'. Cutting edge research, demographics exploring the growing consumer embrace of spiritual values and ethics. Leading companies are using mindfulness and other faith based practices to deepen their relationship with customers. World's leading business schools and corporate trainers are advancing mindful and ethical leadership training. The largest driver of this trend is mounting evidence that spirituality based programmes in the work place not only soothe worker's psyche but also deliver improved productivity. This trend is noticeable for the past few years. This will become a ground rule for business success and growth in the year's ahead. 

'Work Place spirituality' refers to a life-oriented quest for personal integration and meaning, a personal commitment to self discovery, self transformation and inner growth. In a work place imbued with spirituality employees are facilitated to work as 'whole persons' with a 'values based' orientation, working consciously at physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions ( Kalburgi. M. Srinivas, 1998 ). Spiritual practices help transform the leadership at the personal and corporate level which is why corporate executives are turning to contemplative practices in business to bring work place transformation.

Companies can not afford to ignore the spiritual dimensions of human resources. Spiritual development helps reduce stress and expands our horizons, helping in experiencing a subliminal happiness that neither material riches nor relationships can yield. The goal of spiritual development is to bring forth social transformation. Therefore organizations should foster conditions which are conducive for integral development of the person and restore the lost balance between Head and Heart, Intellect and Instinct, Intelligence Quotient(IQ) and Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Masculine and Feminine values, Yin and Yang and West and East, Materialism and Spiritualism.

What does spirituality mean? In simple words Spirituality means a life with values based on truth and a life in which we can understand and appreciate the importance of developing good qualities within ourselves; divine virtues such as tolerance, co-operation, love etc. And what does occupation mean? Literally, it implies something that occupies you. Quite obviously, everybody cannot be occupied by everything. Psychiatrists employ 'occupational therapy' to treat people with certain physical or mental illnesses by giving them creative or productive work. But to find that creative or productive work to suit the person's temperament cannot be easy. Even yoga and meditation would not really help by pooling eight to ten hours of misery at work place.

Thomas Edison, in spite of working 18 hours a day once said : "I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun." Edison and many others like him are well on their way to self-actualisation. Abraham Maslow describes self-actualisation as a person's need to be and do that which the person was born to do, his calling "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write." he said If a person's self-actualisation needs are not met, he feels restless, edgy, lacking something. Therefore it is the responsibility of the company to help its employees in their growth and development and fulfill their self actualisation or spiritual needs as well It is clear that human needs are not confined to materialistic needs only. Materialistic needs are necessary, not sufficient to make good life possible. Human needs also include ethical needs, aesthetic needs, spiritual needs and so on. The process of self development is dominated by a continuous search for a set of beliefs & a set of ideals to live with & live for.

In the most famous play "A Doll's House" by Ibsen in the end when the heroine Nora decides to leave her husband's house and walk into the world outside, there are some interesting dialogues. The husband asks: "Have not you been happy..... No, only merry. And you have always been so kind to me. But our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I was father's doll-child & here the children have been my dolls." Later the husband says: "Before all else, you are a wife and a mother" Nora replies : I don't believe that any longer, I believe that before all else, I am a reasonable human being just as you are or, at all events that I must try and become one. Her husband says again: "Nora, don't you have everything in this house that you need?" She says: "I am not interested in having. I am interested in being, in being myself, in my identity, as a person." She values self-esteem more than self interest. Beliefs and ideals give meaning to life and make it worth living. Without authentic beliefs and ideals, one begins developing a sense of helplessness and powerlessness and purposelessness. Humans are essentially spiritual beings, evolved to ask fundamental questions. "Who am I?" Where am I going? "What do others mean to me?" It is an ability to answer questions like these that lead people to balance their work schedules to spend time with the family.

Every organization should try to develop spiritual intelligence of its workers. Spiritual intelligence is about the growth of a human being. It is about moving on in life. About having a direction in life and being able to heal ourselves of all the resentment we carry. It is thinking of our-selves as an expression of a higher reality. It is also about how we look at the resources available to us. We use spiritual intelligence to transform ourselves and others, cope with grief, and move beyond conditioned habits of the past. An executive with high SQ might look beyond profit margins and devote time for voluntary work with orphans spiritual intelligence addresses the need to place one's life as a shared context of value. The simple theory of produce, sell & make money is very primitive. One must have holistic approach, a feeling for the people, one should work for a great cause. Only then it is possible to anticipate the future. Only then we can involve the people working under us. Henry ford once said that a business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business. Corporations have started integrating higher purpose with bottom line for they realized businesses can work for the betterment of all.

A business concern can protect the interest of society by taking active participation in social welfare activities like running schools, colleges, hospitals, public libraries, gardens, charitable trusts and imparting pollution control devices, providing employment to people. Gandhiji's concept of trustee-ship was a step in this direction. He attached greatest importance to ethical & moral values in the domain of business management. All life is linked through the power of the spirit, leads to a unique interpretation of how human beings relate to one another, to all other forms of life, to the universal intelligence, generally called God.

Spirituality in the work place is exploding. Prayer-groups are being formed and religious books are climbing the best-seller list. Organizations are instituting contemplative programmes for their employees. More and more companies are sending their employees to attend programmes like Art of living, Self-managing leadership of Brahama Kumaris, Transcendental Meditation and Vipasana Meditation. Many leading- edge executives are using such methods to successfully navigate organizational change. Thomas crisman, a patent attorney and litigator with Jenkens & Gilchrist, a big corporate-law firm in Dallas, leaves his business behind every winter to spend a month in silence at a meditation retreat in rural India. He does so to deepen his practice of Vipasana Meditation. These programmes affect the performance of people at work.

When an individual employee gets involved in his work and experiences pleasure in work, he is on the way to self actualization. It is satisfaction experienced with regard to his self, his performance, family work, rewards, his colleagues, bosses and his environment He thus becomes more creative and productive. How to facilitate the right balance for the individual and the organization? They need to understand "Individual is the sum total of what he or she brings to the organization and at the end of the day there must be give and take to ensure success. With stress becoming a part of our lives at both personal and professional levels, organizations and managers have to invest in processes & systems to balance life in general. Organization need to feel equally responsible for an employee's success in life and be an enabler to success as against taking the narrow view of only the work environment. Long term investment for improving quality of human capital is a very important element in our competitiveness. Someone has rightly said:

"Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is
Treat a man as he can and should be, 
He will become as he can and should be."

If companies do not recognize employee's inner potential they will act as prisoners with all the doors and windows closed. It is actually what is inside, that counts. The thing inside us makes us go up and that thing is our urge to grow. This thing can be explained with the help of story. There was a man who used to make a living by selling balloons at a fair. He had all balloons of colours, including yellow, red, blue and green. Whenever business was slow, he would release a Helium-filled balloon into the air and when children saw it go up they all wanted to buy one. They would come up to him, buy a balloon and his sales would go up again. He continued this process all day. One day he felt someone tugging at his jacket. He turned around and saw a little boy who asked, "If you release a black balloon, would that also fly? Moved by boy's concern the man replied with empathy "Son it is not the colour of balloon, it is what is INSIDE THAT MAKES IT GO UP."

The same thing applies to our lives as well. It is this inner feeling, this urge which is bottled up in the human heart like champagne in a bottle waiting to burst out at the slightest push which is important. All great adventurers, entrepreneurs, writers, poets and artists get success only because of this extra inner urge to do something meaningful and to express themselves.

In the end to quote Mata Amritanandmayi :

"We must trust our own self. We are not instruments running on batteries; each one of us is a storehouse of infinite strength because we are directly connected to the source of infinite power. We are not candles to be lit by somebody else, but the self-effulgent sun. Tap into this inner reserve of endless power instead of relying on an external source."

References :
Sharma, Subhash, Management in new age, New Age Publishers Ltd., 1996
Vikalpa, Vol. 26, No. 2, April-June, 2001.
Singh, Sampat P, Beliefs, Valves and Ethics'.
Gunther, Marc, God and Business, fortune, 9 July, 2001.
Shah, Hiren, Don't settle for less than a calling, Life Positive, November, 2001.
Prabhnath, Endless Love and Selfless service, Life positive, November, 2001.
Tekkeveettil, Eherian P., Now it's SQ, Life Positive, May, 2001.

*Neetu Jain is an M.B.A, from Wisdom, Banasthali Vidyapith and is pursuing Ph.D. on the subject of "Indian Contributions to Management thought: An Analytical Study of Jain Scriptures". She is presently teaching at IPEM (Institute of Professional Excellence and Management) at Ghaziabad. She has a large number of research papers to her credit on human resource management. She has won many prizes and medals in debates and competitions and is well-verse with computer knowledge. E-Mail : neetujain@yahoo.com



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