“What are you doing these days?”
That is a question I’ve been hearing a lot the past month. My reply usually goes like this, “I have formed a chaplaincy company offering spiritual care to employees in the workplace.”
What follows typically is one of three responses:
- a blank stare
- a request to describe in detail what I do, or
- a question as to why spiritual care is needed in the workplace.
When I first heard about chaplaincy in the workplace I experienced those same responses, well—maybe responses # 2 and # 3. I want to address question # 3--why spiritual care is needed in the workplace. Check that, I want to allow Ian Mitroff and Elizabeth A. Denton to answer it.
A few years ago, Mitroff and Denton wrote a thought-provoking book called A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America. Mitroff held the Harold Quinton Distinguished Professorship of Business Policy at the Marshall School of Business at USC. As an organizational consultant, Denton was in high demand and employed by several Fortune 100 companies. Clearly, these were not preachers or pastors pushing a Christian agenda.
One area of research that caught my attention was their interviews with employees working in U.S. corporations. The authors stated that two answers summarized well the sentiments of those surveyed:
- 1) “Organizations feel free to beat up on us 40 to 60 hours a week. Then they put the burden entirely on us to repair ourselves on our own time so we can come back for more!”
- 2) “Organizations are constantly wanting and demanding more and more of us all the time. But they can't have it both ways. They can't have more of us without getting and urging the whole person. Organizations must give back and contribute as much to the whole person as they want in return.”
Employees in the corporate world do not hold those feelings alone. People holding jobs ranging from factory workers to teachers share them as well.
Sadly, too often organizations and businesses do not seek to integrate the spiritual with the realities of the workplace. Many go in the other direction. Many seek to address the challenges of the workplace by walling off employees from their souls. Leadership too often demands that their employees compartmentalize their spirituality from the workplace.
Ironically enough, according to Mitroff and Denton, many business leaders attempt to draw upon the spiritual without realizing it. They challenge their workers to show enthusiasm—failing to realize the word’s original meaning was “God within.” They pimp spirituality trying to energize their workers!
Enthusiasm in its purest form is a spiritual concept. Employers must tread carefully. If they succeed in eliminating the spiritual from the workplace, they will ultimately kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
I believe Mitroff and Denton are correct in their assessment, and that is one of the reasons I have chosen this course. I am convicted that employers must face up to the fact that people are spiritual beings and that they must address the spirituality of the employees. To do so offers the worker tools for finding deeper meaning in his or her work. Thus, the employer transitions from functioning as a competitor of God to a servant of God. Rather than creating fragmentation in the life of the employee, the employer offers integration—of mind, body, and spirit. This raises the enthusiasm, energy, and creative levels of the employee. To borrow an old slogan, the employer is symbolically saying to the worker, “Be all that you can be.”
In that kind of workplace, everybody wins.