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Questions People Ask about Spirituality and the Workplace

Q: What is spirituality?

A: Spirituality is that which comes from within, beyond the survival instincts of the mind. Each of us has a spiritual center, which is our connection to this source of inner knowing.

Q: What do you mean by a "spiritual center?"

A: A spiritual center is our inner core self – beyond our programmed beliefs and values – that is the source of wisdom. It is the source that influences us to behave with passion, understanding, empathy, humility, compassion, and love.

Q: What does the word "spiritual" mean?

A: That which is spiritual:

  • comes from one’s inner self.
  • benefits self and others.
  • creates alignment of purpose/people.
  • comes with surety (validated by the heart).
  • creates inner meaning and motivation about work.
  • creates inner peace in one’s self; centeredness.
  • is a natural desire to help others grow, learn, and succeed.
  • respects and values individual and group dignity.

Q: Is there a difference between spirituality and religion?

A: Yes. Spirituality is "essence" and religion is "form." Spirituality is the source of an unlimited number of forms the human experience may take, such as meditation, prayer, Zen, environmental conservation, and treating others with respect, dignity, and as equals.

Q: What is the relationship between spirituality and work life?

A: Work life has become so demanding, fast paced, stressful, ambiguous, and chaotic that we are forced to seek values-based answers and ways of achieving personal stability from within. We have come to realize that our inner wisdom is the only source that will sustain our adaptation and stability in the long run.

Q: How does spirituality show up in the workplace?

A: Workplace activities that are spiritually sourced include:

  • Bereavement programs.
  • Wellness information displayed and distributed.
  • Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Programs that integrate work/family.
  • Management systems that encourage personal and spiritual transformation.
  • Servant leadership – the desire to serve others first in preference to self.
  • Stewardship – leadership practices that support the growth and well-being of others.
  • Diversity programs that create inclusive cultures.
  • Integration of core values and core business decisions and practices.
  • Leadership practices that support the growth and development of all employees.

Q: What are workers experiencing that requires spirituality as a work force necessity?

A: The necessity for spirituality has intensified because of the pressures of today’s workplace in terms of:

  • Personal Stability – surviving/adapting to the chaotically changing workplace.
  • Balancing Work/Personal Life – revisiting what's important to us and reprioritizing our life activities (based upon spirituality sourced values).
  • Greater Performance – need for continuous learning driven from an inner passion.
  • Work as Meaning – given today's workplace pressures, employees are asking, "What's meaningful work for me?"
  • Work Force Reduction – an increasing need to do more in less time.
  • Humanistic Organizational Cultures – the connect (or disconnect) between an individual's personal values and the organization's practiced values.
  • Self-Management – the need to solve our own problems through greater empowerment and creativity.

Solutions to these challenges require "inner space" exploration and resolution. Inner space exploration and resolution is a spiritual process! Inner space refers to one’s spiritual center.

Q: What is the relationship between spirituality and the workplace?

A: In order to compensate for the loss of job security and the continuing need for high-performing employees, today’s productive and profitable workplaces require organizational cultures that integrate humanistic core values with core business policies, decisions, functions, and behaviors; cultures that support the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of its employees.

Q: What is the role of leadership in promoting spirituality?


  1. Appoint a committee to define how spirituality plays out in your organization – including an appropriate definition of "spirituality in our workplace."
  2. Define how spirituality is (or can be) integrated into your strategic plan.
  3. Do a Spirituality Survey.
  4. Make certain your performance surveys include an evaluation of how effectively your organizational core values are practiced.
  5. Create an environment of trust – where employees feel safe to question, learn, and contribute.
  6. Require personal development seminars – including values clarification and expected humanistic behaviors.
  7. Be an example of the humanistic values you expect of others.
  8. Promote diversity because it is a moral and ethical statement of your spiritual belief in human equality.

Q: How do you overcome the challenge of living/working in a workplace where spiritual principles are not valued or practiced?

A: First, realize that integrating spirituality into your life is for your personal benefit in terms of stress-reduction, centeredness, and personal stability. It is your source of personal adaptation in today’s chaotically changing workplace and world.

Adapting to your present workplace practices begins with:

  1. Redefining your five most important personal values that are spiritually sourced, such as family, personal time, creativity, religious practices, health, etc.
  2. Defining your personal workplace values, such as money, equality, empowerment, respect, quality relationships, making a difference, etc.
  3. Comparing your personal values with your perception of the practiced values of your workplace, such as competition, self-interest, control, hierarchy, as well as empowering humanistic values.
  4. If your values and their values are significantly out of alignment, you have important decisions to make.
    1. Remain and non-reactively accept your situation (because your workplace benefits are too great to give up).
    2. Remain and work to change the culture, accepting whatever consequences that may occur.
    3. Begin looking for a workplace that is more compatible with your values—then decide to leave or accept (i), or (ii).
    4. Start your own small business.

Ultimately, remember you are not required to participate in political games or other non-spiritual activities. Most of all, if you can identify with the pain others experience in counterproductive behaviors, your relationship and hence your influence with them will transform.

Q: How do individuals who accept and live spiritual values lead teams that have not moved into this realm?


  1. Introduce the idea that humanistic team values are as important as business objectives in achieving team success.
  2. Don’t use the word "spiritual" initially, if unnecessary. Use ethics, values, or morals.
  3. Do a brainstorming session where "spiritual" or "ethical values" are established as a working part of the team dynamics.
  4. Expose team members to "appropriate" spiritual literature that show the practical relationship between business success and spirituality, e.g., Soul of the Firm by C. William Pollard.

Q:Are the differences between spiritual goals and organizational goals compatible and possible to manifest? For example, a spiritual goal may be to fully develop employees, allowing and building upon the creativity of the individual. An organizational goal is usually to deliver a product on time and within budget. If an individual is not mastering the organizational goal fast enough, how does one stay connected to the spiritual goal?

A: First, spirituality is more about process – the way things are done – than it is about achieving goals. The development of an individual and building on creativity will naturally require spiritual practices in the process of achieving an organizational goal. The rate at which an individual grows is mostly self-determined. An organizational goal to deliver a product on time within budget may force or inspire an employee to learn new skills and assume greater responsibility in order to achieve that goal. In this sense, spiritual goals and organizational goals are not only compatible, but mutually beneficial.

Q: Because all organizations set specific (and frequently unrealistic) financial goals and objectives, how does an employee not move into "fear" concerning one’s own survival?

A: Remember, fear is always sourced from a belief we have about ourselves that is usually unfounded. By exploring the worst case scenario regarding our fear and how we would adapt, the energy surrounding our fear is tremendously reduced. Survival really involves food, shelter, and clothing, and these are usually covered in most worst case scenarios. What we usually fear is a lack of income to sustain a certain "standard of living."

In the final analysis, our survival is dependent upon our ability to continually develop leading-edge skills that ensure employment.

Q: Fear-based management is often the driver in most companies. Such quotes as "do it right the first time" have been greatly misquoted in purpose and meaning. Now many employees fear making a mistake. Spirituality is the absence of fear. How does one move from the fear-driven culture to one of peace and love?

A: True, being centered in one’s spiritual self is the absence of fear. Therefore, when fear is present we have uncoupled from our spiritual source and the survival instincts of the mind have taken over. If we are secure within ourselves of our inherent value of being human and our ability to contribute to the success of our organization, then fear-based management has no power. Again, exploring beliefs we may have around "perceived security" and realizing they are involved is how we become immune to fear-based management. The key realization is that peace and love are inner sourced, whether they are an inherent part of a culture or not.

Q: Spirituality is listening to our inner guidance and should be the greatest source for making decisions. How does one explain a decision made without the (illusory) facts to support the decision to management?

A: Many, or even most, important business decisions are not necessarily sourced from our inner guidance. Many are sourced from sound business reasoning or rationale. Operating effectively in today’s workplace requires an ability to be "in the world" (because that’s where we are) and "not of the world" (so that we can remain detached where appropriate).

In other words, depending on the person, it is rather easy to "create" rational, acceptable explanations for an intuitively sourced decision. For example, if an individual has a strong moral belief that "diversity is the right thing to do," then creating a strong business rationale on the basis of the effective utilization of the total work force is not that difficult. Although, it is clearly understood by that individual that their decision to become diverse is spiritually sourced. Connecting intuition with sound business rationale requires a good understanding of the business within which one is employed.

Q: How does an employee deal in a spiritual manner with his/her manager that has their own personal and egotistical agenda?

A: Where a manager’s agenda does not adversely affect our ability or freedom to do our work effectively and efficiently, there is nothing necessary to do. We might first observe our own motivation for intolerance. If our own motivation comes from a righteous position, then our upset about that individual is a mirror reflection of characteristics we hide about ourselves.

When action and change is required, we begin by resolving "our own agenda" of why others should change. When an egotistical motivation is resolved, a process of engagement through conversations can be very effective. Ask questions of that person about their professional or business aspirations. What does he/she enjoy most about their job? What things do they find most difficult? (This question reveals their fears.) How could you be more genuinely supportive of helping with the business requirements? etc.

The essence in dealing with someone who has an egotistical agenda is captured in the definition of wisdom. "Wisdom is an in-depth understanding, empathy, and compassion for the human experience." From here, the appropriate action is usually obvious.

Q: When an employee’s company does not openly promote spirituality, how does one choose an appropriate mentor?

A: Likes attract! (As do opposites in physics!)

  1. Look for behavioral characteristics such as empathy, compassion, and humility.
  2. Look for an individual described as a "people person," or one who has heart.
  3. Make a list of three of these individuals who also have the ability and influence to promote your professional career. They should have both humanistic and professional credentials.
  4. Schedule informal meetings with each of them and ask questions about their adaptation and future success.
  5. Listen with your heart! Trust your intuition. At some point, step across the line and ask about their views on spirituality in the workplace. Sit back and listen. At this point your heart will guide you.

Q: How does an employee stay out of fear and stay centered when his/her entire career future is influenced by situations outside of his/her control, such as financial results, canceled projects, client business changes, acquisitions, etc.?

A: First of all, your future and your career are totally in your control. "You create your own reality." The theme of this question appears to be "fear of change." My experience is that when one of the changes cited above occurs, fear is inevitable. How we respond is key. Fear usually persists when we behave in ways of denial; such as being angry (denying responsibility), discussing the unfairness of the situation (feeling victimized), and a desperate hope that the change situation will not become reality. The objective is to move rapidly through this process to acceptance.

Being centered is the same as accepting reality. Now consider the worst case scenario. What would you do if it occurred? Would you survive? Would you have food, shelter, and clothing? Could you provide for yourself and your family? The more responsibility you take for your life, the less "things happen to you!"

Q: How does an employee, who is working as a team towards a common goal but is evaluated as an individual compared to his/her team members, resolve this conflict?


  1. Accept the fact that American corporations rarely, if ever, reward teamwork. Then work to change this practice.
  2. Do a brainstorming session to show the cost benefits of teamwork as compared to 100% individual efforts, e.g., simultaneous engineering, cycle time reduction, customer service, and creativity and synergism.
  3. Encourage your team to make a unanimous recommendation that your team project be X% for team success and Y% for individual contribution in terms of rewards or compensation.
  4. Ultimately, recognize that the conflict is within you. It is the gap between how you believe it "should be" as compared to the reality of "how it is." When this inner conflict is resolved, what you should do becomes obvious.

Q: Because we were all raised in an academic world where individual grades were critical to our success, how does an employee shift from the mind-set of competition for advancement to the "spiritual mindedness" of what is good for all?

A: When competition is a motivation for self-improvement or greater performance, it can benefit everyone. Particularly where one has to call upon personal inspiration and creativity – both are spiritually sourced.

When competition is at the expense of others, it usually leads to win/lose or more often lose/lose. The present business mergers are a realization of the good for all in most cases. It reduces "pitted competition," which is inherently toxic. Within your organization:

  1. Reduce the idea of fixed territorial jobs.
  2. Disseminate all relevant business information freely.
  3. Have frequent team/small department meetings and share responsibilities across personnel.
  4. Publicize how everyone’s effort was necessary for the success of a project.

Q: What does an employee do when an error has been made and management chooses to cover it up from the customer?

A: If the error involves you and you have direct communication with the customer, request your manager’s permission to be honest with the customer. If your manager refuses, then write a memo of your request and your manager’s response that is sent to him/her and you also retain a copy.

If the customer ultimately asks you about the error, tell the truth and be willing to accept whatever consequences there might be.

If your spiritual principles are important to your mental well-being, then at some point you will have to take a stand.

Q: When honesty is a core value to an employee, how does this employee deal with an organization or management team where it is not?

A: Raise the issue with the organization or team when violated. Determine if either plans to practice honesty in their business dealings. If continued violations occur, begin to consider your options.

Q: What do you do when you feel your ethics are being compromised?

A: First, be a visible example of your own spiritual values, e.g., don’t participate in gossip, work efficiently, be empathic and compassionate to others, don’t participate in politics, and take responsibility for your successes and non-successes.

Secondly, extend these practices in your interactions with others without being a self-appointed "Captain of the World."

In the final analysis, you must decide if you can "live with" the non-alignment of your ethics and your organization’s ethics. If not, again, consider your options.

Q: Many corporate leaders are hesitant to speak of spirituality at all within the workplace due to its religious implications and that legal ramifications may result. How can this issue be addressed?

A: Appoint an organization-wide committee to explore how spirituality might impact your workplace, customers, or productivity. Include in this assignment a charge to define spirituality as it relates to your workplace – the same as you did with diversity.

Include your legal expert as part of the committee to ensure, as best you can, that legal problems are avoided. Then, have the CEO use this report as a basis for the discussion of spirituality and its workplace implications.

Q: Is it really possible for one person to make a difference or does it take an organizational commitment at a corporate level to have spirituality play a role in a company?

A: Making a difference is not measured by the magnitude of the event! Every act of transformation makes a difference – regardless of whether everyone else knows about it.

To transform a culture usually requires the efforts of many.

Q: What do you do if only one form of spirituality is valued at your workplace, e.g., European-based Christianity; Good Friday and Easter?

A: This is both a spiritual issue as well as a diversity issue. The best way to create valuation of other religious days is through a diversity initiative.

A diplomatic letter to your boss, vice president, or president might be a good way to get the process started. Ultimately, the discussion of holidays for all employees should be granted within an organization’s policy.

For example, a Salt Lake City-based organization switched from Presidents Day to Martin Luther King Day as their official holiday for all employees.


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