Organizations today are becoming increasingly aware that fostering a good work culture leads to value addition and profit maximization. Workplace spirituality is proving to be an important tool in creating an invigorating work culture. The present article outlines what workplace spirituality means, and proceeds to highlight examples from ancient Indian stories to emphasize the fact that workplace spirituality is an ancient concept in India.
Workplace spirituality mean to recognize that people have an inner life that nurtures and is nurtured by a meaningful work culture. But why this sudden interest in workplace spirituality? For reasons more than one. People’s personal lives are becoming increasingly complicated, and they are looking for meaningful anchors at their workplace. There is also an increasing desire to inculcate personal values into the work. Finally, the added blessing of increased salaries and economic wealth means that people have the luxury to engage in a search of their true potential.
Characteristics of spiritual organizations
There is a strong sense of purpose. For instance, the purpose of the gurukul in ancient India was primarily to provide its students with the specialized information and to produce top class kings, priests, soldiers etc.
There is a focus on individual development, based on their innate strengths and weakness. Here’s a classic example from The Mahabharat. Drona discovered that Arjun had an innate skill for archery. Hence, he focused on the development of that skill in Arjun.
Employees and employers should have immense faith in one-another, and there is a free, fearless flow of information between the two entities. Here’s an example: Legend has it, that Birbal would often go around the kingdom in disguise, to find out what the subjects think about the king. He would then go and tell Akbar about all that he heard without fear, and. Akbar in turn would absorb this information and do the needful.
Employees are allowed to take decisions within their sphere of control independently.
Workplace Spirituality games
Outlined below are a couple of management games that help inculcate workplace spirituality into work culture of the organization
The World Café is a structured approach used in groups constituting of 20 or more people. It is a powerful tool when there’s a wide diversity of cultures or viewpoints. The Café is built on the assumption that people already have within them the wisdom and strength to confront even the most difficult challenges. Given the appropriate context and focus, it is possible to access and use this deeper knowledge.
A classic example of this may be seen in The Ramayana. Hanuman had to cross a wide ocean, in order to reach Lanka, and meet Sita. He knew how to cross the ocean – he had both the knowledge and strength within him, but he had no access to this information. But when inspired and reminded by his troupe-mates, he could access this information, and attain the unattainable task of crossing the ocean.
The pre-requisite to begin the process is an inspiring purpose. For instance, “What changes may be bought about to improve employees’ work life balance?” could be an appropriate topic.
During the Café process, people form groups consisting of 4-5 members each and engage in conversations related to the topic. People move to different groups after every 20. One person remains behind as the “host” for each group, briefly filling in the new group-mates about what the previous group had discussed. After three rounds of 20-minute conversations, the entire group comes together and reports the key insights and ideas generated during the conversations.
Participants leave the Café meeting ready to engage in activities that forward the purpose that was set out for the Café.
Group Spiritual Theme
Employee are asked to answer the question, "What does spirituality mean to you?” in 5-6 words. Based on theirreply, a spiritual theme is created for them. The theme is then placed at his/her desk via posters or pinups. This reminds the employees of their own individual theme, and also enables them to know others spiritual themes. Employees are told to view their individual tasks through the eyes of their spiritual themes for four weeks. Then, a common work situation is selected and each person states how that situation looks through the lens of his/her spiritual theme. Via dialog and discussion, the various replies are fine-tuned to create a single, group spiritual theme.
Ancient Indian lore indeed has a wealth of knowledge that can be used in context of workplace spirituality. In the wake of the rising interest in workplace spirituality, India can become a harbinger of sorts, and it is quite possible, that for a change, the West looks Eastward for guidance!