This article is part two of a three-part diary to demonstrate how an employee can integrate their Christian faith in the workplace, regardless if it is a Christian workplace or not. In this article, we will focus on Spiritual Leadership and the key attributes of altruistic love, faith/hope, inner life, meaningful work, sense of community, and vision. This article will demonstrate how to test to see which items relate to your specific workplace and will break down each of the six characteristics to demonstrate how to live them out in your daily life.
Many segregate religion and spirituality. As we know, spirituality is needed for religion, but religion is not necessary for spirituality. In fact, a spiritual experience could be had in a variety of ways including, but not limited to attending a concert, journaling, meditation, walking in nature, and yoga. As a Christian, I view workplace spirituality as including prayer, reading the Bible, and quiet time conversing with God. The general idea is that spirituality is necessary for all people, regardless of their faith. In short, French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin captures the essence of spiritual leadership in saying: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
The study of Workplace Spirituality (aka God at Work, Faith at Work, His Way at Work, Marketplace Ministries, Spirit at Work, Spirituality in the Workplace, Theology of Work, and Truth at Work) has shown many valuable connections to desirable workplace outcomes. In the 1953 Fortune magazine article titled “Businessmen on Their Knees,” the author wrote about “a considerable number of businessmen” around the country talking about the application of religion to business. A follow up article in a 2001 Fortune Magazine titled “God in Business“ spoke that “bringing spirituality into the workplace… is breaching the last taboo in corporate America.”
Beyond the magazine articles, academic research has proven connections of workplace spirituality to the likings of improving absenteeism, corporate social responsibility, efficiency and productivity, employee engagement, employee health and stress, employee life satisfaction, financial performance, job involvement, job satisfaction, organizational climate, organizational commitment, organizational frustration, organizational identification, well-being, work rewards satisfaction, work-unit performance, and many more desired workplace outcomes.
In the first large-scale empirical study of religion and spirituality in the workplace, scholars revealed the urgency for organizations to “learn how to harness the whole person and the immense spiritual energy that is at the core of everyone . . . [or] they will not be able to produce world class products and service” (Mitroff & Denton, 1999, p. 84).
Spiritual Leadership Scale
The Spiritual Leadership Scale was developed by Fry, et al. (2005). It measures altruistic love, faith/hope and vision. When each of the three qualities of spiritual leadership are positively engaged in the workplace, a sense of calling and membership emerge resulting in personal outcomes of commitment, productivity, well-being and life satisfaction. Fry and Nisiewicz (2013) refer to this as a positive outcome to the triple bottom line; people, planet and profit.
Altruistic love includes the unconditional love one has for another. The ultimate example of this is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Additional scriptures that reinforce the importance of love are 1 Corinthians 13 and Matthew 22:36-40. For those that are not believers, consider the love a parent has for a newborn child. The child has done nothing to earn the love of the parent, yet the parent is focused on protecting, nurturing, and providing for the child with nothing expected in return. Altruistic love includes courage, excellence, forgiveness/acceptance/gratitude, fun, humility, integrity/honesty, kindness/empathy/compassion, patience/meekness/endurance and trust/loyalty (Fry & Nisiewicz, 2013, p. 93).
There has been much research conducted on the aspects of faith and hope. Without faith that someone will do something, or something will happen in the future, there is no hope that it will happen at all. In fact, studies show that when patients lose their sense of faith and hope, they often take a turn for the worse. In the workplace, if employees do not have faith they will be paid or have faith the project will succeed, they have no hope that their efforts are worthwhile. Fry & Nisiewicz (p. 93) notes that faith and hope require a person to have a do what it takes attitude, endurance, expectation of reward, perseverance, stretch goals and victory.
Most organizations have a vision statement along with their mission and values statements. Casting a vision is not a new idea for workplaces; however, I would argue that the vision must be done well in order for employees to understand it and buy in. Fry & Nisiewicz (p. 93) wrote that vision needs a broad appeal to key stakeholders, defines the destination and journey, reflects high ideals, encourages hope/faith and establishes a standard of excellence.
Spirituality at Work Scale
The Spirituality at Work Scale was developed by Ashmos and Duchon (2000). It measures inner life, meaningful work and sense of community. Their empirical article speaks to the fact of organizations stripping the employee from all that is good; their time, security, purpose and dignity. In a nutshell, the concept of spirituality at work is about nourishing the soul of the employee.
The idea that people have an inner life and an outer life is fairly common. From the perception of social media, one can see that the outer life are the happy posts that fill the newsfeed of any particular person. However, the inner life is the core being of the person. The inner life contains the authentic ingredients of the individual person. Taking time to discover the inner life requires intentionality to dig into the deepest, darkest crevices of a person’s past to understand why they are the person they are today. It is a discovery process that will emerge the unshakable value system of a person; what they will allow to happen and what they will not allow to happen in their life.
Meaningful work is more than a mission statement. Employees need to understand why they are waking up in the morning and going to work all day. They need to know why the drive to work is necessary. And, they need to know why they are leaving their family. In the world today, employees need more than benefits and a paycheck; they need to know the meaning of their work; the specific day-to-day responsibilities.
Sense of Community
People want to feel like they belong. Building a sense of community in the workplace is important for many reasons. When a leader loves their employees (see altruistic love above) they will naturally build a sense of community. Practical workplace tips to build a sense of community could include monthly lunch outings, monthly birthday and anniversary celebrations, events to celebrate milestones for special projects, and celebrations for special life events such as weddings, pregnancies and purchasing a new home.
We’ll finish exploring how Christian virtues contribute to the workplace in the final installment.
Ashmos, D. P., & Duchon, D. (2000). Spirituality at work: A conceptualization and measure. Journal of Management Inquiry, 9(2), 134-145.
Fry, L. W., & Nisiewicz, M. S. (2013;2012;). Maximizing the triple bottom line through spiritual leadership. Redwood City: Stanford University Press.
Mitroff, I. I., & Denton, E. A. (1999). A study of spirituality in the workplace. Sloan Management Review, 40(4), 83.
Dr. Debra J. Dean is President and CEO of Dean Business Consulting and serves as an adjunct professor. She and her husband have six children and three grandchildren. They enjoy spending time outdoors and relishing the beauty of God’s creation.