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Bring spirituality back to work place


One cannot deny that his / her worldview, the lens through which he / she looks at everything, is inevitably influenced by various spiritual traditions that have had formative impact on the society he / she lives in. These traditions, commonly labeled as “religion,” are the invisible hand behind all our public policies, law making, and foreign policies. We cannot debate the above things without drawing considerations from religious forces that impact our own values and principles. Therefore religion has an undeniable role in our public life.

Now, one may think that although religion plays a role in the public sector, it does not have a role in the private sector since the; and that in fact, it is inappropriate to bring religion to the private sector. People holding this view unfortunately fail to see that the private sector as well as the public sector is run by human beings. As a manager, in order to improve management efficacy, he / she needs to understand the religious forces that impact many of employees’ thoughts and behavior. Effective management in the workplace calls for awareness of the sources behind these worldviews.

Place for religion in leadership. Kegan and Lahey’s work reveals there are three stages of adult mental development – socialized mind, self-authoring mind and self-transforming mind. The complexity in today’s world calls for the latter two stages. I would like to call your attention to the role of religion in developing both:

Religion’s role in developing self-authoring mind

A self-authoring mind has its own value compass and is able to stand convicted to what it thinks is the right thing to do, without surrendering to the groupthink. What forms one’s value compass is one’s religion, be it worship of power and wealth, relentless self-belief, or worship of (a) God. Without reflecting on one’s religion and value compass, it is difficult to overcome the norms and subcultures of the group one belongs to and make the call to do the right thing when necessary.


  • Religion’s role in developing self-transforming mind
    • Foster mindfulness. A religious/spiritual mind is aware of other spiritual forces. It allows the individual to go levels deeper in seeing the reality without being confined by the tactical and technical frames of oneself or one’s group. Such insights will help the individual move beyond the Expert and Achiever level to the Individualist, Strategist and Alchemist levels.
    • Granted with the humility to self-examine. Religion often grants one with the humility that is necessary to critically examine the limitations of one’s own frames and progress to a more adapted or refined one.
    • Help from spiritual accountability groups. Rooke and Torbert’s discussed how Quaker meetings helped a manager to evolve her own leadership style by helping her realize her own perceptions and assumptions and challenge her to self-examine.


Importance of recognizing the place of religion in work place.

Professor Michael Sandel and Professor Jean B Elshtain spoke at the Veritas Forum last night on the topic of “Under God: The Role of Religion in Public Life.” Both criticized the exclusion of religion in public life, which was an influential thought developed by the late Harvard political philosopher John Rawls. Unlike Rawls, Sandel argued that the public debate should include arguments developed from religious traditions. Similarly, spirituality is inseparable from one’s thoughts and behavior in workplace. Stripping the spirituality and fundamental values off will only make the work meaningless. It is an unhealthy culture if workers feel pressured to check their spirituality at the door.


There are two distinguished types of challenges that an organization may face – technical challenges and adaptive challenges – according to Heifetz. Failure to recognize the invisible hand of spirituality and in turn react to it can hinder the organization’s ability to implement changes that are necessary for overcoming adaptive challenges. I would argue that fostering the awareness of the role of spirituality and developing spirituality itself within an organization are indispensable in forming a high-commitment organization, for spirituality plays an essential role in developing the following characteristics of a high-commitment organization:

  • Spirituality helps build a purpose-driven organization
  • Spirituality helps form solidarity
  • Spirituality helps build trust

How can an organization recognize and react to spirituality?

Finally, I’d like to suggest a few ways that an organization can recognize and react to spirituality –

  • Beware and stop the distorted mentality of professionalism. Treating clients and colleagues with professionalism should not mean checking emotions and spirits at the door. One may draw from spiritual strengths to have the conviction to insist on the right thing, or the humility to serve clients and colleagues well with respect.
  • Talk explicitly about the spirituality and religion behind one’s position or behavior.
  • Make sure that everybody understands and connects with the purpose of the organization.
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