Amidst the widespread popularity of do-it-yourself, spirituality, the phenomenon of religion in the workplace continues to grow and is now filtering down to workers as well as producing positive results in productivity and job satisfaction.
An in-depth article in Business Week (Nov. 1) reports that today’s business leaders are a part of a spiritual revival “sweeping across Corporate America” with “executives of all stripes mixing mysticism into their management.” Much of the momentum for this comes from the changing nature of employee involvement with their work. Knowing that the office is where people exercise, date, and baby-sit, even older firms such as Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, and Wal Mart have implemented various forms of spiritual enhancement programs.
In New York, law firms are encouraging prayer groups, while in Silicon Valley, California, Hindu leaders are studying how to relate technology to spirituality Store managers are employing non-denominational chaplains to counsel employees and visit them in hospitals. The Fellowship for Companies for Christ International estimates that over l0,000 prayer groups and Bible studies are active at workplaces across the country.
Among the growing numbers of Muslims in corporate America, several employeers encouarge them to bring their prayer rugs at work. Even academia is investing in the trend; several colleges, such as the University of Denver, have set up research centers devoted to the field. The first empirical study of the subject, appearing in the book “A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America” (Jossey-Bass), finds that employees who work for organizations they consider spiritual are less fearful, less likely to compromise their values, and more able to throw themselves into their work.
Business Week suggests this movement is part of a larger trend. In the l990s the country has entered into what is called the “New Economy” with low unemployment, escalating stocks and bonds and product innovation unparalleled in American history. This change, as well as the emergence of such technology as the Internet, is causing a deep-seated curiosity about the nature of knowledge, the deeper meaning in life. There is time and space to think about forces outside of one’s self, a new interest in tapping into more intuitive sources of creative thought. Today’s information and services-dominated economy “is all about instantaneous decision making and building relationships with partners and employees.”
To do so, the market place draws on spiritually-oriented programs as means of reconciling conflict at the workplace and, admittedly, increasing productivity. Aware that such programs can and have sparked religious conflict among differing groups, with conversion minded evangelicals clashing with New Age seekers, leaders and program designers are focusing their messages largely around what has come to be known as “secular spirituality.” This spirituality combines a cross-denominational, hybrid set of messages with inspirational love-your-neighbor themes.
(Business Week, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020)
— By Erling Jorstad