In an age of pluralism, defined by the implications of a global community, Americans have a grave fear of infringement upon their rights. This is particularly true with respect to personal belief. Accordingly, all forms of faith have been banished from the workplace with near-Stalinist fervor. At the core of this misconception is the inability to distinguish the difference between “religion” in the workplace and workplace “spirituality.” These concepts are fundamentally different in the sense that the former promotes a series of ideological concepts that are simply correlated to a higher power; whereas, the latter uses the values and principles of faith to guide one’s actions and interactions in the workplace. From a business perspective, religion in the workplace entails high-risk investment with little return. It has potential to bring contention into the work environment, reducing solidarity and productivity among workers. In contrast, workplace spirituality is not focused religious practice. Instead, it is an organizational culture that acknowledges that individuals have an inner life that nourishes and is nourished by meaningful work that serves within a community. Workplace spirituality makes professional life meaningful because it is the connection between vocation and individual purpose derived from divine origin. As a result, the output and productivity of individuals who understand workplace spirituality far exceeds those around them. In turn, others are drawn to such individuals and seek to imitate their success.
Workplace spirituality is feared by most organizations because of lack of a “global” definition of spirituality. Many question the limits of expression of faith in the workplace given the varying cultural perceptions of spirituality. However, the inseparable bond between vocation and service is universal. All faiths are built on the principle of seeking the greater good and
service to mankind. Therefore, spirituality is any practice that is focused on this principle. From this definition, companies can create and implement models of workplace spirituality that will have long-term benefits. This has been a topic of intense study in the Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business. According to the Graziadio Business Review, there are six characteristics of workplace spirituality that can have major implications for corporate culture as well the bottom lines of the nation’s leading companies. They are sustainability, social responsibility, creativity, inclusion, ethical policies and behavior, and vocation (Rhodes, 2006). Each characteristic can make a large impact on companies, and is usually the direct antithesis of the results yielded by religion.
Workplace spirituality is a dynamic force because it recognizes creative the potential of all people, regardless of religious conviction. Thus, it removes the focus from differences between ideologies and enables coworkers to learn from each other in order to produce desirable results for their employers. This is exemplified by the ethical decisions of employees who are spiritually aware. Spirituality is beneficial to employers because workers who are spiritually aware tend to regard excellence in their performance as a duty of faith. Workplace spirituality creates internal ethics and promotes servant leadership among employees. The most important hallmark of workplace spirituality is the combination of personal and professional development that occurs when an individual discovers purpose in his or her work. Those who bring “religion” into the workplace have not discovered such purpose—This accounts for their use of theological dogmas as an expression of their faith. In contrast, those who have discovered their call and can relate it to the ultimate call of service, lead by example. Their work has a positive impact on those around them, testifying to their faith as an intricate component of their identity. This is what ultimately separates spirituality from religion in the workplace and most important to companies, supports the bottom-line.