in the Workplace
by Martin Rutte
an updated version of an article that first appeared in
the popular business book, Heart at Work, by Jack
Canfield & Jacqueline Miller.
The nature and meaning of work
are undergoing a profound evolution. Two forces are
helping to catalyze the momentum of this process —
fear and the emergence of both a more personal and
The fear is about losing our
job and having to do more with less. And the emergence
of spirituality in the workplace points to the desire
that there be more to work than just survival. We yearn
for work to be a place in which we both experience and
express our deep soul and spirit.
Fear in the Workplace
There are several factors
causing an increase of fear in the workplace.
The first is massive corporate
downsizing. The benefit of downsizing is that it does
increase profits. Moreover, it cuts the fat and the
excess while streamlining the organization. But
downsizing also has a downside. It causes pain and
suffering. In addition to the pain felt by those people
who have been let go, those who are still left are asked
to increase production with less resources, in the same
amount of time, and for the same pay.
They feel stressed out and
bone-tired. They are anxious about the security of their
job and often are resentful. And most painful of all,
they don't see any light at the end of the tunnel.
Downsizing works in the
short-term; in the long-term, what's lost is loyalty,
engagement, experience, creativity and the full
expression of spirit.
A second factor is that more
work is moving offshore. Years ago, it was just
manufacturing work. Now it's also service jobs. India
and Israel, for example, are becoming key sites for the
development of computer software. We thought that there
were certain types of work that would always remain in
the developed world — that these were "our
jobs," like service and new technology development
— it's just no longer so.
And what about successful
companies laying people off? That's never happened
before. The understanding used to be that when a company
was in fiscal trouble it would lay off people and when
the company was successful, it would keep and even hire
people. But with re-engineering and new advanced
technology, there is a need for less people, so
successful companies are downsizing.
When you put all these factors
together, you're taking the work contract — the
implicit agreement that I would come to work for you for
life, the belief in security of employment — and
smashing it. The message is crystal clear, "You
don't have a secure job anymore." And that causes
insecurity, it causes anxiety, and it causes fear.
There is a growing sense of
"dis-spiritedness" in individuals and in the
overall workplace. The spirit has been shut down. It
can't fully express itself. There is a sense of
disengagement. It may not be completely quantifiable,
but people can and do feel the lack of spirit in their
All of this doesn't need to
paint a completely bleak picture. We can look at these
very same factors from another, more useful perspective
— the spiritual. The security we thought we got from
the corporation is a myth. Real security comes from a
connection to that which is truly secure — the spirit.
We are in the process of moving from "dependent
children" at work, with the parental company
looking after us, to really coming into our full, adult
Selfhood. From this new reality we can begin exploring
and expressing more of our true spiritual selves.
The Emergence of
In addition to fear, there is a
compelling inner longing for spiritual fulfillment.
There are several factors present in society reflecting
the emerging desire for personal and collective
The baby boomer generation is
now entering its 50's. People are reaching mid-life and
looking at those issues that are characteristic for this
age – issues such as: "What is my legacy?";
"What are the long-term values that I want to leave
behind?"; "In what other arenas of life do I
want to invest my energies now that I've reached the
peak of my career?"; "What is really important
to me as I begin to see my parents, aunts and uncles
start to die?" These kinds of thoughts are usual
for people in mid-life. What is unusual, however, is
that the baby boomer generation is so large. When it
begins to think about these issues, then society
follows. As spirituality emerges for baby boomers, the
whole of society is affected.
Concern and involvement with
the bio-environment also reflect an emerging sense of
the spiritual. The environment is both life supporting
and gives us an awareness and consciousness of the
whole. It reveals to us how we are interconnected and
interdependent. And when you think about that, that's a
very spiritual metaphor.
"When the concept of human
spirit is understood as the mode of consciousness in
which the individual feels connected to the Cosmos as a
whole, it becomes clear that ecological awareness is
spiritual in its deepest sense." —Fritjof Capra
Yet another factor is the
maturing of the scientific paradigm. We thought we could
solve all the world's problems with science. We thought
we could eventually understand everything through
science. But the more we know, the more we find out we
don't know. Science has been divorcing itself from the
spiritual for several hundred years. However, science
without spirituality is like a wave without the ocean. A
growing number of scientists realize this and are moving
more into spiritual exploration.
These three factors are
indicative of the overall emergence of spirituality in
our time. Popular culture also reflects this in the
growing number of books, movies, and TV programs about
spirituality. And spirituality in the workplace is part
of this phenomenon.
What Is Spirituality?
I've found that when people ask
me the question, "What is spirituality?", what
they're really concerned about is, "Will I have
'the Answer'"? or some other dogmatic response.
They're afraid that I've already got spirituality
defined and that they will disagree with my definition,
which will then cause separation. People are afraid that
I (or anyone else speaking about spirituality) will
shove a particular point of view down their throats.
This approach offers the listener no opportunity to
search for his/her own truth.
The journey is not about
spirituality as "the answer," but about
spirituality as "the question." A question
allows you to look more deeply. It allows you to search
for what's true for you, and in so doing, deepen your
own experience. But ultimately, what moving from answer
to question does is make it safe and permissible to
explore this territory in a way that is useful.
What is spirituality for you?
Where is spirit or spirituality not showing up in your
workplace? Where is it flourishing? Explore these kinds
of questions, at work, for yourself, your relationships,
your division and your company. And in this questioning,
in this exploration, notice the deepening of your own
experience of spirituality at work.
Spirituality in the
What would a more spiritual
workplace mean for people? It would mean that work would
move from merely being a place to get enough money to
survive — from just earning our daily bread — to
being a place of livelihood. By livelihood I mean a
place where we both survive and are fully alive. We are
alive in that our spirit fully expresses itself. And
through our contribution, we allow other people's
spirits to be nourished and to flourish. Livelihood has,
at its core, three meanings for work: survival (you're
alive), enlivening of the individual Self (you're
aliveness), and enlivening of the collective Self (their
What are the benefits of a more
spiritual workplace? One of the primary benefits is that
people are more in touch with the Source of creativity.
As business people, we realize the value of creativity
and innovation. Creativity is a cornerstone of business.
It allows us to come out with new products and services
that really are of service. It allows us to do more with
less. In essence, creativity leads to more efficient
As we move more into a service
and technological economy, we want to continually expand
innovation and creativity. But you can't demand that of
people. "Human capital" has to be treated
differently than "financial capital." You have
to create an atmosphere in which creativity and
innovation flourish; and that is accomplished through
the bountiful expression of spirit. When we are more in
touch with the Source of creativity, there is also
revitalization, renewal and resilience.
Another benefit is increased
authenticity in communication. A lot of the work I do as
a consultant is to create a "safe space" in
which people feel permission to talk about their truth
without fear of reprisal. Businesses aren't accustomed
to doing this as a matter of normal everyday practice.
However, when the truth is allowed to be safely and
respectfully spoken, old problems clear up, new
possibilities emerge, and people feel more aligned. They
work together in a trusting team.
Increased ethical and moral
behavior is yet another benefit. But who cares if a
company is ethical? Isn't business just a place where
you see how much you can get ahead? In a word, no. An
important value of ethical behavior for a business is
the development of trust. We trust people who operate in
an ethical framework. Employees trust employers.
Employers trust employees. And customers who trust a
company stay customers longer.
Spirituality in the workplace
also promotes the expression of talent, brilliance and
genius — talent in the sense of our Divine gifts;
brilliance in terms of our intellect and the intensity
of the light we have to shine; and genius not as a
scarce commodity, but as something that everyone has.
Our true job is to connect with that genius. And
moreover, spirituality in the workplace also leads to
increased self-fulfillment, contentment and a deep sense
In most businesses today,
spirit and spirituality aren't talked about. The first
thing that needs to happen is to make it safe and
permissible to talk about it, as normally and as
naturally as the many other conversations we have at
work, such as: profitability, innovations and personnel
We start this simply by
beginning. Talk to those you trust, talk to others in
business, talk to your colleagues, but begin to talk
about it. There may be an initial fear, but after a
while, the momentum will be unstoppable.
Managing in the New
Today, we live in the
transition period between the old definition of work as
survival and the new definition of work as livelihood.
New management techniques and new organizational
structures are needed to handle this emerging context.
Management in the survival mode
has been based on command and control. The way you get
people to produce is by telling them what to do and
making sure it gets done. But in a spiritual workplace,
productivity is achieved through nurturing the
expression of the self and the spirit. Our job, as
leaders, is to facilitate the discovery of spirit, to
esteem it, to celebrate it, and to hold others
accountable for their expression of it. Support your
employees and colleagues in being clear that part of
their job responsibility is to fully express their
spirit, their life purpose, and their gifts.
A senior vice-president of a
large utility company told me that one of the roles of
companies in the future will be to help employees
discover their life purpose and to make sure that their
work is consistent with and demanding of that purpose.
"Imagine what would happen," he said, "if
you had a company in which all the people were doing
their life's work. You would have more loyalty, more
resilience, more creativity, more innovation, and a
deeper sense of self-reliance, self-renewal and
Another new management function
will be helping people unleash and express their full,
creative spirit. One of the ways to do this is to
reconnect people with their artistry, whether that's
music, painting, dancing, poetry or cooking. Poet, David
Whyte, author of The Heart Aroused, goes into companies
and reads poetry. Boeing Aircraft is one of his ongoing
clients. The managers he works with begin to realize
other aspects of themselves. Poetry helps them delve
more deeply into their creative self, and it helps
contribute to new insights, both personal and corporate.
(Another great way for you and your employees to
reconnect with your creativity is to read and do the
exercises in The Artists Way, by Julia Cameron.)
The next phase of the evolution
of work has begun. Spirituality is becoming more openly
recognized as an integral part of work. If this is
something that speaks to you, that you want more of in
your workplace, I invite you to jump in!
© 1996, by Martin
Rutte, President, Livelihood, Santa Fe, New Mexico •
Martin Rutte is a dynamic, international speaker and consultant on spirituality in the workplace. He is committed to reconnecting
business with its natural source of creativity, innovation and genius.
As President of Livelihood, a management consulting firm in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he explores the deeper meaning of work and its contribution to society. The company's areas of service include: strategic vision, corporate spirit, performance management, and creative leadership.
Martin has worked with such organizations as: The World Bank, Quad/Graphics, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Southern California Edison, Virgin Records, Labatt Breweries, and London Life Insurance in expanding their outlook and positioning themselves for the future.
He was the first Canadian to address the Corporate Leadership & Ethics Forum of the Harvard Business School, and returned for four years as keynote speaker. He has also twice addressed joint meetings of the American and Canadian Chambers of Commerce in Hong Kong.
Martin's pioneering work on spirituality in the workplace was featured on the ABC-TV special, “Creativity: Touching the Divine,” in which he was interviewed and shown addressing The World Bank. He was also a keynote speaker at both the first and second annual International Conferences on Spirituality in Business in
Articles on his innovative work have appeared in: The Miami Herald, The Toronto Star, South China Morning Post, Personnel Journal, and The St. Louis Post Dispatch. He is also co-author of the New York Times business bestseller, Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work.
Martin has served as a board member of Global Family and The Hunger Project — Canada, and as a committee member of The Canadian Cancer Society.
Visit Martin's website at www.martinrutte.com.