Does Your Job Have Purpose?

06/21/2012 04:28 pm ET | Updated Aug 21, 2012

How many of you have shared this experience? It's Sunday afternoon and as your day progresses an overwhelming feeling of doom seems to cover you. It is a beautiful day and you should be able to enjoy your time; however, you are unable to shake off this feeling of dread. If this is an experience you can relate to then ask yourself if the root cause of your sadness is your job. The feeling of doom you have may be related to the fact that tomorrow you need to go back to that job you hate and somehow tolerate another week. If this is your life then perhaps you are working for the wrong type of organization.

Work in the United States for many has become something we quietly tolerate. It is almost a badge of honor to deal with a job one hates for many years. Why is this so prevalent in our society and can this be changed? Today's workers are looking for more than a simple paycheck from their jobs and a revolution of sorts is in play. Workers are beginning to demand jobs that are in line with their values and are a reflection of who they are as an individual. One method to achieve such a lofty goal is to find an organization which is built upon workplace spirituality.

Workplace Spirituality

"Workplace spirituality" is a term that has increasingly gained momentum within the last few years. This refers to an organizational culture that nourishes an employee's need for meaningful work and purpose. Getting up and going to work each day can be draining in and of itself; however, if you find a job that is a reflection of who you are as a person, you will find true enjoyment. Spirituality at work focuses on how one feels about work and whether one's position is simply a job or a calling.

Many have confused this type of organizational culture with religion however; this is incorrect. A spiritual workplace is one rooted in a solid value system where employees find alignment between their own values and those of the organization. On a personal level this can refer to one's own religious beliefs, but on an organizational level it is important to remain value based.

Benefits of Workplace Spirituality

Designing the workplace so people experience purpose and meaning in work, connectedness through positive relationships, and alignment of personal and organizational values has been identified as one of the most important managerial tasks of the 21st century. There are numerous organizational benefits to a spiritual workplace: honesty and trust, increased profits and morale, productivity, commitment to organizational goals, employee retention, higher organizational commitment, and more productive cultures. When workplace spirituality is infused into an organization, leaders nourish the inner life of employees, create interconnectedness, and ultimately build sustainability. Therefore, spirituality should be considered to be the ultimate competitive advantage.

Workplace spirituality has also been associated with numerous employee benefits including increased individual creativity, enhanced sense of personal fulfillment, greater individual work success, increased joy, peace, serenity, and job satisfaction, elevated trust, and intrinsic motivation. When employees perceive their organizations are spiritual, decision-making processes are more participative, inclusive, and include greater information sharing thereby reducing friction and frustration at work.

The Role of Leaders

Leaders play an integral role in the formation of a spiritual workplace. Such leaders traverse a road less traveled to create workplaces where making a difference and operating with integrity are balanced with enhancing productivity and making a profit. In such environments both human capital and financial capital are recognized as assets to be protected, wisely invested, and deployed with integrity.

Creating a spiritual culture begins with the development of a value-based mission statement. The mission then guides the development of strategic plans and operational ground rules that provide the means for interweaving inspiration, learning, excellence, fairness, respect, integrity, and trust into the fabric of the organization. In spiritual cultures leaders do not view workers as unwanted expenses but rather as human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Ideally a spiritual workplace should be developed at the individual, group and organizational levels in order to be truly effective.

Individual Level: Meaning and Purpose

At the individual level it is important to create meaning and purpose for the employee in their work. When people believe their work does not matter they will develop a sense of inner poverty that is more burdensome. On the other hand when the sense of purpose is developed relationships are supportive and social interactions are based on courtesy, dignity, and respect.

Group Level: Connectedness and Community

At the group level it is important to develop a strong community of inclusiveness. Groups which lack a sense of community and connectedness are characterized by infighting, rivalries, and micro political behaviors where individuals distrust and even dislike one another. In contrast, groups exhibiting connectedness are comprised of caring and compassionate members who interact honestly and with integrity.

Organizational Level: Alignment of Values

At the organizational level the full benefit of workplace spirituality becomes apparent in the aquision of spiritual capital. Spiritual capital is reflected through organizational beliefs and aspirations which guide the daily operations. Workplace spirituality is most prevalent in participative structures as opposed to highly command-and-control cultures.

Workplace spirituality has been defined as a win-win situation for employees and their organizations. Spiritual employees are open to learning new things about themselves and others, and while they learn from the past, they live in the present moment. Spiritual employees experience greater contentment with their lives and harbor positive feelings toward others. If members of an organization are happy, they will be more productive, more creative, and more fulfilled. Adoption of spiritual principles, as an ethical framework for management, has been associated with the dignified treatment of people as well as optimal organizational performance. These people-centered organizations have been identified as "best places to work" as well as long-term profit performers.