General WorkPlace Spirituality

Summertime and the living is easy…

In many workplaces, the summer brings a slowing of the pace. Many of our colleagues are out of the office, many of our clients or customers are away, and the pace of work seems to slow a little. Which, counter-intuitively, makes this the perfect time to begin a practice of workplace spirituality.

 While the easier summer pace may make the need for a sense of spirituality in the workplace somewhat less pressing (slower pace, fewer demands, perhaps having just returned from a vacation all make work less grinding), it also makes it an ideal time to institute a spiritual practice. After all, the somewhat slower pace means you have the time to pay a little more attention to everything you do. Whereas during the busy season you have no time for anything but getting the work done, and usually not enough time to do that, perhaps you now have the time to get the work done and to pay attention to how you are getting it done. In so doing, you can create the patterns of behavior and mindfulness that will help make the busier times easier to deal with.

A first step in approaching workplace spiritually is to notice how you interact with others in the workplace. Do you regard them as individuals, just like yourself, who have diverse qualities, moods and needs, or do you see them as a means to an end? When someone does something that frustrates us, we often begin by ascribing malicious intent. Yet, thinking of our own actions, how often do we act maliciously? For most of us, we almost never act maliciously. Yet we assume that others do. What happens if you assume that the who is frustrating you is doing so because they are unaware of the effect it has on you, or that they have a reason for their action that feels valid to them (and would likely feel valid to you, were you in their place)?

From the other side, how carefully do we consider the impact of our actions on others? How often are we brusque with those we give tasks to, telling them simply to do things, without explaining why it is important, or how it makes a difference to us or the organization or client? I, especially, am guilty too often of failing to fully express my appreciation for a job well done, simply assuming that jobs will be well done, and commenting only when it is done poorly. I know better, intellectually, but in the busy-ness of everyday business, it is very easy to forget to express appreciation.

Think about how little a smile costs, and how much of a difference it can make to someone you work with. Very often we don’t think to smile when talking to people. But a smile can make the difference between feeling taken advantage of and feeling like what you are doing matters.

Finally, in working with others, remember that you are not the center of the world. That if your boss is grumpy, it may have nothing to do with you, but rather with an interaction he or she had with a child or spouse. By not reacting to the grumpiness (becoming grumpy in kind), we can help dissipate that grumpiness, making everyone’s day better. Remember, if you smile warmly to someone who is grumpy, it makes it harder to remain grumpy.

There is a lot here, and it is hard to practice this all the time. But if you try, life (and work) becomes easier. You will find yourself becoming less upset. You will find work more satisfying. You will find your relationships with people improving.

This may sound simple, or even simplistic, but it can be life-changing. It was, in fact, for me. It began a process of transformation that changed how I interact with the world as a whole, and even my understanding of what my relationship to the universe is. I hope that this small beginning will be useful to you, and a step along a path of growth and discovery.