Monday, June 04, 2007

Compartmentalization v. Non-compartmentalization

Compartmentalization in organizational theory is the idea that you can break your life into little pieces and bring only some of them to the table at the time. So I might be getting a divorce (I'm not), but that shouldn't come to work with me. Or I might be gay (I'm not), but I shouldn't be gay at work. Or I might be Latina (I'm not), but I should leave that at home.

It sounds a bit absurd to me, but I hear this attitude quite frequently, sometimes even from myself. The world would be a far more effiicient place if we could compartmentalize well, but most people can't. If you're in the military, you may be better at this than most, from what I read. I think that Miami Vice provides a classic example of how hard it is to compartmentalize. In fact, the plot of each episode (and the movie) is based on the fact that compartmentalization ultimately fails. Most of us do better at work and at life with non-compartmentalization.

Non-compartmentalization is the idea that people bring their identities, beliefs, and problems with them (to work, to home, to the gym). The idea of non-compartmentalization is critical in my understanding of spirituality at work issues, because I'm operating under the assumption that we are spiritual being all the time. We don't leave a brown, search for another phrase...a cardboard box with our spirituality on the kitchen table every time we leave for work. And I think we're spiritual in the same way that we are sexual, which is to say it is an important, intrinsic part of being human.

Workplaces that accommodate non-compartmentalization are usually thought of as more humane places to work. And there are tons of implications here about work-life balance, flex-time, and just about every Ms. Theologian question ever sent to me. I'll write tomorrow about Douglas Hicks' model of respectful pluralism, which is based around non-compartmentalization.

(summarized from Chapter 8, Respectful Pluralism at Work, pp. 160-161, Douglas Hicks, Religion and the Workplace)