Sunday, August 12, 2007

Competing Spiritualities in the Workplace

Mark Wexler, an ethicist at Simon Fraser University, thinks there are four types of spirituality in the workplace.

Spirituality of the entrepreneur

The rugged individualist, the personality type most often linked with the business world, is actually engaged in hidden spiritual pursuits, Wexler says. He or she finds a form of spirituality in mastering a skill, in obtaining pragmatic results, in being immersed in the here and now. As with highly tuned athletes, architects or boardroom executives, entrepreneurial types act as if "money talks." They experience spirituality when they "get in the flow" of their all-encompassing work goals. They find meaning in taking risks.

Spirituality of the bureaucrat

The bureaucrats who lead massive companies, as well as large government departments (and even some hierarchical religions), find their spirituality in doing their duty, in making regulations and having people adhere to them. They are devoted to designing systems and structures that will last, which will serve long-term purposes. They tend to put their faith in rules and authority -- in the system -- and find spirituality in humbling their egos to serve a greater end. They are devoted to prudence.

Spirituality of the non-profit-sector
This is the home of the worldview most of us customarily associate with "spirituality." Cooperatively minded people who work for non-profit organizations, from medical charities to environmental groups, tend to finds spirituality in an ethic of love and sharing. With their communitarian and philanthropic outlook, they'll often take lower wages to accomplish their noble goals. They lead with their hearts and obtain a sense of virtue, sometimes righteous satisfaction, from their work. They believe in interconnectedness, in revering nature.

Spirituality of the knowledge leader

The high-tech sector, as well as universities and the arts, are full of knowledge workers. They believe they are at the leading edge of change, where inventiveness, new ways of thinking and technology will help solve the planet's problems, spreading happiness far and wide. Knowledge workers think globally. They find their spirituality in creativity -- in being curious, in exploring new options. It makes them feel genuinely alive. They believe in the future.

Do you strongly identify with one of these spiritualities in the workplace? If so, which one? I'd like to conduct a little informal survey.