Daniel H. Pink wrote a fascinating book, A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005). I have found the work to be extremely relevant to so much of what is happening in our society today. Among the six aptitudes Pink says we must master to be successful in the Conceptual Age is meaning. The other five are design, story, symphony, empathy, and play. (For my prior blog posts in this series, please visit Blog.reliableinsights.com, 2/10/14 through today.)
People want to go to jobs in which their full personhood is recognized. Meaning, purpose, and spirituality are affirmed when this happens. Just doing a job—any job—without a passionate sense of purpose, becomes very mundane and stressful very fast.
Pink cites a report published in 2000 by Ian Mitroff (professor at University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business) and Elizabeth Denton (independent consultant) entitled, A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America. The report chronicles insights about spirituality and meaning in the workplace based on interviewing almost 100 corporate executives. On one hand, executives did not want to offend employees and customers by not maintaining a tight leash on how people experience and express meaning in their work. On the other hand, the more employees are affirmed as holistic individuals, the more effective organizations operate:
“Executives were so understandably concerned that the language of spirit in the workplace would offend their religiously diverse employees that they scrubbed their vocabulary of all such talk. Meanwhile, Mitroff and Denton discovered, the employees were hungering to bring their spiritual values (and thus their whole person rather than one compartment of themselves) to work, but didn’t feel comfortable doing so. . . . You can almost picture a river of meaning and purpose being dammed outside of corporate headquarters. But here’s the kicker: if that spiritual tide had been released, the companies might have been better off. Mitroff and Denton also found that companies that acknowledged spiritual values and aligned them with company goals outperformed those that did not. In other words, letting spirituality into the workplace didn’t distract organizations from their goals. It often helped them reach those goals.” (pp. 214–215)
This is one of my contentions. When you allow people to bring the very best of themselves, in all its diversity, into the workplace, then the organization will become its very best. Yes, I recognize we must still operate the workplace in such a manner that diversity principles and best practices are fully supported. Simultaneously, within whatever wiggle room an organization might have, encouraging those expressions of personal meaning and purpose by every employee will add to the individual’s sense of fulfillment. When that occurs, then the organization and its customers will benefit.