A poll taken in 2001 by the Gallup Organization indicated that more than 70 percent of people do not engage in their work fully. We are all guilty at times of not being totally present and wishing we were any where else but at work. We show up every day physically, but are we totally present in body, mind and spirit? A job used to simply be a way to earn a living. Not any more it seems.
Work as a quest in shaping the place where the self meets the world is a paradigm shift from work as a means of merely meeting our material needs. Our conscience is integral in helping us towards this discovery as we immerse ourselves daily within the very environment where we spend most of our lives; our work.
Shifting this perception into a meaningful one only happens when we call on our courage to explore the inner realms within our being. Courage stems from the French word, ‘coeur’, which means heart, and it is our heart that longs for meaning, and it takes courage to sing our song. During his imprisonment in concentration camps for three years during the second world war, Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl observed that his fellow prisoners survived horrifying conditions which ultimately led them to grow from their experience. He concluded that the most basic human motivation is the will to meaning. We are lucky not to have experienced a concentration camp to find our meaning, however, prison becomes a metaphor for our work place, a trap that shackles us when we don’t feel involved in the significance of our work or valued for our contributions.
Deep down we all have a yearning to be involved with something bigger than our selves and in recent years, catastrophes like 9/11 and the Tsunami have been instrumental in playing on our individual conscience about why we do what we do, the fragility of our existence, and the capacity in which we can make a difference. William Blake, the poet, said when we have a firm persuasion in our work; to simultaneously feel, that what we are doing is good for ourselves and right for the world, is when we justify our existence.
In order to manage increasing stress and isolation in the workplace, people are acknowledging that though work signifies security that they now also seek inner peace, long for a sense of belonging, seek spiritual nourishment and are on a modern day quest for their own holy grail. Judith Neal a former Honeywell executive with a doctorate in organizational behaviour says that human beings at the turn of the century were considered an extension to machinery, however, ‘human beings are social beings, that people have feelings and that if you pay attention to the emotions of the workers, you can increase productivity’. This is now being correlated to the well being of the employee which involves feeling nurtured and empowered and where individuals can look upon their work as a means to thrive.
Amongst several companies who foster individuality is Reebok. Employees are given two, ‘floating’ days in addition to their annual leave to take off and do whatever they wish. Texas Instruments honours the spirituality of its employees by offering Serenity Rooms or quiet spaces for personal reflection, prayer or meditation. S.C. Johnson, one of the largest manufactures of cleaning products allows employees voices to be heard by incorporating employee suggestions into shaping their culture. As a result the companies turnover rate is as low as seven percent and more than one third of employees have been with the company for more than 20 years. It has been listed as one of Fortune ‘100 Best Companies to Work For”.
The collective expression of a company lies not only each individuals voice, but it’s motivation. If the intention behind the product is for the highest good of all, when our
core beliefs and values find an avenue for expression in our careers, we cross the threshold from mediocre to meaningful. It takes passion to want to cross the divide and it is at this level of cognition that each of us is able to give our best. Then, no matter how difficult work can sometimes be, our loyalty is ignited and we are willing to stand up for what we believe in.
When we bring our consciousness to the forefront and regard how we contribute to society and the way we do it, we are able to see clearly who we are and what part we play. In other words, work not only becomes the outward manifestation of our inner journey of identity but a firm persuasion.