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religion at workplace

From: sampath kumar (
Date: Wed Oct 27 1999 - 07:56:11 PDT

Dear bhakti-members,

In the latest issue of 'Business Week' adiyEn came
across a very interesting cover-story article about
how religion is making entry into American workplace.
Since most members are in the US adiyEn wants to know
what they think of some excerpts from the article

Religion in the Workplace

The growing presence of spirituality in Corporate

"... today, a spiritual revival is sweeping across
Corporate America as executives of all stripes are
mixing mysticism into their management, importing into
office corridors the lessons usually doled out in
churches, temples, and mosques. Gone is the old
taboo against talking about God at work. In its place
is a new spirituality, evident in the prayer groups at
Deloitte & Touche and the Talmud studies at New York
law firms such as Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays &

Across the country, major-league executives are
meeting for prayer breakfasts and spiritual
conferences. In Minneapolis, 150 business chiefs lunch
monthly at a
private, ivy-draped club to hear chief executives such
as Medtronic Inc.'s William George and Carlson Co.'s
Marilyn Carlson Nelson draw business solutions from
the Bible. In Silicon Valley, a group of high-powered,
high-tech Hindus--including Suhas Patil, founder of
Cirrus Logic (CRUS), Desh Deshpande, founder of
Cascade Communications, and Krishan Kalra, founder of
BioGenex--are part of a movement to connect technology
to spirituality. In Boston, heavy hitters such as
retired Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas L.
Phillips meet at an invitation-only prayer breakfast
called First Tuesday, an ecumenical affair long
shrouded in secrecy. More publicly, Aetna
(AET) Chairman Michael A. Stephen has extolled the
benefits of meditation and talked with Aetna employees
about using spirituality in their careers.

That's not to mention the 10,000 Bible and prayer
groups in workplaces that meet regularly, according to
the Fellowship for Companies for Christ International.
Just five years ago, there was only one conference on
spirituality and the workplace; now there are about
30. Academic endorsement is growing, too: The
University of Denver, the University of New Haven, and
University of St. Thomas have opened research centers
dedicated to the subject.The number of related books
hitting the store shelves each year has quadrupled
since 1990, to 79 last year. The latest: the Dalai
Lama's Ethics for the New Millennium, a new business
best-seller. Says Laura Nash, a business ethicist at
Harvard Divinity School and author of Believers in
Business: ''Spirituality in the workplace is

In part, what's happening is a reflection of broader
trends. People are working the equivalent of over a
month more each year than they did a decade ago. No
surprise, then, that the workplace--and not churches
or town squares--is where American social phenomena
are showing up first. The office is where more and
more people eat, exercise, date, drop their kids, and
even, at architecture firm Gould Evans Goodman
Associates in Kansas City, Mo., nap in
company-sponsored tents. Plus, the influx of
immigrants into the workplace has
raised awareness about the vast array of religious
belief. All over the country, for example, a growing
number of Muslims, such as Milwaukee lawyer Othman
Atta, are rolling out their prayer rugs right in the

With more people becoming open about their
spirituality--95% of Americans say they believe in God
or a universal spirit, and 48% say they talked about
their religious faith at work that day, according to
the Gallup Organization--it would make sense that,
along with their briefcases and laptops, people would
start bringing their faith to work.

... perhaps the largest driver of this trend is the
mounting evidence that spiritually minded programs in
the workplace not only soothe workers' psyches but
also deliver improved productivity. Skeptics who scoff
at the use of the words spirituality and Corporate
America in the same breath might write this off as
just another management fad.

But a recently completed research project by McKinsey
& Co. Australia shows that when companies engage in
programs that use spiritual techniques for their
employees, productivity improves and turnover is
greatly reduced. The first empirical study of the
issue, A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America,
published in October by Jossey-Bass, found that
employees who work for organizations they consider to
be spiritual are less fearful, less likely to
compromise their values, and more able to throw
themselves into their jobs. Says the book's co-author,
University of Southern California Marshall School of
Business Professor Ian I. Mitroff: ''Spirituality
could be the ultimate competitive advantage.'' Fully
60% of those polled for the book say they believe in
beneficial effects of spirituality in the workplace,
so long as there's no bully-pulpit promotion of
traditional religion.

NEW SWIRL. All this may seem counterintuitive at a
time of scientific and technological apotheosis. But,
just as industrialization gave rise to social
liberalism, the New Economy is causing a deep-seated
curiosity about the nature of knowledge and life,
providing a fertile environment for this new swirl of
nonmaterialist ideas. ''In this kind of analytical
framework,'' says Harvard's Nash, ''suddenly it's O.K.
to think about forces larger than yourself, to tap
into that as an intuitive source of creative,
analytical power.'' And the Internet's power to blast
through old paradigms and create previously impossible
connections is inspiring fervent feelings that border
on the spiritual. ''This new sense of spontaneity has
caused even the most literal-minded to say, 'Wow,
there's this
other force out there,''' says Nash.

Spiritual thinking in Corporate America may seem as
out of place as a typewriter at a high-tech company.
But the warp speed of today's business life is
rigid thinking, especially now that the sword-swinging
warrior model has become such a loser. Besides, who
has time for decision trees and five-year plans
anymore? Unlike the marketplace of 20 years ago,
today's information and services-dominated economy is
all about instantaneous decision-making and building
relationships with partners and employees. Often,
spiritual approaches can be used to help staffers get
better at the long-neglected people side of the
equation. It's no wonder high-tech companies are
packing nerdy programmers off to corporate charm
schools to teach them how to talk to customers and
other. ''More and more people are going to spiritual
processes for help,'' says consultant Whiteley, whose
clients include Goldman Sachs (GS), Sun Microsystems
(SUNW), and Ford (F).

All this spiritual revival may have a fin-de-siecle
feel--in fact, what's happening now is something of a
replay of the spiritual movement that took place at
the last turn of the century. The difference is that
in those days, workers were considered extensions of
machines. Then in the 1930s, the
arm-around-the-shoulder theory of management was born.
The idea was that bosses need just issue a little
praise, and productivity would soar.

Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, thinking shifted toward
viewing workers not just as bodies needing sustenance
but as people with minds, says University of New
Haven Management Professor Judi Neal. Fueling today's
trend, too, was the collective revulsion over the
greed in the late 1980s. That's when CEOs, determined
to rout insider trading and other skulduggery from
their organizations, furiously crafted ethics
statements as a way to give their employees a new
moral compass.

Once words like ''virtue,'' ''spirit,'' and ''ethics''
got through the corporate door, God wasn't far behind.
Best-sellers such as Jesus, CEO and The Seven Habits
of Highly Effective People (one of which is to
cultivate spirituality) began to line the oak-paneled
bookshelves of America's managers. Seizing the moment,
such spiritual gurus as Deepak Chopra and M. Scott
Peck began advising corporate chieftains about how
they could tie the new secular spirituality into their
management techniques. Team-building programs sprouted
like mad. So too did the Dilbertian sendups of these
efforts, some of which swept through organizations at
the same time that downsizing was crushing morale.

Body, emotion, brain. The only thing missing from the
equation was spirit. But will this revival amount to
anything more than a momentary sensation? No matter
how it shakes out, in the wake of the Internet's
creative destruction, new rules will have to be made.
And the physical and human capital that powered the
latter part of the 20th century is likely to be
coupled with a new kind of social capital.
Perhaps it's already coming.




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