by Tanys Coughlan, CHRP

It has been said that spirituality and religion have no place in business and the workplace. It is true that we should never make decisions based on someone’s religious or spiritual beliefs but these beliefs are a big part of who we are as an employee.

First though, I’d like to make the distinction between religion and spirituality. Religion is an institution established by man for various reasons like instilling morality, providing groups a set of moral and ethical codes to live by and providing a community of like-minded individuals. Spirituality is found within one’s self and is more about the way that we love, accept and relate to the world around us. Religion denotes “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, usually involving devotional and ritual observances and a moral code.” (http://www.compellingtruth.org/difference-religion-spirituality.html)  In contrast, spirituality can be defined as “a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all. People may describe a spiritual experience as sacred or transcendent or simply a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness.” (http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/purpose/spirituality/what-spirituality)

The website GotQuestions.org explains it briefly as “…religion is a set of beliefs and rituals that claim to get a person in a right relationship with God, and spirituality is a focus on spiritual things and the spiritual world instead of physical/earthly things.” http://www.gotquestions.org/religion-spirituality.html This means that religion is about the rules or ethical codes and the rituals that people do to express their spirituality and spirituality is their feelings and relationship to the Divine, the Universe or God.

Spirituality places an emphasis on the well-being of the mind, body and spirit and has been associated with the interior life of an individual; whereas, religion has been associated with the external behaviours of individuals. If we look at these two concepts as they relate to the workplace, they are both factors that make up our personalities and effect how we relate to the world but in different ways.

Religion gives us a framework for making moral and ethical decisions so is it safe to say that this is reflected in our decision making process for work-related decisions as well?  Spirituality is about our inner life and has a basis in our mind-body-spiritual experience and balance. Isn’t it safe to say that if we aren’t able to be spiritual at work that the overall person is not whole when at work?  The trouble with bringing religion into the workplace is that each religion has a different set of rules or codes to live by so if we were to say in the workplace that we should all be free to make decisions only based on our religious beliefs it would make group decisions very difficult.

I would like to say though that by ignoring this as a factor in the work place you will end up with disengaged workers. So what do we need to do to help each employee feel that their beliefs are being considered and heard?

We need to create workplaces that are open to the discussions about creating a moral code that encompasses the overall tone that is behind most religions and peoples spiritual practices. Being kind to each other and to ourselves is an overlying principle in most religions. It is difficult to define what being kind is when you have many different frameworks and beliefs but in general as human beings we define it as:

“1. of a good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person: a kind and loving person.

  1. Having,showing,orproceedingfrombenevolence:kindwords.
  2. Indulgent, considerate, or helpful; humane (often followed by to): to be kind to animals.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/kind)

So I ask you…is the underlying spiritual principle and religious principle of being kind to each other and ourselves something that should be in the workplace?

Absolutely!!

Tanys Coughlan,

Certified Human Resources Professional, Twillow Consulting, Registered Reiki Master

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