“TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF”
This week, for the first time in 5 interviews, over 10+ screening calls, and 40+ job applications, I was asked to share about my faith, spirituality, and ideologies. To be honest, it was more validating than I expected.
You may know this already, but when job interviewers ask the question, ‘Tell us about yourself,’ they are actually asking, ‘How you would fit into the specific role at the company?’. To this you should reply with a narrow, distilled 30 second answer containing situations, task, and examples related to the job and company. And yes, I learnt this after some awkward stares and storyline interruptions in an early interview where I thought they actually wanted to know about me.
Fact: Most interviewers don’t want to know what has shaped you as a person – and fair enough, you might think, this isn’t a romantic date. However, aside from interviewers asking bizarrely nuanced questions designed to have you wrap your identity around a selection criteria, I do wonder why questions around what a person holds dear to their heart aren’t valued in interviews OR within most regular workplace practices. You see, the things that made my last interviewer stand out was she knew was onto something that too many managers and recruiters miss. She knew something research has confirmed, that “Most people wished ardently that they could express their spirituality in the workplace. At the same time, most were extremely hesitant to do so”.
But spirituality is more than a person’s religious affiliation. Spirituality IS a universal personal phenomenon. It touches everyone, all the time. And despite some tremendous and much needed work being done around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), I think it’s also worth presenting some research findings to inform both job seekers and hiring staff of the role a person’s spirituality and religious worldview plays in their work. This article will likely be in several parts, this first one focusing on Workplace Spirituality – a powerful force for employee engagement and workplace transformation.
If the concept of seeing the words workplace and spirituality in the same sentence is new for you, here are a couple of differences you should know. Firstly, workplace spirituality is not the same as a person’s own spirituality or religious affiliation – but it’s surprisingly important.
Spirituality at work, also known as workplace spirituality, recognises the inner life that nourishes and is nourished by meaningful work which takes place in the context of community (including workplaces -which are communities). Interestingly, some scholars suggest that an organisation invested in providing and rewarding employee learning not only encourage growth in a person’s IQ and EQ, but also grow the employee’s spirit. A consensus is emerging that spirituality itself might be described as ‘a multifaceted construct concerned with finding a connection to something meaningful that transcends our ordinary lives’ . You might even consider that, although not overtly religious, workplaces can have a spiritual impact on a person’s inner life – both positively, or negatively – as seen in the effect ‘toxic workplaces’ have deep within a person’s being.
SPIRITUALITY AND PERFORMANCE – THE RESEARCH
Considering many organisations today are focusing on ways to shape culture and increase workplace engagement, should we be surprised that research positively supports efforts to shape the spirituality in the workplace? A 2004 study suggests there is a strong correlation between workplace engagement and spirituality; stating that workplaces embracing workplace spirituality grow faster; have increase efficiencies; and have higher rates of return than organizations low in spirituality. Other studies confirmed a correlation between workplace spirituality increasing organisational commitment and staff retention .
So, you’re a leader in your workplace, reading this thinking, ‘What now!? Do you want me to introduce Bible studies, Yoga classes and build a prayer room like they have in airports?’ Yes and no.
Yes, these things may matter to people who have inherent religious faiths – but no, people are not looking for a workplace to replace a mosque, synagogue, chapel, or religious gathering. But let’s acknowledge that many organisations want more than their employee’s hands and brains, right? They want their souls, their spirits  – the place where creativity, joy, commitment, wisdom, passion, endurance, morals, values, and empathy comes from. And if you want to draw from this deep personal well to move your organisation forward, here are some crucial questions:
- How are you humanising your workplace?
- Where are your well-being programs?
- Do your L & D efforts go beyond a website subscription and have flesh on it?
- Do you have paid days for volunteering and how is this celebrated?
- Do you have personal development allowances (not professional development)?
- Do you integrate daily personal check-ins?
- Does your EAP include mental health worker access?
- Can staff talk about their spirituality, faith and religion safely?
- How is your DEI program and does it include recognition of personal spirituality including religious affiliation?
- Do you offer emotional and culture intelligence training (EQ & CQ)?
- Are you hiring emotionally mature managers/leaders?
In other words, how are you investing and nourishing the human spirit behind the organisation? I’m reminding you, by definition, the investment doesn’t have to be religious in order for it to be spiritual – but it does need to be human and heartfelt.
Personal note: At 39, I took a break from management roles while studying and sharing home duties, I worked for 4.5 years in a part-time role as the workplace chaplain and leadership learning and development specialist at a faith-based tech firm. It was a privileged role to be in. I was able to invest in people spiritually and intellectually. I can tell you, (from data we collected) my efforts helped in retention, engagement, personal growth, hiring, culture, mental health, leadership development and conflict resolution. I share this because even though every person at the workplace had a personal and active religious Christian faith AND the organisation was religiously missional in their efforts, the organisation’s active investment in workplace spirituality through chaplaincy access and frequent leadership development training (L&D) paid tangible dividends.
It may be just me, but the pandemic took a deep spiritual toll on the planet. Even religious/church attendance is down in many countries. The pandemic and its control measures took the wind out of many sails. The loss of life, loved ones, dreams, skills, businesses etc, has brought on a tsunami of grief – and we are still living in the wash of it. If there was a time for smart organisations to be listening to the science that points towards the unarguable benefits of workplace spirituality, NOW may be that time.
I intend on bringing more research on the topic but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. If you’re a business owner/leader and want to explore it more, feel free to reach out.
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