Change Management: The Role of Business Ethics & Spirituality
In a recent survey of top Fortune 500 executives and managers, business leaders described a strong desire to stop leaving a significant part of themselves out of their decision making processes—the spiritual underpinning of their ethical decisions. All 134 managers and executives described spirituality in terms that indicated a desire to live a holistic, systemic, non-fragmented life—not necessarily as religious. People feel that their lives are splintered—domestic life, ethical life, spiritual life, business life, health and fitness life, etc. How different are you at work from who you are at home? What about others in your management team or workforce? What effect is that difference having on your organization’s outcomes? What does your organization lose because of what its leadership and workforce are leaving at the door?
Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby
The recent Supreme Court decision in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case brings into sharp focus a persistent problem faced by managers and executives—how to balance profitability versus ethics and spirituality; i.e., how to operationally integrate ethics and spirituality into organizational management and leadership. This situation is further complicated by the possibility that ethics and spirituality are not immune to abuse. To avoid these extremes, some people move in the other direction and, wittingly or unwittingly, commit business ethics violations that can create liability for their organizations.
Even so, don’t lose heart. Despite these challenges, it is possible to reconcile business profitability with a strongly ethical organizational culture that accommodates the need for that “something more, beyond actualization,” that must be met in order for people to find real meaning in their work. At Hureco Maverick, we help organizations to develop or reinforce such a culture.
What the Research Shows
- A two-year study of 230 managers and 84 executives from private, public, and associative organizations in the United States was conducted in 1999 to determine how organizational leaders define what spirituality means and how it is practiced in an occupational context.* Researchers compared traditional firms governed strictly by economic values with others that were also concerned with promoting spirituality and ethical values in business.
- Using 131 questionnaires and 99 in-depth interviews, managers and leading executives—including some CEOs—from Fortune 500 firms were asked to define what the terms “spiritual” and “religious” meant to them in their own words. They were also asked to define how appropriate it was to specifically discuss spirituality in their organizations, as opposed to values or other more abstract ideas.
- Of the 230 managers and top executives who participated in the study, 92% viewed spirituality in a positive light, and wanted to know how to better integrate them into the daily work life. One of the most significant unmet needs in business life is to find better ways to address values, ethics, and spirituality in management. This favorable position of workplace expressions of ethics and spirituality was taken not by just a majority, but by nearly the totality of the business leaders who participated. The findings were consistent with those of a ten-year follow-up study.**
Are employees at your organization able to feel that their work has deeper meaning? Are you?
A Lack of Examples of How-To
Although nearly all responding managers and executives want to better integrate a spiritually-informed workplace ethic, there are few models for how to do so in practical terms. The managers and executives don’t know how to actualize these values. Many have been repeatedly ridiculed, and don’t know a concrete way to bring all of themselves to work, including ethical or spiritual ideas, when exposure to further ridicule would risk being stricken at their cores. How does one develop a reputation for a spiritually-undergirded ethical perspective while retaining one for critical analysis and credibility? No one wants to be associated with a movement that raises the question of one’s credulity, but it’s also important to respect the spirituality of our colleagues and coworkers. In an area lacking in concrete examples of how to integrate ethical principles, we can help your organization become one of those models.
Ethical & Spiritual Organizations Have Specific Characteristics
When executive leadership, management and workers actively attempt to actualize ethical and/or spiritual principles, such an organization can be said to be a spiritual organization. Although there isn’t abundant knowledge yet on how these organizations operationalize their principles, there are some things that we can say. They’re not traditional, and are a hybrid between non-profit and for-profit organizations. One well-known example of such an organization is Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont ice cream company. In their case, rather than establish a threshold for cause-based contributions, they give a percentage of every dollar made. Companies seeking to operate as spiritual organizations aim to practice on a higher ethical level, and govern themselves by different rules than the traditional ones. Are such principles structurally or culturally embedded at your workplace? If so, how? If not, and you think that they ought to be, Hureco Maverick can help you map that territory and implement these ethically-focused changes.
Transformative Processes Often Begin Only With Crisis
Survey participants saw crisis as catalytic. The driving force for transformative movement is often derived from the release of energy caused by anxiety over crises. Although not everyone who experiences a crisis emerges from it enlightened, it seems that in most cases the path to enlightenment (whatever that is perceived to be) is not embarked upon until a major crisis ensues. Carl Jung, the noted psychiatrist and psychotherapist, realized this relationship between crisis and transformation.
In an organization, crisis is more than losing profits; it extends beyond smaller market share or earnings per share. For an organization, the catalyst must be a crisis of meaning. Both the leadership and workforce of an organization must come to understand that “business as usual,” in terms of both their personal lives and business lives, isn’t taking them where they are seeking to go. For crisis to be constructive, realizations about the status quo are necessary, and the people involved must be willing to undertake a change management process as a result of their realizations.
If your workforce is leaving the best part of themselves at the door, let us help you plan and manage a change in your organization’s culture that will let your workforce bring the rest of themselves in, and increase your organizational effectiveness. Contact us today!
* Dr. Ian I. Mitroff & Dr. Elizabeth A. Denton – “A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America: A Hard Look at Spirituality, Religion, and Values in the Workplace”
** Dr. Ian I. Mitroff, Dr. Elizabeth A. Denton & Dr. Can Murat Alpaslan – “A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America: Ten Years Later.” Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion