Bringing Spirituality into the Workplace

    Reprinted from The Reporter, Santa Fe, December, 1994

    Bringing Spirituality
    Into the Workplace

    By Kay Bird

    A book by the Pope and another about the world searching for mystical truths have become best sellers. Gregorian chants have become dance music. The great spiritual search is in the mainstream.

    Unless you're at work. Then the brakes are pulled on the Great Inquiry. Like church and state, there seems to be an immutable separation between spirituality and the workplace.

    Martin Rutte wants to bring the two together.

    Rutte, a Canadian who recently transplanted to Santa Fe from California, has a successful management consulting company, Livelihood, Inc. He has worked with such companies as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Virgin Records and Apple Computer.

    His own funk, eight years ago, and the realization that it was coming from a lack of a spiritual connection, made him change course in his career. As a business consultant, Rutte began to wonder where the spirituality was. He's now in the R&D stage—giving speeches, talking to people—of developing a consulting practice focusing on the spiritual in the workplace.

    Rutte's not talking about prayer meetings and meditation rooms. What he wants to see is acceptance and open discussion of spiritual matters, just as employees now feel free to talk about health problems or emotional crises. And, he said, spirituality doesn't have to mean belief in God. It can be expressed through art or music or a trip to the mountains. It can be defined as self-fulfillment, he said, or by the qualities of integrity, truth and morality. Those same qualities can be found underlying companies' vision and mission statements, he said.

    Rutte sees the definition of "work” changing. It is not just about earning money any more, he said. Work should be considered a livelihood: a means to keeping food on the table and nurturing the soul. "It used to be seen as either doing well or doing good,” he said. “I'd be a social worker or a priest, or I could be a stockbroker.”

    There's no bottom line that proves Rutte's desire to plant the spiritual in offices is on track. He doesn't have a marketing plan or projections for success. Actually, people have worried he was crazy. "'Are you nuts?"' Rutte remembered them saying. "'You can't talk about this stuff."

    "Their concern was it would appear I had gone off the deep end and I would start to lose business," he said.

    People don't want to talk about spirituality in the workplace, Rutte said, because they think that means they'll have to talk about religion. And they think that means they'll encounter dogma and debates over who is right and wrong. But Rutte is convinced other people are experiencing the same spiritual emptiness he felt.

    He spoke for the worker: "'There've been massive layoffs; I'm asked to do more with less; I don't see an end to the tunnel with this. The job market isn't great so I'm stuck here.' There's a malaise and a tiredness and corporate officers know that"

    Then he spoke for management: "'I know l can get more work out of you in the short run, but in the long run, you'll flip out on me.'"

    Because baby boomers are starting to consider their own mortality, and a renewed concern for the environment is leading to a concern for the collective well-being, Rutte thinks it will be easier to mesh spirituality and work.

    Rutte could be right. Senior executives questioned in a survey by Robert Half lnternational, a staffing services firm, said that CEOs should spend about 34 percent of their time building the morale and productivity of their staffs. If Rutte's assertion that spiritual awareness can lead to more content employees is correct can executives worrying about their employees spiritual plane be far off?

    One day, Rutte would like companies to have multiple bottom lines, he said. They would look not only at profit, but at the company's contribution to society, its effect on the environment, its concern for the future. There should be a spiritual bottom line that measures individual employees' spiritual well-being.

    "Joseph Campbell said, you can tell who has the most important institution in a community by who has the tallest building,” Rutte said. "Business is the leverage point for doing good in the world. It has the power. Getting businesses to realize their role in the world will be a contribution to the world."