Spirituality in Organizations
John Bush, Psy.D.
In today’s modern world, most people belong to one or more organizations. People work, find recreation, and seek education in organizations. Organizations produce most of the products we consume, and funds deposited in organizational institutions pay for the products. Organizations surround us and shape the ‘warp and woof ‘of modern society.
The fundamental essence of any organization is the human relationships that exist between members of the organization, and without these relationships, an organization does not exist. It seems obvious then that an understanding of the nature of human relationships is critical in every regard as we consider organizations. This is true for the social scientist who studies organizations, for creators and owners of organizations, for management personnel who are responsible for the success of the organization, and for consultants, coaches, and other professionals who provide ongoing assistance to the organization. Many colleges and universities offer graduate degrees in organizational leadership, organizational psychology, and organization management.
There is a myriad of books written on every aspect of organizations from such diverse viewpoints as economic, philosophical, psychological, financial, political, cultural, sociological, and historical. There are many books guiding the operation of organizations, such as creating organizations, managing, financial, human relations, marketing, legal, and dissolution. Large organizations compose smaller functional organizations, often referred to as departments, e.g., the marketing department, the finance department, the human relations department. The smaller units, referred to as “small groups” in organizational literature, will be used as the ‘unit of scale’ to address organizations.
The focal premise is that organizations (small groups) exist only in the relationships between members of the organization. The relationships and interactions between members of the organization form a highly complex system, and out of this highly complex system of human beings the phenomenon of spirituality may arise as an emergent property. It is this fundamental truth that underpins all the knowledge amassed about organizations.
It is necessary to recognize that a member of an organization brings their entire self to the enterprise, and this is not as obvious as it might seem. The mantra of many organizations tells members to “leave their personal stuff at the door.” The assertion is that the member is there only to produce; much like a robot, and that personal consideration would interfere with a high level of efficiency and production. This view is based upon a highly distorted understanding of human nature; first, that it is possible for a human being to compartmentalize oneself and only be partially present, and second, a lack of understanding that the so-called “personal stuff” is the source of creativity and productivity.
There is a constellation of traits common to all human beings. Spirituality is an emergent property arising from this constellation of evolved traits and is the most complete description of human nature. Spirituality has a biological/psychological/ cultural basis and does not derive from natural or religiously explained sources. The strongest and most central of these traits is a deep drive for relationship, connection, and community. This strong trait is a central reason why so much human activity exists in organizations.