How do people get to have spirit at work? And why do they have spirit at work and others don’t? Although we tend to experience spirit at work in a similar way, my research shows that we get there in different ways. Here is an excerpt from my book: Rethinking Your Work: Get to the Heart of What Matters.
Some people have always had spirit at work. For others, spirit at work develops over time, and at some point — often at midlife — it comes together. For a third group, spirit at work occurs as a response to a crisis or personal event — a response that, for many, becomes transformative.
Finally, there is a group of people who, shall we say, wear their spirit at work on their sleeves. Their experience of spirit at work is in direct relationship with their experience at work. If things are going well at work, they have spirit at work. If things are not going so well, they don’t have spirit at work.
I call these the four paths to spirit at work. I now want to introduce you to Larry, Noreen, Ben and Sheila, and briefly discuss the paths they took. Larry’s path was always there. Noreen took the coming together path. Ben experienced the path of transformative events and Sheila is on the contextual sensitivity path.
Always there. Larry has been a dentist for more than thirty years. He has always had spirit at work, has always loved his work. He describes himself as a people person who helps out, cares for others, and is simply dedicated to what he does. That was how he grew up; that is what his family did. For him, the experience of spirit at work was constant, with peaks but never valleys along the way. When I asked how he developed spirit at work, he credited “gifts I have been given.”
“It’s in me,” he added. Unlike people who believe everyone is born with spirit and each of us chooses whether to develop it or not, Larry believes we either have it or don’t. “You have to come into the world at least half-cocked,” he joked.
Coming together. Noreen, an educator, feels that while it is possible to experience fleeting moments of spirit at work as a young adult, she is more typical in coming across it later in life. Only in midlife had she acquired enough diverse experiences in life to make the connections. She describes her skills, faith and passion coming together such that she suddenly felt “at home.” All previous roles — as a mother, wife and teacher — worked to prepare her for the experience. Noreen believes that, “Spirit at work is related to midlife, a time when you are pulling everything together.”
Transformative events. Ben is a physiotherapist whose work has changed over time. The more experienced he became, the more his skill level increased, resulting in constant improvement. His transformation occurred when he took an acupuncture course where he learned about holistic medicine. This precipitated the biggest change in his life, both personally and professionally. He says that, “It was life-transforming. It changed everything.” Transformative events can relate to spiritual growth or a personal crisis. Later in this chapter, I will talk about the path of transformative events as a result of a personal crisis.
Contextual sensitivity. Sheila loves her work as a graduate coordinator and administrative assistant but experiences spirit at work only when her work setting allows it. For her, it’s up to how the leaders run the organization, how well they promote teamwork, and how they recognize and treat each employee. When her boss is supportive and inclusive, she has spirit at work. But when the organization casts a negative influence, she has seen herself change from a committed to a bitter employee. She was only able to regain her spirit at work by moving to a new organization. Sheila is on the contextually sensitive path to spirit at work, one that is dependent on the work environment.
These brief profiles illustrate the four distinct paths to spirit at work.
Can you identify the path you are on?
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Val Kinjerski, PhD, is a leading authority in the field of employee engagement and on the topic of “spirit at work.” A consultant, agent of change and professional speaker, she helps companies and organizations increase employee retention and boost productivity by reigniting employees’ love for their work. Check out her Spirit at Work Program and Inspired Leadership training at www.kaizensolutions.org. Val is the author of Rethinking Your Work and Rethinking Your Work Guidebook. Available now at www.rethinkingyourwork.com.