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BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT:Spirituality at work is the topic of trio's books

Work by professors attempts to apply ethics to problems and behaviors found at workplaces.

May 02, 2007|By Rachel Kane

A trio of business professors at Woodbury University is trying to put a little soul into the corporate bottom line by way of two complementary texts out this month.

"Spirituality in the Workplace," written by Joan Marques, Satinder Dhiman and Richard King, is the authors' answer to lack of enthusiasm and enjoyment in the workplace.

The book highlights ways employers and employees can insert spirituality — and thus more enjoyment — into jobs in the form of celebrating birthdays, showing appreciation and even placing plants in cubicles.

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"We can't park our souls outside when we go to the office," Dhiman said.

The book's message is for workers to treat each other, and themselves, better when they're on the job, and not just when they're taking vacation.

As a companion text to the "Spirituality in the Workplace," Marques wrote "The Awakened Leader," a guide to using several different leadership styles in a work environment, and in everyday life, while maintaining a positive attitude.

The impetus for both the books came from a popular class Dhiman taught called Spirituality in the Workplace, and from Marques' work on her doctoral dissertation.

"I know how terrific it's been for our students," said Lori McCall, program manager and office coordinator for the School of Business.

"It's one of our more sought-after courses that the students want to take here."

The authors admitted that most of the suggestions in the book seem basic. But they pointed out that despite the obviousness of applying solid ethics to business practice, most of the positive reinforcement they tout is not practiced in many workplaces, particularly those with mostly part-time employees.

"So much of this is pretty simple stuff, but it's a matter of applying these things," King said.

Through hundreds of interviews with employees, managers and company owners of varying age, race and socioeconomic backgrounds, the professors used opinions on workplace practices to provide advice. Among the tips offered in "Spirituality in the Workplace" are: addressing individual differences by focusing on employees' needs and accommodating them; setting achievable goals; rewarding employees when they reach those goals; increasing workers' responsibility for planning; and rotating jobs to diversify the work.

The authors also did studies of business models and mission statements from several different large companies and compared their financial success to how spiritual their corporate practices were.

The concept of spirituality in the book is a means to an end of increased productivity — and, eventually, increased profit, King said.

"People want meaning in their work — meaning in their life," he said.

"From the business point of view, that's good business."

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