April 15, 2005


A Little Bit of Corporate Soul (Pallavi Gogoi, 4/05/05, Business Week)

The sense of loss that has marked Pope John Paul II's death reflects a heightened focus on religion -- a trend evident in U.S. workplaces
The death of Pope John Paul II has prompted an unprecedented outpouring of worldwide grief, and the U.S. is no exception. While some may be surprised at the reaction, it's just the latest sign of how spiritually attuned the country has become. Pundits describe the most recent Presidential election as having been won on "moral values." The one nonfiction bestseller that broke all records in the last two years was Pastor Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life, a book about achieving purpose through God.

And Corporate America, large parts of which once considered it inappropriate to mix God and business, has gotten religion. Recent years have seen an unmistakable increase in the attention paid to religion and spirituality at the office. Large corporations such as Intel (INTC ), PepsiCo (PEP ), Coca-Cola (KO ), and Sears (S ) allow employee prayer groups. Many of them meet at noontime in gatherings with names such as "higher power lunches."

Why this increased focus on spirituality? The answer is manifold. Americans are increasingly leading more stressful lives. Surveys show they work more hours than people in most other industrialized countries and take fewer vacation days. At the same time, many are dissatisfied professionally. A Mar. 1 survey from New York-based research group The Conference Board found that only 50% of Americans are happy with their jobs, down from 59% in 1995.

"If, after spending a majority of their waking time at work, people aren't fulfilled, they have to find meaning at and purpose from a spiritual source," says Ian Mitroff, professor in the Graduate School of Business at the University of Southern California and the author of A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America.

And in the wake of both September 11 and the wave of greed-driven corporate scandals that reached an apex with Enron and WorldCom, more companies are willing to encourage spirituality and allow its practice. "There is a greater need for executives to incorporate the spiritual aspects of their lives into their work," says Paul T.P. Wong, professor at Trinity Western University in Canada. Dennis Bakke, co-founder of energy company AES (AES ), incorporated his spiritual beliefs into his book, Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job.. Bakke, an evangelical Christian, included a 30-page essay, "Enter Into the Master's Joy."

Man, the secularists are really fighting a losing battle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2005 4:12 PM

The backlash in the workplace kicked in when "harassment" policies identified any sort of religious display as "threatening". The unleashed emotions were a joy to behold.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 15, 2005 5:50 PM

And all of this just a decade after the proposed EEOC directive (I believe this is what ghostcat refers to) banning "excessive religious demonstration" at the workplace. Like all great legislation, the directive was exhaustive and vague at the same time, never bothering to define what it was declaring illegal. It specifically restricted the use of crosses, crucifixes, and yarmulkes, but said nothing about Muslim/Mennonite headcoverings or Amish costumes - though they were ALSO apparently banned! I wondered how the directive would cover a person named Christian (first OR last name); I'm sure you can think of other sticking points. Of course, before employers had deciphered all thge ramifications of this directive, it was rescinded ... doubtless it would have been challenged on the basis of the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at April 15, 2005 6:20 PM

Open displays of religiosity in the workplace, whether it is the used car dealer with the sign 'Christian Owned and Operated' or the electronics dealer with a yarmulke who tries to sell you reconditioned equipment as if it's new, are merely another attempt to swindle the unsuspecting. The dishonorable will often make protestations of faith in order to fool the sheep. Moliere and Shakespeare covered this ground pretty well.

Posted by: bart at April 16, 2005 6:58 AM


You've never had a Chick-Fil-A sandwich, huh?

Posted by: oj at April 16, 2005 7:26 AM