Spiritual Blogging at Work

I got a note from a good friend who is trying to figure out what he wants to blog for his company. He has an active spiritual practice and is a great thinker about workplace issues. With a very smart insight about the way that shifting demographics and economics change people’s views of the importance of spiritual things, he wanted to write about spirituality in the workplace.

Of course, it’s Northern California where spirituality means something vastly different than it does in Tulsa.

I thought about the question a bit and formulated the following response. I’m interested in knowing what you think about the subject.

I think spirituality in business is a very important concern. I have a number of friends who do the Christian version of that topic in their blogs. They are really good and smart people who think it’s important that their ideas on faith get an airing. The stuff generally takes the form of illuminating one scriptural verse, story or principle by using examples from work and business.

I generally find their work to be irritating, cloaked in sect-specific jargon and unintentionally self-righteous.. At it’s most banal, it is Dear Abby with an aggravating level of moral certainty. At it’s most engaging, it is removed from the sect specifics and focuses on things that make us more effective.

But, most of it is just preaching to a disinterested audience.

There’s an aspect of missionary work that depends on being turned away by potential converts. Lots of people who work as missionaries find that their faith is strengthened by being heckled. The general principle is that the more doors that are slammed in a proselytizer’s face, the more certain he or she becomes. Missionary work delivers its greatest benefit to the missionary.

This sort of thing is not appropriate for most company blogs.

So, while I wouldn’t be opposed to a blog that focused on spiritual topics, I think that any such project would have to be consonant with the company’s cultural values.

A really great Muslim company could probably do a blog about Islamic mysticism in the work place. You could easily imagine a Kosher foods company having a Kabala blog. The local homeless mission is probably going to have a blog about the importance of their particular sect.

We live in a secular  dosage society. Your company is a particularly secular company. I’m sure that diversity and customer intimacy are prized over spirituality in your hierarchy of values. So, a blog that was aligned with the company’s view couldn’t profess to be certain about sect-specific aspects of spirituality without alienating customers

What that means, I think, is that any work with your brand probably has to deal with universal principles that can not be traced to a single sect. At that point, it’s really not about spirituality, even. It’s about principles for successful living. People like Zig Ziglar are good models to consider… spiritual principles with a focus on business outcomes.

The problem with conversations about religion is that people want to be right. The only sort of work on this topic that’s appropriate avoids ever making anyone feel other than right. The problem is  that it’s really hard to do this. When it comes to religious missionary work, some companies prize this above all else. A proselytizing blog is perfect for them. Otherwise, the balance should favor company values.

That said, the realization of people’s fullest potential is exactly a good subject for a company blog, particularly in the HR world. Just because we need to avoid sect-specifics doesn’t mean that principles for effective living should be a taboo topic. As for me, I’d be scared to raise the subject because it could get heated and I’m not enough of an expert to cover the territory.. There are, however, plenty of examples of using heat to generate business success.

What I realized from writing the note is that we’re entering a time where company values is becoming a meaningful issue. The container of culture is best enforced through shared discussion and conversation. It’s really a fatal move to try to cover it all with detailed policies.

As micropublishing takes root, the thing that will separate one firm from another is a clear understanding of values within the walls of the company. The conversation has to be robust enough so that creative workers can answer questions like my friend posed for themselves.

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