Welcome to a paradigm shift! The great spiritual evolution is mainstream and showing up in the
world of work. The fruits of the laborer, of those who walk each day from a place of heart, are a
changed world of work.
A recent article in Noetic Sciences Review suggested a shift in spirituality from dwelling, (i.e.,
looking to tradition and others for the sacred) to seeking, (i.e., wanting a more direct connect with
the sacred). Baby boomers are having a large demographic impact as they reach age 50. Family
and friends are dying and death causes people to look for meaning in life and in work. In addition,
many people have met the basic needs of Maslow’s hierarchy (food, shelter and belonging), so they
are more able to move to the level of self-actualization. This spiritual paradigm shift is not about
work and religion, but rather about individuals, and thus organizations, seeking and searching, on a
daily basis, for better ways of living and being.
A number of other causes contribute to this paradigm shift. Companies have downsized, or right
sized, so people left behind are doing more with less. People are stressed out and bone tired. They
do not see light at the end of the work tunnel. In many occupations, more work is being shifted to
off-shore work sites. The security, once felt by working for a company, no longer exists. With the
loss of security from organizations, people look within for security. They find the only control they
have in life is the control of their inner experience. This personal searching leads individuals to an
internal need to reconcile personal values with the values of their organization.
A historical perspective also offers insight into this shift. In the agricultural age people were more
connected to the land and spirituality was a more natural way of everyday life. In the 17th century
and Newton’s Age of Reason, humans were treated like machines. Matter and spirit became
separate. The Industrial Revolution and urbanization brought a greater disconnection between
people and the Earth. At the turn of the century, organizations hired bodies to work. In the 1920s
and 1930s, companies started paying more attention to emotions and the employee became more of
a social being within the organization. Rooms painted different colors were tested to see how color
and emotions might impact productivity. In the 1960s and 1970s employers wanted workers to
bring their brains to work. They started total quality management teams and team work was
emphasized. Employers now wanted the minds and participation of their workers.
The evolution continued with the worker becoming not just a body, emotion, or mind, but a valued
human being. Employees wanted balanced lifestyles and organizations began supporting family
issues. At the same time there was an influx of women, the nurturing carriers of spirituality, into the
workplace. Employees wanted meaningful work and they brought their spiritual seeking needs to the
workplace. Creativity, communication, respect, partnership, vision, flexibility, energy, fun, passion,
finding yourself, work as meaning, values, service, ethical purpose, integrity, truth, and self-fulfillment
are the terms of the day. Employees want an environment that encourages, respects, and
appreciates. Organizations encourage this trend by focusing on quality and values. They have
become learning organizations.
The science of Quantum Mechanics and global communication has moved us away from the
industrial age of separation and into living systems thinking. Today, the vision is one of a dynamic
and interconnected world. In a living system, such as the Earth or an organization, everyone shares
responsibility for a problem generated by a system. Each is an aspect of the larger organization. In
Spirit, as in organizations, each is a part of the One. Science and spirituality move closer together;
research is done on the power of prayer. The media is filled with stories of angels and miracles.
Conversations about spiritual selves, once only whispered, now become part of meeting agendas.
What is valued has changed and new values have become mainstream. The paradigm has shifted,
but not yet stabilized.
The benefits to an organization of incorporating spiritual values into management practices are many.
Retention has become a major issue for some companies. More money is not the answer. People
want other things from their employers and those companies that meet those needs find they have
loyal employees even without the promise of more money and continued employment. There is
increased authenticity in communications. There is a greater sense of energy and renewal.
Productivity is increased in a nurturing and supportive environment.
How are organizations creating this seeking and searching space? They provide more self
governance, emphasize relationships, reward and celebrate creativity and innovation, create shared
visions, have meaningful dialogue with employees, support work as meaningful contribution, and
provide lifelong learning opportunities. Companies embrace system and circular thinking. The old
separate and linear line model is being recognized as inconsistent with a global market place.
Organizations are quick to recognize that what happens in Europe or Asia impacts business, and
people, in America – every one is a part of the whole.
This rapid, and challenging, paradigm shift is a struggle for some and a joy for others. Not all
organizations embrace the change. It, however, is not a choice. The world of work is changing,
because we are changing, the Earth is changing. So, now is the time to dream a new dream. What
do you want from your life? Imagine a work place that was in balance with you. What would the
place of work look like for you? Dare to dream, for this is a time of endings and new beginnings and
you can be a part of creating the new beginnings. This spiritual paradigm shift in our work world is
being driven by science, by the market and by individuals who no longer are willing to be in Spirit
only on the weekends. As we enter the season of fall, the thoughts and ideas planted and nourished
have given rise to an abundant crop of new ideas and new possibilities. What a great time to be
alive and to participate in this spiritual paradigm shift in the world of work!
Barbara Knudson, Ph.D., is author of Living in Chaos, Walking in Peace: A Matter of
Ascension. She lives and works in Twin Falls, Idaho.