Family Businesses — Promoters of Spirituality at Work?

Insight on why family businesses are more advantageous in developing workplace spirituality.

May 22, 2015

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What is spirituality?

“Spirituality is so subjective, it can be different things to different people” as stated by Mrs. Dunia Hrajli, part-time instructor of marketing, business communications and civic engagement at LAU during the “Spirituality and Creativity in Managing Family Businesses” presentation, organized by the Institute of Family and Entrepreneurial Business in collaboration with its Family Business Network, on Tuesday May 19, 2015 at LAU Executive Center, Downtown Beirut. 

To some spirituality could be manifested through religion, while to others, spirituality could be about meditation, well-being or a certain lifestyle, as Hrajli proposed. “It is the individualized experience of meaning, purpose, and connection to something greater than oneself” as she presented her reference to Hawley (1993).

 She continued to explain how important it was to acknowledge our spiritual values, be it religious or other and that our intrinsic selves were the drivers of our behavior because they would dictate our self-fulfillment, satisfaction, contentment and ethics, especially at work.

All religions and spiritual teachings conform to the idea that work is a type of worship. Employees have inner lives which look for meaningfulness and purpose in their work. This calls for the concentration on the notion of Workplace Spirituality (WPS).

“For humans to bring their most to work, they have to bring their values”, Hrajli declared.

She identified three levels of WPS — personal, organizational and community.
She further explained by giving examples illustrating the importance of aligning inner self spirituality (empathy, passion, religiousness, life purpose, altruism) with the organization (sense of purpose, connectedness with the organization’s goals and values, sense of acknowledgment) and community (sense of belonging and of common purpose, strong cultural ties, unity in diversity, genuineness).

Hrajli then shared statistics about WPS showing the significant and rising interest in this subject and cited characteristics of spiritual businesses. Some of the external characteristics included commitment to CSR, employee and management involvement in the community, clear communication of spiritual values in relations with customers and use of spirituality in marketing and public relations. Internal characteristics would be employee alignment with work goals, leader commitment to spiritual/religious values, passionate teams, a virtue and value-driven culture and accountability for values, to mention few.

So why would we consider family businesses as incubators of WPS?

Hrajli displayed cultural advantages of family businesses that would make them more prone to endorse WPS — long-term orientation, knowledge of the business, shared values and commitment to beliefs and vision, concern for quality, ease of decision-making, loyalty and trust.

These advantages as well as the values of altruism, trust, communication and openness, not-to-mention management style and organization, are what differentiate family businesses from other organizations.

Given the importance of WPS and its relevance in today’s world of management, and given the connections of family businesses’ cultural aspects with spiritual business characteristics, it is safe to assume that family businesses are advantageous over non-family businesses for they provide the necessary environment for WPS and are able to reap the respective long-term benefits.