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Workplace Culture – How to Celebrate the Sacred at Work

The importance of recognising the human aspect of people’s lives at work, while balancing business priorities.

In honour of my upcoming marriage, I shunned the bunny ears and night-time frolics of a hen night, and instead opted for a maiden ceremony designed and led by an ‘elder’ wise woman in Glastonbury. I wanted to honour the sacred aspect of this transition, to ask for prayer and blessings for my future husband and I’s life together, and to celebrate this journey of life that has brought such transformation and joy.

Back at my desk, after a magical weekend, I’m left wondering how the sacred can be honoured and celebrated at work. To clarify what I mean by sacred, I’m not talking about religious calendar events or festivals, but rather the every-day occurrences that often pass us by un-noticed, the life-transitions that make up the fabric of an organisation – individual and collective.

I’m working with clients at the moment who are in a race against time in terms of the objectives they are aiming to achieve. The pace of change is so high that staff are at a loss to distinguish between the ‘top priorities’. Luckily for one, we’ve been working hard to ensure that communication is structured and regular, and that the senior leadership team are ‘on board’ and able to articulate the company vision and rationale for each of the strategic projects.

But I think something more is needed. Leaders and managers need to make time for the human dimension of work to shine through. When someone in the team goes through a challenging time – either personally or on the work-front, there needs to be a response. Not just the odd ‘how’s it going?’ between meetings, but time and space to truly allow that individual to feel heard, to share and ‘to be’ with the challenge. Conversely, if there’s an event to be celebrated – either individually or at a team or organisation level, that too needs to shared.

The push-back and challenge will always be ‘lack of time’, but it can be as simple as putting an extra agenda item at the beginning or end of a meeting. Instead of going to the pub, how about a team walk, or a football game? If someone’s lost a close relative to cancer, set up a team charity event to raise money for a hospice, or charity of choice.

Consider how you as a leader or manager could expand your day-to-day activity to recognise and honour the life-experience of the people you work with.They’ll feel heard, respected and valued as a result, and the little time invested will be recouped many times over in good-will.

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Comments (2)

  1. Maybe the challenge here is around language.  Is ‘sacred’ too tree-huggy for many businesses?  I have found using the Thinking Environment concept of ’rounds’ at the beginning of meetings used for connecting people to higher things, for want of a better expression.  In this everyone gets equal time, even if it is less than a minute, to answer a question which could be ‘What is sacred in your lifework right now?”

    • Hi Charlotte, yes – I agree that ‘sacred’ is probably a little bit too close to the line in terms of practical usage in the business world. If I was facilitating a workshop or leading a meeting I’d find a way to paraphrase – e.g. ‘what really matters to you right now?’, and make it clear I wasn’t referring just to work. Language is a challenge! I’ll explore the ‘Thinking Environment’ concept further – thank you.

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