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Buddhism Can Boost Workplace Happiness Says Report

9 October 2017 at 8:21 am
Wendy Williams
A UK study is calling on not for profits to look to Buddhism to boost levels of workplace happiness and productivity.

Wendy Williams | 9 October 2017 at 8:21 am


Buddhism Can Boost Workplace Happiness Says Report
9 October 2017 at 8:21 am

A UK study is calling on not for profits to look to Buddhism to boost levels of workplace happiness and productivity.

The study, from Warwick Business School, explored how aligning performance management measures with spiritual principles could re-energise employees and better guide not for profits in their mission rather than traditional rationales that were more profit-oriented.

Researchers cited the 2016 Non-profit Employment Practices Survey which found attracting and retaining talent had been identified as the second-greatest challenge facing not-for-profit organisations.

Assistant professor of performance and responsibility at Warwick Business School, Dr Haley Beer, said spiritual disciplines could offer insights into techniques for achieving the lasting employee engagement that everyone was searching for.

“Some might think spirituality and business should not be mixed, but both play an important role in society and people’s lives and should be seen as interdependent,” Beer said.

“In the not-for-profit field we found an overemphasis on profit-oriented philosophies where the assumptions of individualistic, bureaucratic and materialistic attainments continue.

“But these ignore the ethical and benevolent dimensions of not for profits and charities and the key role these organisations play in society.”

Beer said spiritual rationales for goals and activities, such as those proposed in Buddhist philosophies, could complement the commercial actions required to help individuals through business means.

“Most employees want to help people and this is what motivates them to work in this industry,” she said.

“They would be more able to believe in the purpose and intent of management practices such as performance measurement when understanding that its use also drives social connectedness and enables them to identify opportunities to create social value.”

The study, Spiritually Informed Not-for-profit Performance Measurement published in the Journal of Business Ethics, interviewed 63 executives, board of directors, senior employees, and long-serving volunteers at not-for-profit organisations.

It centred on five spiritual practices of Buddhism: a pro-scientific philosophy, personal responsibility, healthy detachment, higher collaboration, and a wholesome view.

According to the findings, stakeholders of not-for-profit organisations associated the purpose of performance measurement with the principles of social connectedness, entrepreneurial awareness and financial meaning.

However it found most not for profits had simply imported practices and strategic models from the business world to measure their performance.

Beer said “human wholeness and well-being” needed to be “respected and nurtured” so engagement and ownership became more visible and were measured as important to performance instead.

“Employees need to be more aware of how dependent they are on each other, and how they contribute to workplace happiness and social value creation, which could be another key driver for organisations,” she said.

The study also suggested that embracing spirituality within organisations could lead to better decision-making, enhanced creativity, reduced absenteeism, and greater emotional control.

Beer said large for-profit organisations such as Google, General Mills, and Target were already adopting spiritually-informed practices to “reap some of these described benefits”.

“Performance management should connect people with the processes of the organisation, promote behaviours that are in line with its objectives and engage stakeholders – spiritually informed principles can help not-for-profits re-discover this,” she said.

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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