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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


DU PLESSIS, Danie. Spirited employees as building block for a healthy society. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.4, pp.525-540. ISSN 2224-7912.

In the first part of this article it is indicated that society lost its spiritual character. Throughout the course of history (until the dawn of modernity) spirit and spirituality were an integrated part of society and openly confessed and promoted. Spirituality was linked to the inspiration behind human activities such as science, art and religion. More importantly, spirit and spirituality are associated with care - for the self, fellow human beings and the world itself. With the arrival of modernity and the accompanying rationalism and linear thinking, spirituality was eroded and forgotten in society. The consequences of this erosion were disastrous. It caused a loss of the principle of care and led to exploitation of fellow human beings and nature on a global scale. De Beer (2013:498) describes it as the absence and loss of meaningful human existence. He then asks for a strategy to be found for a re-enchantment of society. As part of the de-spiritualisation of society, modern organisations were subjected to the same forces of rationalism, linear thinking and standardisation and the dismissal of spirit from the workplace. Similar to society spirituality (also religiously - such as the principle of "calling" and "vocation") had to make space for "scientific" ways of organising and managing the modern organisation. Looking now at organisations and corporations, it is clear that the majority of them got stuck in principle and applications that were conceived and developed from the first part of the previous century. Modern organisations are based on rational thinking, bureaucratic and hierarchically structured. It became a bit more sophisticated during the course of the twentieth century with more emphasis on the human side of organising. However, these attempts to humanise the organisation were mostly done to serve the interest of the organisation to impact on productivity, cost effectiveness and finally, the bottom-line. In the postmodern environment there is an increasing call for making sense and asking for meaning. The focus of this revival of asking spiritual questions is in the workplace. Employees are looking for meaning in what they do there where they spend most of their productive hours. They also want to purposefully make a difference and have an impact. Many organisations are already aware of the need of their employees but don t have the insight nor are they really willing to transform to the extent that it could become an environment conducive to bring their spiritual needs to life. Of course it can be advantageous for organisations to transform spiritually to allow for the calling of care and love to become reality in the organisation. The condition is that the spiritual agenda should not be focussed on the self-interest of the organisation (if organisations transform spiritually to serve their own interests the advantages of being spiritual will be lost because it will defeat the inherent selfless character of spirituality - defeating the purpose). The renewal of spirituality in organisations has the potential to free and emancipate employees by allowing them to be sensible and purposefully engaged in their work to serve the bigger interest. This will also make it possible for employees to serve their fellow employees, clients and ultimately the world with care. For this reason it appears as if the workplace can become the natural point of departure for the re-spiritualisation of society. When "spirited" employees can make a contribution in their work, it will also impact on the organisations itself. The consequence of this may be that organisations will ask equally important "spiritual" questions regarding their reasons for existence. This may, in turn, lead to a more caring organisation. When both employees and the organisation have developed a renewed spirituality it will have an impact on society and can contribute to that re-enchantment of society which we urgently need. The question is where will we find the kind of organisation that is conducive to spiritual thinking? The article proposes that Senge's learning organisation concept may provide huge potential to house the spiritual organisation and may take the lead towards the transformation of the world.

Keywords : spirit; spirituality; organisation; learning organisation; society; modern; postmodern.

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