Spirit at Work

by Sue Howard

Prioritising relationships

When it comes to working with people who have diverse beliefs, it is critically important to prioritise the creation of positive relationships.

In the quantum world, relationships are not just interesting; to many physicists, they are all there is to reality.

Margaret Wheatley

How can we develop our relationships with others positively? This is a rich field. Most of us have experienced difficulty at some time or another in managing our relationships. The Relationships Foundation offers many helpful and practical insights through their book, The relational manager. Below are few snippets.

  • The quality of your relationships impacts on the quality of your life. Relational events – a disagreement with the boss, a successful negotiation, a great evening out with friends, a child leaving home – will ripple out, deeply affecting your confidence, concentration, work performance and sense of well-being. From a personal as well as a business point of view, there is a big advantage to getting relationships right.
  • Western cultures tend to muddle money and relationships. A market-driven culture keeps telling us the bottom line is financial. We all have to pay the rent. And opportunities on offer – to travel, dress well, live in pleasant surroundings – have to be bought. But the well-rounded life consists of more than unlimited hours at the office and a good wage. We are happiest when we know we are loved.
  • At any level in an organisation, you will have some degree of influence on your company’s culture, procedures, structure and operations. You can consciously chart your relationships and consider how the company works in relational terms. Chart your relational base. Think in relational terms and filter your activities through a relational lens; consider the value of treating relationships as ends not means.
  • But strong relationships don’t exist automatically. Various kinds of stress can affect relationships in a work environment: differences of style and temperament, cultural divisions, professional jealousies, competition for resources or preferment, office politics or the importing of aggravations from outside the workplace. However, if managers build underlying conditions to allow relationships to build rather than deteriorate, it is possible to obtain positive outcomes – trust, cooperation, teamwork and positive morale.

Learning how to create trusting, positive work relationships is probably the best career move you can make.

Communication and relationships must be at the heart of consideration about spiritual care. Communication is always a two-way process. Relationships require a degree of honesty, openness and mutuality if they are truly meaningful for both parties.

Spiritual care matters, An introductory resource for all NHS Scotland staff, 2009

The health service example

The health sector is good place to look for an understanding of how to work well with a diverse range of people who hold different beliefs. There have been significant developments in recent years in the understanding of spiritual care within the health service. As we live in a multi-cultural world, where religious labels are often used divisively and can create tension, it is seen to be important, within health care communities, to regard differences as part of an enriching diversity of humanity.

Spiritual care within the NHS is therefore inclusive and accepting of human difference. The provision of spiritual care, through listening better to the particular needs of different people, is regarded as being the very essence of their work. NHS Scotland, in their booklet Spiritual care matters, suggest that good relationships have certain characteristics:

  • An element of mutuality – understanding that each person affects the other
  • An element of empathy and compassion – a willingness to see and imagine from another person’s point of view (the root meaning of compassion is to share another’s pain)
  • Good relationships are characterised by honesty
  • Trust can be built through active listening
  • Good communication involves the whole person – it is how we communicate as much as what we communicate
  • Principles such as approachability, being non-judgemental, respectful, and person-centred are keys to good communication.

Relationships have the capacity to grow (or decline) and to a certain extent they make us the people we are. Good relationships are prioritised in the health sector context because senior managers understand the importance of a person’s spirituality.

A person’s spirituality is not separate from the body, the mind or material reality, for it is their inner life. It is the practice of loving kindness, empathy and tolerance in daily life. It is a feeling of solidarity with our fellow humans while helping to alleviate their suffering. It brings a sense of peace, harmony and conviviality with all. It is the essence and significance behind all moral values and virtues such as benevolence, compassion, honesty, sympathy, respect, forgiveness, integrity, loving kindness towards strangers, and respect for nature. It is about knowing, and experiencing deeper meaning and connection behind apparently random events and processes such as illness and an awareness of human vulnerability.

Spiritual care matters