‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
— Matthew 22:36-39, NRSV
Staff member engagement is essential for organizational effectiveness, because it improves task performance and increases citizenship behaviors. It is also important for an organization’s spiritual health. Staff member engagement allows the presence and power of God to become more apparent and active in the life of an organization.
Engagement is the investment of persons’ entire selves into their work. Engaged people simultaneously integrate their cognitive, affective (emotions, feelings, and moods), and physical energies toward the task at hand. They are attentive, connected, and focused in a way that ensures their best performance.
Research* has established that engagement occurs when people have meaningful work, feel safe, and are internally available. While organizations cannot control all of these factors, they will benefit from doing what they can to contribute to them.
By creating the conditions for engagement, organizations contribute to the presence and power of God. This is because the conditions for engagement encourage staff members to be more loving. The conditions for engagement allow people to love God more fully and to love their neighbor as themselves.
People can come to love God more fully when they have meaningful work. People feel that their work is meaningful when the behaviors that are expected of them are the behaviors that are valued by them. Meaningful work allows people to behave in a way that is consistent with their deepest values, the values associated with their beliefs about ultimate reality and with what or whom they worship. By providing meaningful work, organizations allow their staff members to act consistently with their deepest beliefs.
Psychological safety comes from a sense of organizational support. People feel safe at work when the people are trustworthy, the processes contribute to a sense of security, and predictable and clear consequences result from their behavior. In this type of environment, staff members can take risks, expose their real selves, and try, and perhaps fail, without fear of punitive consequences. When people can engage without fear, they are more likely to feel cared about and to develop connections among their coworkers.
From a spiritual perspective, organizational support and safety is important because it increases the likelihood that people will love their neighbor. When people get sufficient support from the organization, not only are they more able to engage, they become more free to invest in the relationships around them. Given this freedom, they are enabled to share the love of God with others.
Internal availability is the readiness to personally engage in at any particular moment. Internal availability results when people have positive core self-evaluations. In other words, they feel that they are worthwhile, effective, capable people. People who are available are well-adjusted, positive, self-confident, and efficacious.
While internal availability can’t be developed directly by an organization, organizations can promote conditions that support positive core self-evaluations. By recognizing the inherent worth of every person and finding ways to encourage rather than discourage staff members, organizations promote love of self among staff members. This is not a selfish orientation, but an ability to be a conduit of God’s love.
In summary, by encouraging engagement, organizations not only help ensure organizational effectiveness, they build capacity for Spirit in the organization. By creating meaningful work, providing organizational support, and promoting positive core self-evaluations, organizations support people in extending the love of God. By creating the conditions that support engagement, organizations extend the power and presence of God by building up the capacity for people to hold it and share it with others.
*Bruce Louis Rich, Jeffery A. Lepine, & Eean R. Crawford. Job Engagement: Antecedents and Effects on Job Performance. Academy of Management Journal, 2010, Vol. 53, No. 3, 617–635.
First Published for the Light for Organizations Blog — 4/24/2019