【GHRM】Workplace spirituality and Self-leadership

David C. Trott, doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration, an Assistant Professor at Ming Chuan University, has 32 years of classroom teaching experience as well as various administrative roles. His doctoral research entitled “Spiritual Well-Being of Workers” is purportedly the first empirical research study that focused upon ‘spirituality’ in everyday work endeavours. He is considered a pioneer in the workplace spirituality movement. Not many people supported him at his beginning as a PhD student to start such project on spirituality.

He is also passionate about the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Dr. Trott has academic expertise in the areas of both childhood education (pedagogy) as well as adult education (andragogy). His research and writing focus on management education in general and multi-modal teaching methods in particular. During his career, he was actively involved with the Academy of Management (AOM) where he served in key leadership roles during the founding years of the Management, Spirituality and Religion (MSR) Division.

The discussion started with the question: “If you had the opportunity to create a ‘spiritually healthy organization’ what would be the five values you would emphasize the most?” To answer this question students were asked to draw their hands on a piece of paper and fill each finger with a value that is perceived with healthy organizations. This brainstorming activity gave a clear picture to the students to understand the concept of “spiritually healthy organizations”.

Dr. Trott provided valuable advice to students that he personally applies in his life that helped him to overcome challenges at work. One of them is to write a personal statement that will remind them who they are, what they are doing here and what their vision is. Another advice to those who are on the stage of writing research paper is whatever one’s research topic is to make sure they are passionate about it, and that it is of novelty and interest. This was exemplified by his own personal experience, as Prof. Trott is the first scholar to write a doctoral thesis on the topic, and his research ideas were met with a health amount of sarcasm and reservation. Over the years he has proved them wrong and workplace spirituality is now an established field of thought with a special interest group at the Academy of Management.

The second part of the session was related to self-leadership. Here Professor Trott introduced the “internal” concept of “self-leadership” control systems, particularly from the boundary that separates “self” and “other-than-self”. Three simple, efficacious self-leadership strategies were highlighted, namely self-dialogue (inner voice), mental images (symbolic, imaginary, ordinary efforts), and a set of guiding “spiritual” values. Dr. Trott laid forth the benefits of “self-leadership” consisting of enhanced mental performance, heightened positive affective states, job satisfaction, and increased self-efficacy expectations. At the end of the second part, Dr. Trott highlighted that self-leadership requires shifting from external-to-internal human resource management (HRM) and advised students on self-leadership theory literature.

Q&A Part:
Q1: How can spiritual wellness programs help sufferers of PTSD reintegrate with society, their places of employment, and with their families?
A1: Art therapy is used as an option. As an example, art therapists care for people with cancer who survive 20 years, rape victims, people who were on a war zones. How can you help the professions, not only parents, whose every day job is to help children with cancer? I have tremendous respect for art therapists. You can find lots of literature research being done in this area.

Q2: What is the difference between emotional health and mental health?
A2: I am not involved with emotional IQ and it is not my expertise. What I work on is spirituality at work place. What you find is that for example you take emotion of stress, many people consider stress as negative, as distress, they care about stress reduction, stress management. Mental health is trying to manage two types of stress: distress and eustress. Eustress is another word to enthusiasm. Mental health is something to do with reframing things, for example I don’t use the word “problem”, instead I use “opportunity”. It is the way you reframe things.

Q3: My master thesis is also on workplace spirituality but it is talking about being a spiritual person means being open, giving and loving. Is it the same with your work?
A3: Your research is about being open, giving and loving, right. Yes, then it is all the same. You reminded me when I always tell my students at the end of semester when they graduate from my class, and when they leave the class, they leave the class taking this spirituality must be all glow, flow and wonderfulness. Because many of our most spiritually strengthening is thanks to our life that happens to suffer pain, hard learnt lessons. So please do not get confused that talking about spirituality is only a good staff, there is also a dark side and this leads to traumatic stress ties.

Upon attending the session given by Dr. Trott, some students expressed interesting points they found as important implications:

Professor Trott did not connect his lecture to any particular religion, other than to say that the values of spirituality are quite universal and transcend religion. It struck me as quite profound when he demonstrated the commonality between people across different cultures through spiritual values. This is something that I have also observed throughout my life, though I have never really articulated it. The implications of his research could make quite an impact on global society.

As Professor Trott mentioned in his lecture, society and the business world are improving upon wellness practices involving mental and emotional health, but there is still a huge gap concerning spiritual wellness. People may be mentally and emotionally healthy, but that does not necessarily mean that they are good people. I think that if people developed their spiritual well-being it would have a strong positive effect on the business world.

In conclusion, most students found Dr. Trott’s topic interesting. For some of them it was the first time to hear of such a concept, for others it helped develop their own ideas and it presents something that a number of students might want to apply in their own research. What students grasped from this lecture is that despite all people come from different nationalities, cultures and have different personalities, what unites them is similarity of values that they share.