Conscious work environments start with the top executives and management of an organization. Many organizations continue to use outdated management and human resources strategies based upon what they have learned and carried down, unrevised, over many years and, in some cases, even decades.
Executives and upper management’s perceptions of employees, in general, and their view of the way in which they fit into the organization determines the quality of the work environment and whether it is a healthy one or a toxic one, which has an effect on the level of efficiency, productivity, and costs of the organization. If management views their employees as just a means to an end, expected to do as they are told, with no interest in feedback or input the employee may have, this results in low employee morale, which will have a negative impact on the organization. If management views each of them as a key team member whose contribution to the organization and its stakeholders is vital to the success of the organization, this will have a positive effect on the employee, inspiring him or her to perform at their best, which positively impacts the organization as a whole.
Low employee morale results in greater costs for the organization, through higher employee turnover, frequent training of new employees, and in some cases, poor job performance and customer service. Employees who feel that they are a vital part of the team and the success of the organization, who are recognized for their efforts along with the other team members, are more productive and efficient.
The organization’s approach to the hiring process is a direct reflection of the type of work environment the potential employee can expect to enter into. The theme that generally gets played out in interviews is a focus on the perceived negative, a more judgmental stance filled with assumptions, searching for ways to exclude/weed out job candidates as opposed to looking for the positive qualities of a candidate, such as their qualifications—experience, education, and skills. Job interviews are not a one-way street. The job candidate is also interviewing the employer, or should be interviewing them if they are not already doing so, to determine if this organization is one that they really want to work for. When the HR representative or hiring manager conducts the interview, if they focus on what they perceive to be negative in the job candidate or, even worse, make sarcastic remarks, this gives the job seeker a little taste of what can be expected on the job and the kind of work environment he or she will be entering into or subjected to. Focusing on the perceived negative in potential and current employees does not create a harmonious work environment. It is more of a reflection of the organization.
An example of an HR representative focusing on what they perceive to be negative or a red flag in a job candidate is an employment gap. There can be many reasons as to why a job candidate has an employment gap, such as a poor economy (with high unemployment), family circumstances (such as caring for a sick relative), taking care of small children. It could be any number of reasons. Many times it is a personal choice that is based on the needs of the family or it is due to the poor economy and the lack of available jobs. I have read articles that discuss how employers prefer to hire people who already have a job over people who are unemployed. This is an unfair and unjustified judgment of job candidates. Instead, employers should be focused on whether or not the job candidate is the most qualified for the job. It is a major issue that has caught the attention of the White House, which has already begun getting involved by reaching out to companies to change their business practices. For more information, see 300 Companies Pledge To Help Long-term Unemployed.
A conscious work environment has great energy. Employees are upbeat and empowered, not miserable, depressed, and demoralized, backstabbing each other to move up the career ladder, stealing ideas, gossiping about one another. The conscious work environment is a collaborative one, where everyone works as a team, supporting one another, with a common goal of successfully achieving the organization’s objectives.
Consciously aware employees think before they speak and choose their words wisely, never to offend anyone. They are professional, courteous, and respectful of one another. Communication is open and feedback is welcome. No one is made to feel small. Everyone is treated equal without favoritism. Everyone contributes their unique skills and expertise. A conscious work environment is efficient and productive. An unconscious work environment is detrimental to the organization.
Each employee is vital to the success of the organization, an important contributing part of the whole. When one or more employees are excluded and made to feel separate and insignificant, it effects the organization as a whole. When you have a manager who’s management style is geared towards favoring some employees over others, this actively creates an atmosphere of separation and bitterness between employees.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Understanding Our Mind, he explains that, in the sutras, there is an image of three reeds that together support one another; whereas, a single reed is unable to support anything, including itself. A work environment where everyone supports one another supports the organization. Without this support, the organization is doomed to fail. Its customer service and profit margin will be lower than that of its competitors or even worse the business will have to close its doors.
The organization needs to have an Employee Rules of Conduct for all employees, including managers. Even better would be a Conscious Conduct Organizational Guidelines, which will be a part of the new employee orientation and reviewed periodically in meetings to ensure employees remain consciously aware of how they communicate and interact with their teammates. An Employee Feedback Questionnaire needs to be available to employees that can be submitted anonymously to upper executives. This will help them determine if there are any issues that need to be addressed and corrected. There needs to be guidelines for employees to follow when they have ideas and cost saving tips that they want to submit, that is documented, so that there are no issues with ideas being stolen or credit being given to the wrong person. When there are guidelines in place and documentation, this should not be an issue.
It would also be highly beneficial for organizations to have meditation classes periodically and have a room designated for employees, where they can go to meditate. Research conducted within the Shamatha Project at the University of California, Davis has shown that Mindfulness from meditation reduces stress. Meditation helps employees to be more centered, present, and mindful, which also helps them in their personal lives as well.