Recently, one of my clients left her position as head of human resources because she could not reconcile her company’s stated commitment to the well-being of its employees with the reality that its highest priority was wealth creation. The employees were stretched to a breaking point; chronic exhaustion and burnout were ubiquitous. The CEO clearly recognized that the health of employees impacted the bottom line and, as a result, he deemed this a core value. He directed my client to lead a key initiative to support “employee well-being.” But in so doing, she became the face of hypocrisy since employees knew that the quality of their lives would continue to be sacrificed for the sake of aggressive corporate growth.
Ultimately, it is not possible to serve two masters. We can collaborate, cooperate, and reconcile, but eventually we will be asked to choose. I have been thinking about this in relationship to two essential ‘master’ principles: organizational mission and the bottom line.
In the 1990’s John Elkington (@volansjohn) coined the phrase “triple bottom line,” arguing that business success should be defined by measuring profit, environmental responsibility, and social responsibility. This attempt to create a more responsible business ethic has been both revered and critiqued. In order to be effective, this kind of framework must be a living one – fluid, contextually responsive, and adaptive. In the end, any company attempting to live by this model will find itself, in certain moments, having to choose.
By contrast, a social enterprise serves one master: its purpose is to respond to societal needs in a creative and entrepreneurial way. There is a purity of intent in this, and, as a result, a clarity that arises in the decision making process when we are confronted with those moments of choice. With this clarity, the mission of an organization is, without a doubt, the guiding principle, and this increases the possibility that the values of the organization can also prevail.
How did we get to the point where, in mainstream business, the financial bottom line was placed above the very mission of our businesses?
There are numerous people who have examined this question, both from the perspective of economic theory, private sector history and at the level of institutional change. What interests me, however, is the human side of this, the underbelly within all of us that contributes to such a fundamental perversion of values.
At the most basic level of human consciousness is the survival instinct. This aspect of our nature both generates and is driven by fear. Part of what makes us human is our capacity to evolve beyond this. When we make a decision to give a portion of our food to someone else, even if this means going hungry, we are acting from a higher intent. In so doing, we weaken the survival instinct and strengthen our higher self.
When we promote the bottom line as the highest value, we inadvertently feed our survival instinct. In the grip of instinct, we are never ultimately fulfilled as this aspect of our nature is insatiable. Imagine sitting down to a banquet and eating the most delectable meal. For a short time we feel a sense of contentment. Quickly, however, our appetite returns, and we long for more. This is what the Buddhists refer to as the wheel of suffering. Around and around we go, and for a moment we are satisfied; inevitably, however, desire returns, and we become restless. Anyone who has had the opportunity to accumulate wealth has experienced this insatiable quality.
This aspect of human nature is artfully depicted in both Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism as “hungry ghosts.” Hungry ghosts are portrayed as gaunt and empty looking creatures with distended bellies. Living in a state of restlessness, they are relentlessly driven by animalistic needs. Placing wealth creation as the highest value inadvertently feeds the hungry ghost within us. This is the underbelly within human nature that surreptitiously leads us away from higher values and away from sustainability.
Ultimately, we cannot serve two masters in the external world or within. Though we all grapple with the hungry ghost, we can choose to support our higher nature, putting a purpose larger than ourselves ahead of our instinctual desires. In so doing, we slowly starve the hungry ghost and, as a result, suffer less. When the mission of our business is the highest value, we provide a social context that supports our higher nature and lessens the grip of endless desire. Cultivating our higher nature in this way, we experience more joy. In turn, everyone benefits.
This post was written by Jan Birchfield, Ph.D., the founder of Contemplative Leadership Development (CLD), a leadership and corporate culture resource for senior executives and their teams. She has lectured and written extensively for audiences at corporations, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations. She is an expert on a personality model that develops emotional intelligence and builds collaboration.
In 1995, Jan co-founded the Center for Advanced Emotional Intelligence (AEI), where she served for eleven years as the senior partner. With an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a Ph.D. in psychology, Jan began her career in the field of international affairs at the African-American Institute in New York. After returning to school to earn her doctorate in psychology, Jan worked for five years in the field of mental health. She is the mother of two children and resides in Taos, New Mexico.
Source Article from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2013/09/30/mission-over-profit-slaying-the-hungry-ghost-within/
Mission Over Profit: Slaying The Hungry Ghost Within
human resources – Yahoo News Search Results
human resources – Yahoo News Search Results