Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06, former software engineer, is a coach working with professionals to increase well-being, energy, and meaning in their work lives (Theano Coaching LLC). She is also a writing coach, facilitator of writing workshops, and teacher of positive workplace concepts at the University of Maryland. Her own books include Smarts and Stamina on using positive psychology principles to build strong health habits and Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. Full bio. Kathryn's articles are here.
“Can you imagine … looking forward to work every day? … Knowing that you make a difference and feeling good about the work you do?” So starts this book by Val Kinjerski about taking action to improve the quality of our work lives.
Val Kinjerski earned a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in Canada studying what she calls spirit at work. Spirit at work involves having a sense of alignment between what is important to us and the work we do, as well as a sense of connection to others, a common purpose, and something larger than self. Spirit at work seems to give people energy that buoys them up in spite of inevitable challenges.
BOOK REVIEW: Kinjerski, V. (2009). Rethinking Your Work: Getting to the Heart of What Matters. Kaizen Publishing.
Over the course of her research, Dr. Kinjerski interviewed at least 34 people in a wide variety of full-time work, all of whom were self-identified as experiencing high levels of spirit at work. From the information gathered from the first set of interviews, she developed workshops and a spirit-at-work program. Then she conducted an evaluation of the impact of the workshops in a health care setting, using before and after questionnaires about work attitudes and well-being, focus groups, and examination of absenteeism and turnover in both the study group and a control group. She has continued to interview people after the completion of her dissertation.
In Rethinking Your Work and its accompanying guidebook, Dr. Kinjerski makes her findings accessible to a broad audience.
What Does Spirit at Work Mean?
The first half of the book explores this question using stories collected from her interviews with people in a wide range of job roles, including a nurse, a doctor, a car-park attendant, a policewoman, a teacher, a real estate agent, a landscape designer, a dentist, a social worker, a writer, and a hairdresser.She describes and illustrates four dimensions of spirit at work: engaging work, a sense of community, spiritual connection (unity with humanity and the transcendent), and mystical experience (state of positive energy that sounds like flow). Here is an example from the policewoman, Sandra, that shows clarity of purpose:
I like people and I like helping them. … And no matter what I am doing in my work, I know that I am helping them. Even if it is a bad situation and I am fighting with them or I am forcing them into the police car. I am still helping someone who has been hurt or might be hurt by that person. … I don’t care if they are yelling and swearing and screaming at me; I still think I am helping ….
Fostering Spirit at Work
In the second part of the book, Kinjerski describes four approaches to increasing spirit at work. Some people are lucky enough to do what they love. Her approaches can help the rest of us learn to love what we do.
For each of the four approaches, she lists very specific actions that you can take. For example, to increase your connections to other people at work, become curious about them and ask questions such as “What are your interests?” or “What is it about this work that attracted you to your job?” The accompanying guidebook has specific exercises to work on these approaches. Each chapter ends with 5 to 11 reflection questions to help you put the main points to work in your own life.
- Appreciate self and others.
Among other things, that means: Understand your unique contribution to work. Recognize the contributions of others. Show respect. Get interested in others at work. Show up and be responsible.
Sample reflection question: “How can you show others how to treat you differently?” p. 90
- Live purposefully and consciously.
Among other things that means: Be mindful. Figure out what you are supposed to be doing. Check the alignment of your life with your purpose.
Sample reflection question: “What would you do if you were 10 times bolder?” p. 128
- Cultivate a spiritual, values-based life.
Among other things, that means: Find the meaning in the meaningless. See the poetry in the everyday. Choose optimism and forgiveness.
Sample reflection question: “What is one task you do at work that at first seems meaningless but on closer examination holds much meaning?” p. 156
- Refill your cup.
Among other things that means: Evaluate how you are doing in mind, body, spirit, and heart. Be good to yourself. Disengage. One of my favorites: Drop a few plates. Let go of negative self-talk.
Sample reflection question: “When you listen to your body, what is it telling you?” p. 183
In the introduction, Dr. Kinjerski comments that we can often improve our work lives by becoming clear about what is important to us and then by thinking about work differently. In that way, we put power into our own hands. We determine the quality of our work lives, instead of waiting for someone else to make our lives better. This is a great reminder accompanied by a lot of practical suggestions. I am happy to have this book on my shelf.
Kinjerski, V. (2009). Rethinking Your Work: Getting to the Heart of What Matters. Kaizen Publishing.
Kinjerski, V. (2009). Rethinking Your Work Guidebook: How to Get to the Heart of What Matters. Kaizen Publishing.
Kinjerski, V. & Skrypnek, B. (2008). Four paths to spirit at work: Journeys of personal meaning,
fulfiilment, well-being, and transcendence through work. The Career Development Quarterly, 56, 319-329.
Kinjerski, V. & Skrypnek, B. (2006). Creating organizational conditions that foster employee spirit at work. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 27(4), 280-295.
Kinjerski, V. (2005). Exploring spirit at work: The interconnectedness of personality, personal actions, organizational features, and the paths to spirit at work. Dissertation, University of Alberta, Canada. Dissertation Abstracts International AAINQ95954.
Kinjerski, V. & Skrypnek, B. (2004). Defining spirit at work: Finding common ground. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 17(1), 26-42.
Policewoman courtesy of MikeSchinkel