“Workplace Spirituality” in Family Firms

Kent Rhodes

One of the hallmarks of workplace spirituality, particularly in family owned businesses, is commitment to the development of people. Many businesses have begun to realize the benefits of treating a person as a whole rather than as an employee by actively supporting their professional and personal development that promotes personal growth and long-term character development. This is particularly evident in successful family businesses that understand the link between employee personal growth and learning with job performance, satisfaction and retention. This emphasis includes providing resources that help employees better understand themselves, develop successful professional and personal relationships, and enhance personal management skills. In family firms, developing people is usually a natural outcome of extending the family feel of the place to employees beyond blood relatives. Long time non-family managers are treated more like siblings, sons, and daughters that bring a love and commitment to the founding family that tends to extend throughout the organization.


9 thoughts on ““Workplace Spirituality” in Family Firms”

  1. All very true. As stated in another comment, working for a company that treats you like family (or almost) makes you enjoy the work. As a business owner I work quite hard to make my employees understand how much I care and how important they are to me, not the other way around. (i.e. they are lucky to have a job)
    The sad part is that many business owners are jaded by previous employees letting them down some how and now they treat all employees the same. I feel it has to be looked at at least somewhat like family, sometimes the ones you love need a second chance, just as employees do.
    A little tough love is in order sometimes, and most of the time both parties come away happier. Thanks for the post.

  2. “link between employee personal growth and learning with job performance, satisfaction and retention.” Totally agree with that. Like they say: If you love your job, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. This is something lacking in those ‘huge’ company firms-the personal factor. If each employee was treated individually, their performance will greatly increase. Often, companies just treat their employees as ‘walking money making machines’ and the same goes for the employees themselves. A family structured company will result in loyal and happy people.

  3. I think workplace spirituality involves providing employees the opportunities to discover a deeper meaning of their jobs. Employees are beings who also want to see their role in the big picture. If we draw out their work motivation from this perspective, it’s really not difficult to introduce improvement initiatives in the workplace. Any change shall be met with very little resistance, if there’s any, because they know that it will help them accomplish a mission that goes beyond and bigger than the company making profits. Just my thoughts…

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  4. I had a job that operated as a family first. It wasn’t the best paying job, but it was the best treating job. They made me feel exactly as you mentioned in your article ‘…treated more like siblings, sons, and daughters.’ I was loyal to that job like no other!

    Now that I own my own business, I work hard to make my employees feel like that because I know first hand the dynamic it creates and that is what I want for my business!

  5. “Many businesses have begun to realize the benefits of treating a person as a whole rather than as an employee by actively supporting their professional and personal development that promotes personal growth and long-term character development.”

    It’s unfortunate that it’s taken so long for businesses to realize that there are intangible benefits when you treat your people like, well, people. I feel like we were starting to head in this direction in the mid nineties when everyone was flush with cash and the dot coms were booming, but as times got tougher the culture got more impersonal and “strictly business.” I think the morale impact of the poor job market we’ve seen in the last decade will likely haunt us for years to come.

    Great post!

  6. “…treating a person as a whole rather than as an employee…” should be the benchmark of any company or firm, regardless of spirituality concerns.

    Seems like common sense, but the bottom-line often gets in the way of human compassion toward others…

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  7. Drew,

    The word litigation and Spirituality have very little in common, and the tendency is to limit the Creation with all sorts of boundaries. First, God gave us the garden (business) to work it and protect it. Than people started to say that business is not from God, then that politics are like a whore, so we should not get involved. Then we were told to be politically correct. Then we took God from the classroom. Then we allowed the state to run our lives. Today we entered the new era – the state slave system where everybody needs to pay taxes. The land of the free became the land of the scared, because God was restricted only to church on Sundays.

    Second, the family business system is different than the corporate system and I, as a businessman, I set my values in my company as I see fit for my family goals. The employees should always be treated as family, not as objects, with their own goals, and they should respect my goals as I respect theirs. The spirituality in us calls them our brothers and sisters. Why should we make differences when we fire someone? First, we work with the person, to push him/her on the right path, then if things do not work, we make the decision that is right for the person and for the company. No stress there.

    Third, I have orthodox, catholic, free evangelical and baptist employees. Spirituality is about respecting belief not about a sect. 80% of my interaction with people-time is spent at work. Spirituality at the work place is my contribution to the development of those that do not know Christ.

    Spirituality in the work place is an example for the clients or suppliers.

    Last, think about China and their one child policy, then think about the communist regime and then tie it up to the family business in a place where family siblings is an unknown concept. Think then of the importance of spirituality in the work place and what example you can be.

  8. Here at The University of Nebraska I am working on a project that looks at Spirituality, Religion and Family Business. We are interviewing business owners to learn about how their religion or spirituality actually affects the workplace. Are beliefs mentioned in Mission or Vision Statement, is it evident in the Corporate Art Collection? Does it affect hiring or employment practices? This project should provide us some very interesting information that others might benefit from. I’ll be happy to share when we complete it.


    How do you balance the manager’s or the family firm’s interest in the employee’s personal development without crossing all sorts of boundary lines that may result in legal action? Stories of litigation between employees and employers is not uncommon and probably as often as not is ignited because a manager expresses an interest in an employee’s personal life?

    Doesn’t treating long-time employees as sibs, sons and daughters A) make it more difficult to fire someone and B) betray a perceived trust between family and non-family when you have to pull a trigger like that


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