It doesn’t matter if you have an office, cubicle, or share a common work space. Nor does it matter if you’re a senior executive, middle manager, or working on the frontlines. It’s important that your space reflect personal values, sense of self, and contributes to keeping you grounded. Photos of friends and family are very important, yet they should not be the primary motivators. This sole focus can get you into trouble. You answer to three basic things: a higher authority (however you embrace or understand it), your conscience, and family. Yes, in this order.
Sometimes an individual may feel pressured or even obligated to push the ethical envelope to surpass a quota hoping for a bonus. It can be rationalized by better providing for the family. Reading your name in the newspaper for being affiliated with a marketing practice gone bad, as seen all too often at banks, however, could make life for a son or daughter attending high school a living nightmare.
Stay focused on something larger. This doesn’t mean a thunderbolt throwing deity who will punish or guilt you into doing things. It can be holistic, humanist, or faith based. It simply means you are a creation and part of an ever unfolding, elegant universe. Don’t compromise your personhood or be less worthy then the majesty of the cosmos from which you were conceived.
Your conscience is also very important. You need to be able to look yourself in the mirror every day. In doing so, you need to be humble and honest with yourself. Is your behavior the prior day something you’d want a son or daughter to emulate? Would a beloved parent, grandparent, or mentor respect you for it?
How you setup a work space can assist you from being deluded by flattery, pressures to cut corners, or as a reminder that an important title is fleeting and superficial. Motivational quotations or inspiring poems discretely placed to read once a week can play a small role in keeping or nurturing your sense of self. A plant, small bowel with fish, fresh cut flowers a few times a month, a small bust of Martin Luther King Jr. (or another hero), or a photo of lakes, mountains, or the ocean where you vacation to decompress and find yourself can consciously or subconsciously be a reminder of our humanness and connect us to something far bigger than a job, title, or social status.
The workplace can be a busy, stressful environment stemming from managing prickly personalities, working with unreliable colleagues, and sometimes maneuvering in a cloak and dagger office culture. This can take a spiritual toll. Your work space is an extension of you. Use it to fortify your spirit.
Paul Jesep is Founder of Corporate Chaplaincy, a firm committed to the spiritual wellness of professionals and senior executives.