The minefield that purpose is in the workplace

Government has interests in the workplace as facilitators of fair play through labour laws and statutory instruments.

A Bahamas religious teacher, the late Myles Munroe danced a lot with the subject of purpose during his teaching days and had this statement about purpose, “When purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable.”

 This sounds easy on the surface to preach and declare what the purpose of something is but very difficult if science is applied and there is empiricism obligation. It is easy for religion to prescribe certain phenomena because it is based on faith and belief.

Someone can come to you and tell you that there is a place called heaven you should be a good person to go to after death and you believe and start preaching the same gospel.

 This is not to take away anything from faith, but science will not allow that to pass because as my high school divinity teacher Sobantu Njini Sibanda would say, ‘it cannot be established with authenticity that…’ and he would then go on to explore what, according to science could not be established with authenticity without empirical evidence.

I am attempting for us to lay a foundation for treating the subject of the purpose of the workplace here if at all there is one.

In fact, I think there are all sorts of purposes and maybe one can then explore the many purposes and see if they can dovetail to point at something that more universally acceptable.

From a stakeholder perspective, one would have to contend with all sorts of purposes.

Within the employee community, one would still derive various types of purpose.

 One employee can say that their purpose is personal and relates to working so that they may be paid to take care of their family or themselves if they are just an individual, yet another may want to go intrinsic and talk about how they have an inner connection with work that has a psychological touch where they derive joy from their interaction with work.

Another employee might want to be patriotic about it and connect it to their personal welfare and their contribution to the economic success of the entire country.

They might want to sound learned and speak of how their work contributes to the country’s gross domestic product.

You see how slippery the purpose definition ground is for concrete issues such as the workplace and work? For faith matters, it is easy.

A Christian, for example, in the workplace is there to fend for their families, make money and pay alms and tithes, aim to be the head and not the tail, although they do become the tail sometimes.

Ultimately, they must do well and be good individuals in the workplace so that they may go to heaven when they die. Easy, right?

 Not so easy with other areas of knowledge and activity such as the workplace as you can see by looking just at the employee.

We may want to also consider the employer. Are all employers decided what the purpose of the employer is in the workplace?

Is there consensus in that regard or there are different approaches to the subject?

An employer might decide to be blunt about it and say they are in the workplace for the money and be unapologetic about it.

There are many like that who will just be clear about their mercenary tendencies.

 I know of organisations and employers, who do not believe in the human resources management function or portfolio.

They will say to you that we have no time for your nice psycho stuff.

I have come across such convictions in my working life where the budget for human capital is viewed as a waste of money and time, where training is a waste of time and, therefore, not given a chance.

Yet there are employers, who believe that their purpose, just like the employee is a patriotic and economic one.

 They have the duty to contribute to employment and to the general welfare of their country and the world.

They have a business they do not view as the end, but a means to an end, which end is the upliftment of their human resource and the general welfare of their countries.

This is some kind of a collective self-actualisation process where a community, with different individuals does not only look at their people as a collective one but know that the community is composed of individuals who will grow and self-actualize as different times.

They then deliberately and purposefully work on offering a space that is not only safe for that kind of venture, but also suitable for transformation and that transformation being achieved by their interaction with work.

In the world there are ambitious organisations like Google in that regard, who even have a programme  called Talks at Google where their employees are addressed by international trailblazers like Echart Tolle, Shirzad Chamine, Sadguru, Kamili Bell Hill, and others.

 This is the extra mile the employer travels to cater for the growth needs of the employee.

One realises that it ceases to be just about economic growth and begins to touch even on something higher and meaningful, something akin to spiritual growth as you see spiritual teachers on their Talks at Google.

Google has removed all the formalities one finds at work and their employees can bring their pets to work, for example.

 I am aware that one South African organisation called Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator allows their employees to bring their kids to work.

Their office set up being the Japanese open office, you get kids running around the space while employees do their work.

All these speak to the quest by the employer to allow the human face to thrive in the workplace.

 Questions that arise under such circumstances would be whether this approach contributes to the performance of the employee, or they are just good to have.

I am sure academic scholars have studied the relationships and corelations and it would be interesting maybe to look at those.

Those who run their organisations with the focus on man hours usually argue that those are good to have

. At the end of the year there are no formal goodbyes, see you after Christmas because the focus in on work and work only.

Government has interests in the workplace as facilitators of fair play through labour laws and statutory instruments.

 They also have deep interests through taxis and indeed, the GDP and other economic gains and measures that come out of the workplaces.

They have the interests of the worker as the one who votes for them and the employer as the investor.

The issue is a minefield but let us see next week if we can bring all these purposes together and make sense out of them.

*Bhekilizwe Bernard Ndlovu’s training is in human resources training, development and transformation, behavioural change, applied drama, personal mastery, and mental fitness. He works for a Zimbabwean company as human capital executive, while also doing a PhD with Wits University where he looks at violent strikes in the South African workplace as a researcher. Ndlovu worked as a human resources manager for several blue-chip companies in Zimbabwe and still takes keen interest in the affairs of people and performance management. He can be contacted on [email protected]


Related Topics