Business man sitting on table and shaking hands with colleague during meeting

With the right attitude and skillful action, work can be a great source of joy. Since most of us spend the majority of our waking lives working, work becomes the primary opportunity for putting our spirituality into action.

In healthy recovery, we each have a drive to contribute. Contributing brings fulfillment, as it is a form of love. At work, contributing is our primary agenda, whether it be by serving others or creating something. We need to be intentional about making work a vehicle for contributing. Making money is a necessary, but secondary agenda. Those whose primary agenda is to make money risk contaminating their purpose.

In order to make such an intentional commitment, we need to insure we are managing our other needs outside of work, such as our need to be loved. When we go to work, we need to bring our self-respect, but should leave our self-importance at the door. Work is a place to contribute, not to get other personal needs met. Even if we work alone, work is for “we” (ourselves and others) and not “me.”

We also need to develop the capacity to live with integrity and self-respect, as this mitigates fear. We cannot authentically contribute if we are working out of fear instead of love. To overcome fear at work, we need to be clear in our intentions (to contribute), receptive, wisely trusting, peaceful, and self-protective when necessary by asserting our needs respectfully.

As in every domain of our connecting with the world, we also need to connect to work harmoniously. This means cultivating positive, harmonious relationships. We need to take care not to introduce destructive conflict or disruption, even as we are working to improve things. It is our challenge to connect skillfully with others for a common good.

Part of cultivating harmony includes a vow of no harm. While we accept our aggression and other aspects of our dark side, we commit to taming them. This is part of respect. If we need to hold someone accountable, we do so for the good of the employee and the organization, and not to harm or punish. We commit to always holding others in our hearts with unconditional respect and care. Practically, if we have an issue with someone, we either bring it to their attention, bring it to our supervisor’s attention, or perhaps bring it to their supervisor’s attention, depending on what is the most appropriate and constructive course of action. We do not discuss it with others who are not involved. Our intention is to help others to be their best, not to harm. We discuss behaviors and concerns, but refrain from judgments or labels (character assasination). We always keep the other’s respect when we discuss them with others. We do not hurt back. We do not gossip. We do not assassinate. We do not put others down. We do not talk behind peoples’ backs. We do not play destructive games.

This is particularly relevant when we are angry and experience the natural human tendency to retaliate. As in all aspects of life where we renounce violence, we also commit to expressing anger constructively, with a cool head and an open heart. When we encounter the inevitable conflicts that come with work, we work to resolve them with goodwill in our hearts. We do not prejudge others. If someone does something upsetting to us, we first strive to understand. If someone criticizes us, we ask, “help me understand” rather than reacting defensively. We show our concern for others.

When discussing our concerns, we make “I” statements and refrain from negative “you” statements. For example, we may say, “I am concerned that X was not done.” When identifying problems, we share our concerns and invite both input and collaborative problem solving. This makes us a safe and productive coworker. It builds trust.

We support and encourage one another. We appreciate others’ gifts and contributions. We show this by giving specific praise. We practice authentic valuing of each other for valuing’s sake alone.

As in all human relationships, work requires boundaries. Because we are there to work, we renounce any personal need from any coworker. While we insist on respect, we do not seek friendship. If friendship happens, we are very careful to keep work separate. We are friendly to each other, but not friendly with each other. We stay mindful of boundaries, refraining from inquiring into others’ personal lives and showing restraint in sharing our personal lives. While we are open, we are also appropriate in what we share.

Having faith that people will respond in kind, we both accept our need for recognition and then renounce any grasping for recognition. If we just serve while showing care and respect, people will for the most part respond in kind. We put on our armor, if necessary, to protect ourselves if someone is hurtful.

We all have unique training, experience, and specific responsibilities. Together, we make a team. In order to participate harmoniously, we respect each other’s roles, keeping within the bounds of our own role.

We respect rules, structure, and hierarchy. We work with the system in order to improve the system. We communicate with respectful authenticity about a particular issue. We are respectfully transparent and openly communicative to the appropriate people about the appropriate issues, at the appropriate times.

Like any complex human activity, work is a lifelong practice. By practicing these principles we bring the joy of work to our lives through our contributions.