Ask Nancy Frazer to describe her job and she'll say that she's a tourist information officer, fashion consultant and air-traffic controller for groceries. In fact, Frazer is a cashier. But that word doesn't come close to describing what she does.
It's true that Frazer works on cash from June to the end of October at Granny's Fruit Stand in Summerland, B.C., but she's a philosopher-cashier.
That means the 400 tourists and locals who shop at Granny's daily during peak season may be asked what they're cooking for dinner and be offered a recipe for their spaghetti squash or zucchini. "By the time I've given them recipes, they can't wait to get home to cook," says Frazer. "I ring up their purchases and give them information."
The joy and enthusiasm that Frazer takes to work is what Ann Coombs notices when she visits Granny's. Toronto-based president of Coombs Consulting and author of The Living Workplace: Soul, Spirit and Success in the 21st Century! (HarperCollins, 2001), Coombs is one of a growing number of corporate coaches who say the workplace must transform itself into a place where workers can invest their souls, as Frazer does.
Creating a spiritual workplace is good for business, says Steven Appelbaum, a professor of human-resource management at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal. "The more socially responsible a corporation is, the more profitable it is," says Appelbaum. Employees who are treated with dignity and respect treat customers the same way.
Consider AVS Technologies Inc. of Montreal, a company that imports and distributes consumer electronic products. Among the many ways that the company has created a caring workforce is in hiring a dozen mentally handicapped adults. President Stanley Plotnick says that it's refreshing for other AVS workers to see how their handicapped colleagues overcome challenges to do their jobs. "They see them rising to the challenge, and it makes others better able to face their own challenges in life," he says. "It makes us all thankful."
Tanis Helliwell, the Vancouver-based author of Take Your Soul to Work (Random House Canada, 1999) and president of the International Institute for Transformation, says that individuals don't have to wait for management to transform their workplaces. "There are simple things each of us can do," she says.
Coombs agrees that committing random acts of kindness at work can have a powerful effect. Buying a fishbowl for someone's desk or a plant for a coworker goes a long way, she says.
Coping with an unspiritual workplace
Individuals who cannot bring such changes to their work environments can certainly safeguard their own souls while they're there, says Coombs. "Try leaving the office at lunchtime," she says. Coombs also encourages individuals to use healthy humour by doing things like posting cartoons on the walls. Working flexible hours or job sharing can reduce the intensity of a toxic workplace, she says.
Taking your soul to work can be enriching. Frazer hugs her coworkers at Granny's every day before she leaves. "I love doing what I do," she says. "If everyone had a job like this, the world would be such a neat place."Read more:
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