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Cathleen McGrath, Arthur Gross-Schaefer, Nirinjan Khalsa

Preparing Business Leaders to Find Peace at Work through Sacred Time

Our work to prepare students to take on roles as leader and organization members includes teaching them to handle stress in many contexts. A 2021 poll by the American Psychological Association found that sixty-two percent of Americans felt more anxious than the year before. This increase came after three years in which respondents reported feeling more anxious than they had the year before. Significant issues reported to cause anxiety included concern for safety, health, and financial security. The increase in anxiety is not surprising in response to a global pandemic and the realization of significant structural inequality. Our students are encountering more intensified sources of anxiety, while also encountering the potential for a better, more just society in the future. We can ameliorate stressors by introducing the concept of “sacred time” which we discern through the study of several faith traditions. As our students begin their careers, they will be in a societal and business environment that often fuels anxiety. They will face competition in the job market and then may feel competition (as well as camaraderie) with their coworkers. In our fast-past business landscape, they will face multiple demands on their attention, both in and out of work. As they take on managerial responsibilities, they will become increasingly aware of their responsibility for others. And as they enter a business landscape in which technology and values are rapidly changing, they face uncertainty about the future and ambiguity regarding individual and company values. Each of these potential sources of stress are amplified by our increasing reliance on information and communication technology. Organizational leaders are working to leverage the benefits of innovation and its concomitant uncertainty while reducing the costs, including the anxiety experienced by organization members. Their approaches include managerial practices creating boundaries around employees’ work commitments. For example, some companies are instituting limits to email after work hours and during vacation. Other solutions include fostering social relationships at work. While this may be helpful, it does not go far enough to address the sources of anxiety in the workplace previously discussed. We propose doing more by sharing religious and spiritual traditions to give our students tools to not only survive, but flourish. Specifically, we introduce students to concepts and religious practices that allow them to find peace and balance. In the Sikh tradition practices includes engaging in daily meditation and contemplation (naam simran) on the Oneness of all life (Ik Oankar) to reorient our ego-driven natures (haumai) toward love (prem), acceptance (sukh) and peace (sukh). In the Jewish tradition practices include observing sabbath as a time away from day-to-day concerns. And in the Christian tradition there is a similar sabbath observation that includes participation in the Eucharist. When we consider these three traditions together, we begin to see some commonalities of “sacred time” that is time that includes rest, gratitude, community, and reverence. By offering students interfaith perspectives of "sacred time," they are able to see the value of these practices in reducing stress in their daily lives.