Re-imagining the workplace: As within, so without

File pic: Workplace

The treatment of employees in the workplace is a critical issue. I say so because it would seem this is a matter that is left to speculation and opinion yet it’s a scientific matter and as unarguably there as the force of gravity and other natural principles of life and science.

It is because of lack of understanding and the absence of prudence that this important subject is considered as a by the way.

The human resource is a dynamic one and because of that, it is even more important to understand it and do as much as we can to develop it and get the best out of it.

When we do not do that, we risk scratching just the surface of human capital. Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular are places that have not attached enough importance to research in the area of human capital and the potential that the human resource brings to the workplace.

Zimbabwe is busy working and on a survival mode understandably, waiting to get better so that things may thrive.

The first mistake we make is to think that there is any waiting to be done, that things get better and we rest, that we get out of the woods and sigh. That is a dream that has never come true for anyone in the history of man.

What has always happened the whole world over is what Pema Chodron says here; things are always in transition, if we could only realise it.

Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-centre, in-between state is an ideal situation in which we do not get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. She goes on to say; Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that.

Problems are never fully solved but the human resource transforms and thrives through this turmoil. It is a natural training method created for the good of the human resource.

If, as Zimbabweans we respected science, we would by now be having our human resources and performance scholars and researchers excitedly grappling with these important subjects of the potential of the human resource and thereby giving guidance to practitioners who have no time to go to that level of school.

Practitioners have to work and are reminded on a daily basis that there is top and bottom line to be focused on. They are busy using and abusing the human resource with reckless abandon and all in the name of we are here to get sh*t done, we are here to work.

This attitude for Zimbabwe and Africa can only lead to one thing; us going round in circles and when storms come, us getting worse and thinking we now need to survive when in actual fact we have never left the survival mode even under better circumstances.

Where we are, what we are doing and what is happening does not determine whether we are on survival or thriving mode. It is our internal state, our belief system that create the outside.

As Eckhart aptly puts it; As within: so without: If humans clear inner pollution, then they will also cease to create outer pollution.’ Our formula of fixing the workplace as a production culture place is informed more by enthusiasm, wishful thinking, speculation, trial and error method and not by truth that can only be obtained through empirical evidence which is a product of research and knowledge creation.

We are putting the cart before the horse when we think that there is a macro-environment to be fixed before we can thrive and build. It is the micro-environment which is the people that need to thrive first as the outer space is being fixed.

In any case, the outer space is never fixed as Pema puts it because things come together and fall apart again and again. If things stopped doing this life would cease.

The human resource should come first as a ‘machine’ in the workplace and everywhere else. We go further and even postulate that the individual should come first and this means that it doesn’t matter that the rest of the community fails because an individual who gets Tolle’s principle that; ‘As within, so without…’ will thrive if they fix their inside, the beliefs they picked up through experience, their prejudices and compulsive thinking that stops them from tapping into their quiet and conscious brain.

It starts with the individual who can create a quiet and thriving space within, but is certainly not enough for the company if just an individual or individuals get it and thrive.

It then becomes the people specialist’ job to make sure that this principle of making it about the human resource and their inner state is spread through training to the rest of the workforce to achieve a performing collective being and a performing culture. This is the ideal that a dreaming and ambitious organisation wants to explore and invest in within a clear plan and purpose.  

What is the principle? Understand the ‘As within...’ part of Tolle’s assertion to mean the human resource.

That would mean that the state and performance of an organisation is a reflection of the state of the human resource as individuals and ultimately as a team.

If there is any form of ‘pollution’ without, there is ‘pollution’ and decadency within and within, for purposes of our argument, means the condition of the human resource. If the condition of the human resource is left to chance and there is expectation that people should work and thrive, there is a big risk of just scratching the surface of their potential and exposing business to poor performance and no assurance for continuity.

Most organisations, and if we wanted to be liberal with figures, almost 99.9% of them are operating below their potential because of this knowledge crisis where we think that we can fix the outside without fixing the inside, the inside here being the human resource.

A properly crafted human resource will thrive under any circumstances to the extent that a joke has been coined to say it does not matter where a conscious person is because a conscious person can be in hell and do well and an unconscious one in heaven and fail.

That is how deep this science is, meaning that the bad state of our country wouldn’t be a problem if we went within because anyway, things never stop coming together and falling apart again and again.

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 head of human capital, 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]

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