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Spirit of Work Episode 6: Using Language of Virtues for Building Soul-Sustaining Work Decisions


Using the Language of Virtues for Building Soul-Sustaining Work Decisions

How to use virtues to solve workplace problems

Episode Highlights

In this episode, I discuss the language of virtues and their profound impact on building soul-sustaining work decisions. By practicing virtues and utilizing the “virtues progression”, we discover practical tools for creating happier and healthier workplaces.

Importance of Virtues in the Workplace

 I’ve seen the impact of practicing virtue at work across four careers and over 500 managerial students, coaching clients, and 100+ companies. One of the companies I worked with asked me to help a dysfunctional site improve communication. After introducing the concept of virtues with a personal story, and asking them to share stories about an obstacle they had overcome or something they were proud of, I coached them to identify the virtues in each other’s stories. This exercise led to open, non-defensive discussions, connection, and mutual appreciation. A few months later, the workplace atmosphere had improved significantly, increasing customer satisfaction and prompting the company to replicate the approach elsewhere.

Learning the Language of Virtues

Virtues are developed through learning and through practice. Virtues are habits of character. Once practiced, they become characteristic of the person’s character. At the heart of the virtue approach is the idea of community. A person’s character traits are not developed in isolation, but within and by the communities to which he or she belongs. What philosophers call “the moral life” becomes a matter of determining the kind of people we should be and attending to the development of character within our communities and ourselves. (The Spirit of Work: Timeless Wisdom, Current Realities, p. 35)

To develop my own practice of virtues, I have a virtues card deck. Every morning I pick a card from the deck, and focus on that virtue throughout day. At the end of the day, I reflect on how I applied the virtue to my work. To benefit from this idea, consider getting “The Virtues Project” card deck or “Virtus Cards”  app to help you develop your virtues journey.

Virtues Progression

From my study of the Sacred Writings of the world religions, I discovered a virtues progression which has specific virtues as benchmarks and a guideline to solve problems. The progression is Love – Truth – Justice – Unity – Peace- Abundance. Every human relations rupture starts from a gap in one of these places in the virtues progression.

For a workplace issue, identify which virtue is missing and look backward in the progression to see what foundational virtue is required to experience it, then forward to know the next step. For example, if someone refuses to communicate, it might be due to a lack of safety ( not feeling loved) or fear of repercussions (truth).

To ensure a decision is just, consider that these three justice quotients must be present during the decision-making process for all to benefit: 

  1. Seek diverse perspectives
  2. Consult those most affected
  3. Involve all stakeholders. 

This approach leads to sustainable, fair decisions that foster unity, peace, and prosperity. This virtues progression, combined with the three justice-quotients can help the workplace feel safer and more transparent. 

How Virtues Affect People

A story from Chapter 2 illustrates the power of recognizing virtues. In a high-security prison where my husband once worked as a psychologist, he was assigned to help a large, tattooed, explosive inmate with anger management. As an emotions management tool, my husband introduced the “sparkle technique,” a reminder to defuse anger by looking right, smiling, and then looking left, and smiling again (physiologically creating conditions for virtue by calming the nervous system). The technique reduces anger by changing eye position and engaging the muscles used for smiling. Although skeptical, the inmate tried it, found it effective, and even taught it to others, reducing fights in the prison and improving interpersonal relationships. He returned to his program with my husband saying enthusiastically, “This sparkle Sh** really works!” 

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