Volume 103, April 2010: Creating a Spirit of Community in the Workplace

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Guest Contributor: Ed Groody, Principal, Ed Groody & Associates, Knoxville TN

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2010 ISSN # 1545-8873

“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” — M. Scott Peck, MD, The Road Less Traveled

“The hard stuff is the easy stuff. The soft stuff is the hard stuff. The soft stuff is much harder than the hard stuff.” — Tom Melohn, President of North American Tool and Die

“Work can provide the opportunity for spiritual and personal, as well as financial growth. If it doesn’t, then we’re placing far too much emphasis on it … Good management is largely a matter of Love … Because proper management involves caring for people, not manipulating them.” — James Autrey, Love and Profit

“The highest spiritual calling today is not of a monk, priest or minister in a church, mosque or synagogue, but a manager of people in business.” — M. Scott Peck, MD, The Road Less Traveled


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Communicating authentically.
  • Listening from “emptiness” – i.e., with empathy and without expectations or agendas.
  • Bridging differences with respect.
  • Taking time for self, team examination and reflection.
  • Disagreeing and fighting gracefully.
  • Using times of silence to reflect, let go and get back on track.
  • Viewing work as a place not only to make a profit, but also to grow and develop personally and spiritually.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Truly great workgroups and organizations are difficult to describe, but have an easily felt and recognized spirit of community. While these organizations face just as many problems as their competitors, employee commitment to each other and the company is exceptionally high. Work, no matter the industry, is meaningful. There is a depth of communication and authenticity when needed. Difficult issues and conflict are addressed. People relate with respect.

Most organizations and workgroups, however, are challenged with common but frustrating people issues such as: office politics, hidden agendas, lack of alignment, mistrust and ineffective communication. This is especially true in hard times.

The concept and experience of “community in the workplace” was popularized by M. Scott Peck M.D., the renowned late author of The Road Less Traveled. Community Building is a method for improving communication and relationships – as well as a philosophy of management.

Frequently Asked Questions

“What is community?”
Community is an actual experience that a group of people have together if they practice certain rules, principles and guidelines of communication. Dr. Peck offers these two definitions:
“‘[C]ommunity’ is a group of two or more people who, regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds, have been able to accept and transcend their differences, enabling them to communicate openly and effectively, and to work together towards common goals, while having a sense of unusual safety with one another. Community Building methods endeavor to create this safe place.”
“A group of individuals who have committed to communicate honestly and authentically with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure, and who have developed some significant commitment to ‘rejoice together,’ to ‘mourn together’ and to ‘delight in each other, and make others’ conditions our own’.”
“What are the stages on the journey to community?”
Understanding the stages of community helps workgroups build, experience and maintain a spirit of community in the workplace. The four stages are:
  1. Pseudocommunity: For many workgroups or organizations the initial stage of pseudocommunity, is the only stage they ever experience. It is a stage of pretense. The group pretends it already is a community, i.e., that is has no conflicts or unresolved issues. In this stage, issues or “elephants in the room” remain hidden, everyone minds their manners and tries their best not to say anything that might antagonize or upset anyone else. In this stage, workgroup members remain polite, inauthentic, boring, sterile and unproductive.
  2. Chaos: Over time workplace issues and individual differences may gradually emerge so that the workgroup enters the stage of chaos and frequently self-destructs. The theme of pseudocommunity is the covering up of individual differences; the predominant theme of the stage of chaos is the attempt to get rid of differences by having people “do it my way.” This is done as the group members try to place demands on, convert, heal or fix each other or argue for simplistic organizational norms. It is often an irritating, win/lose, rapid-fire experience with little real listening and communication.
  3. Emptiness: If the work group or organization can hang in together through the unpleasantness of chaos without self-destructing or retreating back into pseudocommunity, then it begins to enter “emptiness.” This is a stage of difficult but valuable work, a time when the team members work to deal with issues and empty themselves of everything that stands between them and building trust and community. What must be let go or “emptied” may be prejudices, snap judgments, fixed expectations, the urge to win, the fear of looking like a fool, the need to control, hidden resentments or past disappointments. These issues must be aired before the individual can be fully “present” to the group. It is a time of risk, vulnerability and courage.
  4. Community: At this point a team member can speak of something particularly insightful or poignant and authentic. Instead of retreating from it, the work group now sits in silence, absorbing it. Then a second member is empowered to speak and say something equally authentic. The process continues with deep and effective listening and respect.

The shift into community is often quite sudden and dramatic. The change is palpable. A spirit of trust and peacefulness pervades the workgroup. There is a natural rhythm to conversations and communication, with real listening. Now that it is a community it is ready to go to work, making decisions, planning, negotiating, etc. with phenomenal efficiency and effectiveness.

“What are some of the characteristics of a genuine community?”
  1. Inclusivity and Commitment: Co-workers accept and embrace each other, making room for individuality and differences. They commit themselves to the effort of being a workplace community and to the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through dialogue.
  2. Realism: Team members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
  3. Contemplation: Co-workers reflect and examine themselves and the workgroup’s functioning. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
  4. A Safe Place: Co-workers allow others to share different views and opinions, as well as their vulnerability, and uniqueness.
  5. A Laboratory for Personal Disarmament: The workplace becomes not only a place to earn a living, but a community where co-workers feel compassion and respect for each other as human beings. Employees embrace the skills, norms and rules for communicating in healthy and productive ways.
  6. A Group that can Fight Gracefully: Co-workers deal with difficult issues promptly, and resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each others’ gifts and commit to struggle together rather than against each other.
“Does community imply a lack of structure or hierarchy?”
No. Organizational hierarchy remains in place. However, there is a shift in understanding and practice of hierarchy. Hierarchy is viewed and based on efficiency, effectiveness and productivity rather than power. While hierarchical leaders and boundaries of authority are respected, there is a paradoxical sense that the workgroup or entire organization is a “group of all leaders.”

Exercises And Action Items:

  • Attend a Community Building Workshop to experience firsthand the community building process and learn principles, tools and skills to use at work.
  • Educate yourself and your team/workgroup on the stages of the community building process.
  • Use “I” statements when communicating about difficult issues or sources of conflict.
  • Use moments of silence to reflect, let go and get back on track during team meetings.
  • Devote regular time to community building. Allow employees to voice concerns and air difficult questions with appropriate facilitation methods.


Public Community Building Workshops: Ed Groody and Associates.

Love and Profit, video with James Autry: Video Of Love & Profit: The Art of Caring Leadership.

Key Associates offers leadership training and community visioning events. Contact us for more information.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

A location for community-building: Community Building.

Seven principles, social media, and marketing: The Seven Principles of Community Building.

M. Scott Peck’s page: M. Scott Peck.

Keyzines on related topics: Spirit at Work, Teams, Facilitation, Trust and Integrity, Organizational Culture, Speaking from the Heart, Effective Listening, Valuing Diversity, Dialogue: Thinking Together, Building Community, Having Difficult Conversations, Relationship Building, and Civility.



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