Work: Awful or Awesome?

“Letters from the ebbf board”

Why do some people hate going to work and others love it? Why does the work day drag on and depressingly on for some people while for others work lifts them up, gives them purpose and brings them joy? Why is some work awful and other work awesome?

ebbf has always promoted a set of ideas that makes work awesome — a new work ethic:

* Everyone has both a right and an obligation to learn a useful skill and to use it for the benefit of all

* Meaningful work in an occupation, craft or trade not only provides material means but also performs a service for society

* Work has a spiritual as well as a material significance

* Work undertaken in the spirit of service to others is worship

Looked at in this light, work can be pretty awesome!

But how do we achieve this in our workplace? How can we make work meaningful? What do we need to do to create an awesome work environment? ebbf is trying to discover the answers to these questions.

To do so, ebbf draws on two sources: the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith, which is the inspiration behind ebbf; and the experience of those trying to put these ideas into practice.

The Bahá’í teaching identifies the qualities people need to bring to work and the workplace to make it awesome. Running any organisation or business depends on people who:

* have `devotion, integrity, fairmindedness and sanctity of purpose’

* demonstrate in their management practices `such purity, nobility and farsighted wisdom that they will become a model for other societies, and all people may be edified and enlightened by their example’

* `are dependable and honest, virtuous and enlightened, pure and refined’

* `are industrious and highprincipled, liberalminded and promoters of freedom’

* `whose concern is to serve the common good, not to advance their own interests’ * and whose aim is to further the welfare and prosperity of the people, not to foster their own wellbeing’

That’s quite a list! Imagine putting these in the person-description of a job advertisement or on your CV.

No one suggests that this is easy to achieve. There are many, however, who are learning what it takes to reflect these qualities and principles and embed them into their workplaces. So what is the experience of ebbf members trying to make their work awesome?


Barbara de Roos (Cross Media Magazine Publisher and Entrepreneur, Netherlands):

I discovered recently that when you acquire qualities you don’t have to choose, for example, between being smart or being kind. I think you can choose both, because in the end all your qualities interconnect and make you stronger.

Oscar Rosa (Co-Founder and Art Director, Soul.com , Netherlands) :

One of the main principles I am trying to live by is to approach human beings as spiritual entities. You don=t only see their physical needs, you see their spiritual needs. While I am developing myself, I can help others develop themselves and treat them with honesty, respect and justice.

Mary Darling (Coowner and CEO of WestWind Pictures, Canada) :

It is really best when you create an environment on set where people feel that they are contributing to a single vision. With every crew that we bring together we really try to bring this idea of unity in diversity into the conversation . . . we made it clear as we built this team that we wanted to hear from as many voices as we could in order to be as well-informed as we could in order to make the best decision we could and then we could begin the process.

Payam Zamani (CEO One Planet Ops, California) :

Diversity is a prerequisite for life . . . We’re a company of about 120 employees representing 12 different nationalities. Also from cultural and racial backgrounds, we try to cover the whole spectrum of humanity. Diversity brings richness not just to the outcome of the work but also to the quality of the experience we have living our working hours. And the reason I really, really love my job is because of the people that I work with, from all over the world. It creates an environment worth living in. The company is made up from a collection of minorities, who are now achieved critical mass. So what that results in is inevitably many different perspectives. That has a significant impact on the outcome of the business.

Kazem Samandari (founder of L’Opera, a French patisserie in New Delhi, India):

We have a very elaborate training programme where we explain the importance of the customers, that it is not just a transactional relationship but is about establishing a relationship, about understanding the requirements, the needs of the customers and serving them in a way that is beyond just transferring the goods from a counter into a box then giving it to the customer. We want it to be a relationship based on trust, respect for the product, respect for the customer, and also a high level of customer relationship.

Roxann Stafford (Director of Program, Matter, New York City):

Governance is about stewardship and service. More often than not, it is seen as a way to seize power, dominating or being smarter or better, But when we think about it from a standpoint of service, the inclusion aspect becomes natural. Because you understand that what you are trying to do is for the benefit of others. If you want to know the right direction to go, if you want to understand creative and innovative practices in order to do that, you need people who have different life experiences and different backgrounds to be a part of that . . .

Maëlys Isabelle de Rudder (Founder of Bloom school, Bosnia & Herzegovina):

I inherited a school where the parents had been traumatized and the children were very aggressive. Because people did not trust each other, it was very, very difficult to initiate any form of action. There was a feeling of being abused. At ebbf I met someone who taught non-violent communication. We decided to learn about this as a school. It has been a collective transformation process. It has done a lot of collective healing. The effect on children and their families has been huge. Having staff that are more stable, more confident, that trusts, that believe in what we are doing, that share the same goal, has actually reassured parents, who are now themselves able to open up. It has created a whole new dynamic in the school, with teachers who trust each other, are peaceful and support each other. The impact is measurable. The school is transformed and my team is thriving. We have never operated at such a level of connectedness and trust.

Giuseppina Cuccurullo (HR, Talent & Development; Dreaming Future Career Advisor, Italy) :

I have started to test the concept of accompaniment in my company, giving employees a chance to have a 15 minute accompaniment talk that elevates their know-how to a new level, enabling them to face difficulties in the work space, and helping me be closer to them in their professional development.


These people love going to work, and they love the people they work with and serve.

They combine personal qualities of kindness, trustworthiness, justice, honesty, respect and understanding, with an appreciation for unity in diversity and a sense of service to humanity together with business imperatives such as good governance, innovation, collaboration, accompaniment and training of staff in values as well as in practical skills. They make work awesome.

By Wendi Momen, ebbf chair

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