In my forthcoming book, "Emergent Ethos", I suggest that there are four spheres of personal interrelation where we access our own agency, or our power. By understanding and cultivating a unique company-wide sense of this concept, you will encourage your employees to embody solutions—not just give them lip service. Understanding the four spheres of relationship is not only the key to developing a corporate ethos, but calibrating our own. As the inner, so goes the outer.
I've listed each sphere of interrelation with a corresponding "credo" that reinforces the notion of individuality and autonomy in the workplace. They describe a holistic representation of who we are as human beings, often referred to as the integration of “mind-body-heart-soul” in certain spiritual practices.
Most of us have hard and fast rules about how we wish for our physical body to be accessed, touched and/or treated. If we extend this knowledge as an axiom of truth, we can assert that everyone ought to have the fundamental right to control their own body, and for that body to be nourished and sustained. Our most basic right is to simply exist.
I have a right to my own body, to make the choices about what I wish to do with my body and how I grant access to it. I am responsible for how my actions (my body) affect others. No one has the right to violate or infringe on my physical being.
We have the same prerogative and right to think what we wish and to control our thoughts—after all, the brain is in the body. Most importantly, we wish to retain our individuality—our right to free speech and freedom of thought. People in the workplace should feel inspired to creative thought, not stifled by "joinerism." When I was a strategist, I'd look for the guy or gal who didn't agree to get a completely different point of view. Don't stifle alternative or contrarian viewpoints in order to appear unified.
I have a right to my thoughts, to my opinions and judgments. I have a right to make the choice about that which I wish to think, and I am responsible for how these thoughts affect others. No one has the right to violate or infringe on my freedom of thought.
First, it’s important to realize that thoughts and feelings are different. We are accustomed to having a very wide range of thoughts, but we often forget that emotions emanate from the physical body, not the mind. Our nervous system is a complex array of connections to the gut, the lumbar area in the spine, and the brain.
I have a right to my feelings. I have the right to encounter and acknowledge not just what I am thinking, but what I am feeling—no matter what it is. I am responsible for how my emotions affect others. No one has the right to violate or infringe on my emotional autonomy.
This last category is enormously important, because it contains the notion that we not only have a right and responsibility to our bodies and that which is within us—our thoughts and emotions—but also to own the cultural and archetypal places we come from as well as our own personal understanding of what the bigger picture means to us. In the very least, simply encountering those in the workplace whose worldview differs from our own, we become a more intrinsically accepting workplace.
I have a right to that which transcends me and to however I uniquely and personally understand it. I have a right to my own personal, archetypal and cultural mythology, as it allows me to create meaning for my world and myself. I take responsibility about how I create, interact and share this category of experience with others, and I am careful that I do not violate any of the other three categories of ethos.
*The Oxford dictionary defines ethos as originally meaning "accustomed place" (for instance: ἤθεα ἵππων "the habitat of horses", Iliad 6.511), but also as: "custom or habit", equivalent to Latin mores. In other words, ethos pertains directly to the character of a place and how people behave there.