In this season’s Nurse Jackie series on Showtime, the advertising line promoting the show is "Karma’s a Bitch." Seems like we are going to see some karmic payback for Jackie—shame on her for avoiding drug testing and cheating on her husband. The theme is recurring in pop culture: Kim Kardashian’s detractors routinely take to the Internet to wish bad karma on her, her sisters, her ex-husband, and almost anything Kim related. And scheduled for release this summer is the book Obama Karma. Karmic awareness is at an all-time high.
The idea of karma—good or bad—is part of the belief system of millions of people around the world. In the simplest terms, karma results from a person’s actions. Do something divisive and you will be punished with bad karma. Do something helpful, and you will reap the rewards of good karma. This concept, which has its roots and belonging in religious and academic disciplines, is now part of the mainstream consciousness of everyday life. However, it is not found often enough in the workplace.
Karma is defined as the force generated by a person’s actions, habits, and behaviors. It is not based on something intangible or uncontrollable. Karma exists day to day and, for all of us who spend most of our days working, we should all assume that karma is our business partner. As the economy continues to sputter along and many workers feel stressed, over-tasked and in need of helpful teamwork and positive attitudes in downsized office environments, karma—good and bad—is a key issue.
A young spiritualist who blogs under the name Lazy Yogi says, "When it comes to working in an office, karmas are created when we learn how to do our job." In essence, if we do a good job and work hard, we will create good karma. If all we think about at work is when we can leave, we are creating bad karma. Karma is self-inflicted. And although many people have wished bad karma on the person who took the last cup of coffee in the pot without making more, it just doesn’t work that way.
Karma at the office is driven by three key factors: intention, action, and awareness.
Intention is about thoughts and is what determines the motivation behind an action. Not every miss or mistake is motivated by bad thoughts or wrongdoing. Sometimes a mistake is just that—a mistake. Recognizing, being aware of and taking responsibility for something that could have been done better will get you good karma at the office. Blame your co-workers while tossing them under the proverbial bus is bad karma and just bad business.
Action is doing, and it demonstrates one’s karma. Do you pitch in and help a co-worker who needs an extra hand or do you make an excuse and then get on the phone to look busy? If you tell yourself that the person you blew off is a bad karmic jerk who doesn’t deserve your help, the joke is on you. You have just created some bad karma. Karma is a direct result of cause and effect. Think of it like your boss—it doesn’t like excuses, wants team-building, and promotes players that build on, not bazooka, a peer’s work.
Awareness is who we think we are at work. At the office, many people take on assumed identities that are often based on stereotypes. We all know them: the Digital Geek, the Edgy Creative, the Demanding Boss. When people actually start to believe they are the character they play at work, judgment can fall by the wayside. And karma, if nothing else, always relies on judgment. When we fall into negative habits and role playing based on the person others expect us to be, we stop learning and are more apt to repeat bad behavior and take on bad karma.
In the end, the ultimate good karma at work is in doing good work. Good work is thoughtful, usually a shared success with a team, shows spot-on judgment, demonstrates intention, and owes its achievement to an overall awareness of needs and goals.
So next time you’re inclined to wish bad karma on a slacking colleague, turn around and help instead. The only karma you should think about is your own.
[Image: Flickr user Bolandrotor]