Ubuntu Principles for a Healthy Workplace

An Ubuntuworks Mini-course

A completely free four-part course curated by employment attorney and mediator, Eric Sirotkin, Founder of The Ubuntuworks Project and author of "Surviving and Thriving at Work." Watch the intro video, above.

How to survive and thrive at work: What every employee needs to know but is afraid to ask.

Protect and empower yourself by deepening your understanding of the modern workplace and developing creative ubuntu-based skill sets to resolve and diffuse conflict. Become versed in your rights, build stronger more productive teams, and learn key strategies on how to feel empowered at work through compassion and connection.

Over the course of your lifetime, you will spend approximately 90,000 hours at work. You can spend these hours holding your breath, feeling afraid and disempowered. Or you can seize the opportunity to breathe new life into your workplace by building relationships that allow you and your teams to not merely survive but thrive at work.

The choice is more within your reach than you ever imagined.

Working together through conflict takes time and compassion. When not worked through, the workplace can even become not only disheartening but dangerous.

So join me in this mini-course as we explore the key concepts of how to establish yourself in your job, prevent miscommunication, find common ground, and, live from a place of wellbeing and ubuntu!

Today's mini-course in four parts:


Part 1: Introduction to Expanding your Skill Set: Overcoming Workplace Challenges 

Excitement, or perhaps relief, often arrives with the word you have been hired. It's a time of new beginnings, and chances. But in any workplace there are challenges that arise in dealing with co-workers, company policies and performance issues. Learn how ubuntu-based principles can change your attitude, enhance relationships and lead to workplace success.


Part 2: Preventing miscommunication

Psychologist Abraham Maslow remarked that if your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We learn job skills, strive to score high on written exams, and meet production goals. Yet, when it comes to the world of effective communication and listening, most of us have had to learn these skills the hard way.


Part 3: Finding common ground

Turning to higher ground in any situation can usually lead to a successful conclusion. Learn to adopt communication tools that you can integrate into your listening practice at work that are equally valuable to help you solve issues with your employer.


Part 4: Living from a place of wellbeing

Ninety percent of the US workforce has been subjected to abusive behavior at some time. This epidemic of abuse and incompetence means that the techniques you will learn in this mini-course on communication are essential to survive and preserve your sanity and wellbeing.

Part 1: Introduction to Expanding your Skill Set: Overcoming Workplace Challenges

You got the job, congratulations! Click on the links above to watch our introduction video, listen to a Podcast on "Putting the Human Dynamic into Human Resources" and choose from several articles that will help expand your skill set at work. Once you integrate these at work, if a difficult situation arises, it will be an opportunity for change and growth.

Part 2. Preventing miscommunication

When I contact an employer on behalf of an employee, I no longer write the “Dear Bigot, do you want to talk?” letter. Finger pointing makes anyone feel defensive and does not lead to constructive dialogue. Instead, I approach the problem as a shared one that needs us to work together on a resolution. This approach continually opens more doors. Below you will find two articles on active listening that look at how we can create a space where people feel safe to tell their stories and express feelings, so we can do our best to listen without judgment or without trying to fix the situation.

Active Listening Exercises for Workplace Managers

If someone is looking far away into the distance when you're talking, are they really listening to you? Click here to read an article.

Corporate Social Responsibility and Employee Engagement

In order to address the problem of low levels of employee engagement in the workplace, CSR is tested as a pathway for engaging a significant part of the workforce. Read the study here.

Part 3: Finding common ground

To be a successful employee in the modern workplace, it's necessary to learn skills far beyond the usual on-the-job training. Finding common ground can turn a bully into a buddy, a boss into a co-conspirator for good. Check out how people are thinking out-of-the-box about workplace relationships. 

Workplace Spirituality

Why it is important for business

The Challenges of Modern Leaders

Workplace spirituality—the support for ubuntu-based principles of connection—is closely connected with those organizations that clarify a meaningful purpose. It is important to allow employees to define what is important to them in terms of belief and practice, as evidenced in this essay from Manage Magazine. Read more.

Empathy in Company Culture

Acknowledge the potential for growth

Create Stronger Collaboration

The definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This kind of interconnection reflects the ubuntu principle of “I am because you are.” The article below from Harvard Business Review explains how to make empathy “the norm” at work and the positive results it can yield. Read more here.

Center for Social Innovation

Graduate School of Stanford Business

Experiential Learning

CSI educates insightful leaders for social and environmental change. Their curriculum is part of a holistic social-innovation learning model that builds off of the management core curriculum and involves social innovation: impact measurement, human-centered design, systems thinking, and cross-sector approaches.. Click for more.


Part 4: Living from a place of wellbeing

At the end of the day, is your job deteriorating your sense of wellbeing? If we choose to treat not only our supervisor but all employees in the workplace as human beings with equal respect, dignity, and compassion, we take the high road and open doors to communication that appear nailed shut. As a result, the workplace can become a healthier place where we can not only survive but thrive. I have found these three tips helpful to my clients when they are considering leaving their place of employment.

Making a claim or making a life.

I have always told my clients that they need a lawsuit like they need a hole in the head. A lawsuit is clearly a last resort. It is expensive, invasive, and the process is too often not about justice. Learning skills to overcome conflict in the workplace may serve you more than a lawsuit or a grievance. If you do need to litigate a case, check out the steps to be effective in Surviving and Thriving at Work.

Relinquish the result.

It takes courage to walk away and look forward rather than back. Those of us who have suffered injustice or affronts to our dignity know that not every battle needs to be fought; at various times in our lives, there are some we take on and some we let go of, based on the circumstances. You may be able to find a way to let this go, and that may prove the most healthy approach. Regardless, keep in mind that if you did not get the desired result (a raise, promotion, an apology), your approach may lay the groundwork for a different, surprising result that helps you in the long term. And remember:
"Reverence for life is the highest court of appeal." (Albert Schweitzer)

Feel empowered to shape your destiny.

When you expand your human potential for communication and understanding, you create a workplace that reflects that we are interconnected, interdependent life systems, and that what we do to each other, we do to ourselves. This is the essence of ubuntu —a principle found throughout the world. Using your job for relationship building, while understanding that the means are inseparable from the end result, and respecting the integrity and worth of each individual, you cultivate an empathetic ear. Your work becomes a place to build rather than stifle humanity.

Congratulations! You've finished the Ubuntuworks mini-course on Ubuntu in the Workplace!

In Part 1 you learned about the South African philosophy of ubuntu and how to establish yourself in your job from the very beginning 

by expanding your human skill sets and by being your own human resources department.

In Part 2 you learned how active listening can open doors as a manager, and read a study on how corporate social responsibility addresses the problem of low levels of employee engagement in the workplace.

Part 3 introduced you to how people are thinking out-of-the box about workplace relationships to make the workplace more welcoming, productive and healthy.

And Part 4 gave you inspirational tips on how to practice ubuntu-based actions every day for a better workplace experience.

Using challenges in the workplace as opportunities for enhanced relationships makes us stronger and healthier.

 Explore more in Surviving and Thriving at Work: What Every Employee Needs to Know But is Afraid to Ask by Eric Sirotkin.

Be Inspired.

Stay up-to-date on new ubuntu connections around the world.
Inspiring stories that make us part of real systemic change.

Listen Deeply. Respect Others. Find Common Ground.

About Your Instructor,
Eric Sirotkin, Esq.

Eric Sirotkin has served as a Professor of Labor and Employment Law at the University of New Mexico School of Law. Founder of the Ubuntuworks Project, Eric mixes his experience as a lawyer, film producer, author, and peacemaker, to contribute to the movement from the age of separation toward the era of ubuntu. He helps people and countries navigate their conflicts in a way that enhances health and wellbeing. He is an active trial lawyer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and lectures to hundreds of lawyers and law students each year. Questions? Email Eric here.


Build skill sets for a more connected world.

Infusing ubuntu-based principles into our schools, workplaces, corporations, and the practice of law. Learn more at the Ubuntuworks School.

Answers to your questions

Where do I find out more about ubuntu?

Visit the Ubuntuworks Project to learn about ubuntu and its applicability to education, workplaces, community development, conflict resolution and more.

Where can I purchase a copy of your book?

You can purchase Eric's book, Witness: A Lawyer's Journey from Litigation to Liberation at Amazon, or at Itasca Books.

Purchase your digital or paperback copy of Surviving and Thriving at Work: What Every Employee Needs to Know But is Afraid to Ask at Amazon or Itasca Books.

May I email you a question?

You can reach Eric Sirotkin HERE. While he can’t give legal advice from an email, he does offer comprehensive consultations on protecting yourself in your workplace or evaluating your claim for mediation or litigation. Visit him at www.ericsirotkin.com.

Do you give in person talks or do in-house training?

Yes. Eric is available to work with your employees or organization to help build stronger communication and productivity. Find him at EricSirotkin.com.

Where can I find more organizations doing this work?

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