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Heaven and Hell at Work
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One night, a man (generic) had a dream, and in the dream an angel comes and takes him on a tour of heaven and hell. They visit hell first. It turns out that hell, surprisingly enough, is a huge banquet room, with tables full of all the food and drink one could possibly want. The people at the tables, however, are angry, frustrated, rude, despairing, depressed, stressed, thin, emaciated and wasting away. The silverware in hell is about four feet long and can only be picked up at one end. Thus, all these folks, who are interested only in feeding themselves, are unable to do so, are unable to manage a four-foot utensil in such a way they can bring the other end to their own mouth.

They leave hell and then go to visit heaven.

It turns out that heaven, surprisingly enough, is also a huge banquet room, with tables full of all the food and drink you could possibly want. The folks in heaven are joyful, happy, content, engaged, and manifest a healthy sense of well-being. The silverware is exactly the same as in hell, four feet long and can only be picked up at one end. The difference? Here, in heaven, the people are reaching across the table and feeding each other. (This teaching is often attributed to Rabbi Haim of Romshishok-Adapted by Grian A. Cutanda (2019).)

In every conscious, healthy social system, in every work environment, everyone, yes, everyone, makes a contribution – overtly or covertly, actively or passively, consciously or unconsciously and, most importantly, for the “good of the order” or, conversely, for the “ill of the organization” – but everyone, i.e., you, contributes one way or another.

Your beliefs about yourself and your colleagues and how you see others contribute to whether you are creating heaven or hell in your life in some way, shape or form.

How do you experience life in your organization (or, in your family or relationship)?

Who are you feeding?

Is your life at work centered on feeding your self?


Is your life at work “all about me?”  Is “What’s in it for me?” your motive and mantra when you relate to others? Are you a bully, gossiper or blamer? Do coercion, dominance, power or control characterize your leadership or management style? Are folks expendable in a “take no prisoners’ approach to project management or meeting deadlines? Do you hoard information? Are you critical of others’ behaviors? Are your motives based solely on promotions, raises, corner offices and bonuses? Do you sacrifice integrity, trust, ethics or morals to garner money or prestige? Do you show favoritism? Do you see others as “stupid?” Do you ignore others’ requests, emails, and questions? Do you shun accountability for your actions and behaviors? Do you focus only on your own immediate tasks and responsibilities? Do you avoid conflict? Do you exhibit bias or prejudice? Are you disrespectful or uncooperative? Do you have hidden agendas? Do you make more statements than ask questions? Do you engage in irrational or argumentative thinking or emotional reactivity? Are you inflexible, selfish, arrogant or egotistical?

Or, perhaps your life at work is centered on feeding others?


Do you encourage and inspire your colleagues? Do you live in integrity and authenticity? Do folks experience you as decent, honest, respectful and trustworthy? Do you assume accountability for your actions and mistakes? Do you think more about supporting others than about what’s wrong with others? Do you feel everyone has a right to a seat at the table? Are listening and coaching hallmarks of your leadership or management style? Do you show confidence in your direct reports? Do you exhibit empathy and concern for others’ well-be-ing? Are you energetic, upbeat, enthusiastic and optimistic? Do you encourage others to experience work-life balance? Are you self-aware and master of your emotions? Do you take time for self-reflection and encourage others to do so as well? Do you lead and manage with your heart as well as your head? Do you exude self-confidence? Do you live your organization’s values? Do you encourage others to contribute their thoughts, ideas and wisdom? Do you treat others like adults? Do you engage in open and honest communication, and give honest and timely feedback? Do you praise in public and deal privately with problems? Are you fair in your dealings with others? Do you act as a facilitator and guide? Are you an advocate for others? Are you humble? Do you make an effort to understand before being understood? Are you comfortable with conflict? Are you aware of your own limitations? Do you understand the challenges folks are facing and what frustrates them? Do you encourage collaboration and information sharing? Do you point out folks’ strengths? Do you honor your commitments and keep your promises?

Some questions for self-reflection:

  • Are you contributing to your own or your colleagues’ experience of hell in your workplace?  If so, what story or stories do you make up to rationalize/justify your attitudes and actions to allow this to happen? How so?
  • Are you contributing to your own or your colleagues’ experience of heaven in your workplace? What attitudes and actions support your contribution? How so?
  • How might your colleagues answer these two questions regarding you, your attitudes and behavior? Honestly.
  • How about life outside of work  – at home, at play and in relationships – who’s feeding whom?

(c) 2023, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful.
Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.

What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”

I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.

I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrueNorthPartnering