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This paper reports two studies that examine how an organization might enable more productive work practices by encouraging the expression of its employees’ spiritual selves in an eastern context. Study 1 shows that people who regularly practice meditation have higher workplace spirituality scores than people who do not regularly practice meditation. Study 2 reports a quasi-experimental study in which people practiced insight meditation. The data did not reveal a direct effect for the meditation, however spirituality does relate to work performance. Moreover, the practice of meditation is also found to partially mediate the relationship between workplace spirituality and work performance.
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University of Nebraska - Lincoln
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Management Department Faculty Publications Management Department
6-1-2012
Workplace Spirituality, Meditation, and Work
Performance
Pawinee Petchsawanga
University of the ai Chamber of Commerce, ailand, ppetchsawang@yahoo.com
Dennis Duchon
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, dduchon2@unl.edu
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Petchsawanga, Pawinee and Duchon, Dennis, "Workplace Spirituality, Meditation, and Work Performance" (2012). Management
Department Faculty Publications. Paper 92.
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Published in Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion 9:2 (June 2012), pp. 189- 208;
doi: 10.1080/14766086.2012.688623
Copyright © 2012 Association of Management, Spirituality & Religion; published by Routledge/
Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission. http://www.tandfonline.com
Workplace Spirituality, Meditation, and
Work Performance
Pawinee Petchsawanga, Department of Human Resource Management, School of Business,
University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Thailand
Dennis Duchon, Department of Management, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, USA
Corresponding author — P. Petchsawanga, email ppetchsawang@yahoo.com
Abstract
This paper reports two studies that examine how an organization might enable
more productive work practices by encouraging the expression of its employees’
spiritual selves in an eastern context. Study 1 shows that people who regularly
practice meditation have higher workplace spirituality scores than people who
do not regularly practice meditation. Study 2 reports a quasi-experimental study
in which people practiced insight meditation. The data did not reveal a direct ef-
fect for the meditation, however spirituality does relate to work performance.
Moreover, the practice of meditation is also found to partially mediate the rela-
tionship between workplace spirituality and work performance.
Keywords: workplace spirituality, meditation, work performance, human re-
source, organizational behavior
Transformation can begin in the workplace when organizations open them-
selves to the cultivation of their own employees’ spirituality. This would mean ad-
dressing employees as whole human beings in terms of their physical, mental, emo-
tional, and spiritual needs (Dehler and Welsh 2003). Lifting up the whole person in
the workplace should not be seen entirely as an altruistic act. Research has demon-
strated that by addressing the spiritual side of human experience organizations help
reduce stress, enhance creativity, and improve problem solving (Tischler et al. 2002).
By focusing on the spiritual qualities of meaningfulness and joy at work, organiza-
tions have found increased job satisfaction (Harung et al. 1996), enhanced job involve-
ment, organizational identication, and work rewards satisfaction (Kolodinsky et al.
2008), greater honesty, trust, and commitment (Krishnakumar and Neck 2002), and
even improved work performance (Duchon and Plowman 2005).
Spirituality at work is not a fringe idea. In fact, spirituality at work addresses hu-
man activities such as personal development, learning, compassion, and searching
189
190 Pe t chs a wan g a & Duc h o n i n J. of Ma n a g e M e n t , Sp ir i t ua l i ty & re l i g i o n 9 (2012)
for meaning or higher purpose (Gull and Doh 2004). Successful organizations such
as Hewlett-Packard, Tom’s of Maine, Ford Motor Company (Burack 1999), the World
Bank (Laabs 1995), AT&T, Chase Manhattan Bank, DuPont, and Apple Computer
(Cavanagh 1999), have created programs to bring spirituality to the workplace. For
example, AT&T sends middle managers to three-day development programs that
help the participants better understand themselves and better listen to their subordi-
nates (Cavanagh 1999). The pursuit of self-knowledge and an ability to “listen” rather
than control are central features in many spiritual quests. Hewlett-Packard builds
spirituality in the workplace through a company philosophy that emphasizes the val-
ues of trust and mutual respect, which in tum are believed to contribute to coopera-
tion and sharing a sense of purpose (Burack 1999).
This paper reports two studies that examine how an organization might enable
more productive work practices by encouraging the expression of its employees’
spiritual selves in an eastern (i.e. non-Western) context. Study 1 shows that people
who regularly practice meditation have higher scores on a measure of spirituality in
the workplace than people who do not regularly practice meditation. Study 2 reports
a quasi-experimental eld study in which people are trained in the practice of in-
sight meditation. The practice of meditation, measures of spirituality, and measures
of work performance are then examined, and while there are signicant relationships
among the three variables, the practice of meditation is also found to partially medi-
ate the relationship between workplace spirituality and work performance.
Spirituality at work
Interest in spirituality as a scholarly topic has grown in recent years, possibly as
a result of the conuence of disparate events. For example, Cacioppe (2000) has ar-
gued that the modem world is plagued by social, economic, and environmental prob-
lems that are the result of human greed and a lack of love and compassion. He con-
tends that these large-scale problems have triggered in humankind a renewed search
for harmony and peace, a search that is essentially a spiritual journey. Biberman and
Whitty (1997) have gone so far as to claim that organizational studies have under-
gone a fundamental shift from a mechanistic paradigm that values rationality and
science to a spiritual paradigm that values consciousness and understanding. Such a
shift enables an emphasis on issues such as team work, trust, creativity, and openness
to change as approaches to dealing with the disruptions caused by the drive toward
globalization (e.g. downsizing, outsourcing, etc.) by keeping businesses thriving in a
changing world.
The spiritual paradigm essentially recognizes that people work not only with their
hands, but also their hearts or spirit (Ashmos and Duchon 2000). It is when people
work with a committed spirit they can nd a kind of meaning and purpose, a kind
of fulllment which means the workplace can be a place where people can express
their whole or entire selves. Thus, enabling the expression of human experience at its
wo r kPl a ce s P ir i t ua l i ty , meD i tat i o n, a nD w or k Pe r f orm a n ce 191
deepest, most spiritual level may not only reduce stress, conict, and absenteeism,
but also enhance work performance (Krahnke et al. 2003), employee well-being, and
quality of life (Karakas 20 I 0).
Although no widely accepted denition of workplace spirituality exists (Kinjer-
ski and Skrypnek 2004), there seems to be an emerging consensus that spirituality
is a multifaceted construct that is about nding a connection to something mean-
ingful that transcends our ordinary lives (cf. Mitroff and Denton 1999, Dehler and
Welsh 2003, Tepper, 2003, George et al. 2004). Note, that the workplace is seen as an
arena where spirituality can be found and expressed (cf. Ashmos and Duchon 2000,
Cacioppe 2000, Giacalone and Jurkiewicz 2003, Milliman et al. 2003, George et al.
2004). The idea is that when people fully engage their work with a sense of purpose
they approach expressing their complete selves, including their spiritual selves.
Workplace spirituality can thus be interpreted to be meaningful at both the individ-
ual and the organizational levels of analysis (Kolodinsky et al. 2008, Pawar 2008).
At the individual level, spirituality can be seen as an affective and cognitive experi-
ence: an employee feels and believes in a spiritual connection to work and the work
place. At the organizational level, spirituality can be seen as a reection of spiritual
values that is part of the organization’s culture and is thus used to inform behavior,
decision-making, and resource allocation (Kolodinsky et al. 2008). Moreover, Pawar
(2009) suggests that workplace spirituality can be encouraged at both levels. At the
individual level people might participate in spiritual development programs (e.g.
learning meditation). The organization itself can use spiritual values to modify or-
ganizational planning and strategy making, HRM practices (hiring, training, devel-
opment, and evaluation), and, as noted above, the culture that provides a context
for daily life.
Finally, although spirituality is often associated with the practice of religion,
there is wide agreement that it is distinct from the practice of religion. A distinction
is important because the workplace is considered a secular environment, particu-
larly in western societies (Mitroff and Denton 1999, Cacioppe 2000, Hill and Smith
2003, Ashar and Lane-Maher 2004). By integrating the multiple meanings of work-
place spirituality, this paper denes it as having compassion toward others, experienc-
ing a mindful inner consciousness in the pursuit of meaningful work that enables tran-
scendence (Petchsawang and Duchon 2008). Note that while this denition is based
in the mostly western-focused literature devoted to spirituality at work, it also ex-
tends these denitions by allowing for an eastern sensibility toward spirituality.
Study 1: The practice of meditation and the measure of
workplace spirituality
Western approaches to spirituality have generally focused on the existence
and power of each person’s inner being; that is, spirituality is a disposition that
can vary among individuals. Questionnaire measures have been developed to cap-
192 Pe t chs a wan g a & Duc h o n i n J. of Ma n a g e M e n t , Sp ir i t ua l i ty & re l i g i o n 9 (2012)
ture this disposition (cf. Ashmos and Duchon 2000, Milliman et al. 2003, Delaney
2005, Kinjerski and Skrypnek 2006). Study 1 developed a questionnaire measure of
spirituality, but also connected the disposition toward spirituality with a behav-
ioral indicator of spirituality commonly found in eastern, Buddhist-centric cultures:
meditation.
Both Study 1 and Study 2 were conducted at the same large Thai company (see
below). Major companies in Thailand conduct programs that are aimed at develop-
ing the spiritual well-being of their employees. Such programs are seen as normal
business practice because Thailand’s culture has, for 2500 years, honored the Philos-
ophy of Buddhism. Buddhism is a set of teachings aimed at helping humans experi-
ence reality, and because it does not account for a personal God, nor does it espouse
theology or dogma, it is not a religion in the sense that Christianity and Islam are re-
ligions. Rather, Buddhism expresses a set of principles intended to help people steer
a middle course in their daily lives. Buddhism is deeply spiritual, however, in that
the philosophy intends to develop mindfulness, concentration, compassion, and wis-
dom in its followers. These spiritual qualities are developed through the practice of
meditation, and developing these spiritual qualities is believed to contribute to har-
mony and balance in life. It is important to note that Buddhist meditation ‘s goal of
mindfulness” has a meaning different from the way mindfulness is usually opera-
tionalized in western research aimed at better understanding cognition’s role in de-
cision-making. In Buddhist mediation, mindfulness refers to a kind of concentration
that can lead to penetrative insight or wisdom. In contrast, mindfulness in the west-
ern perspective refers to the cognitive processes involved in paying attention to exter-
nal events (Weick and Putnam 2006).
While the practice of meditation has been empirically connected to therapeutic
outcomes in the elds of nursing and health care (cf. Thompson and Waltz 2007), this
current research examines spirituality and the practice of meditation in a work con-
text in Thailand, a country whose culture has long accepted meditative practice as a
normal part of everyday life.
Essentially, there are two types of Buddhist meditation, both of which aim at
training and purifying the mind: (I) tranquility meditation and (2) insight medita-
tion (Payutto 2002). Tranquility meditation aims to develop concentration. From a
western perspective, this approach to meditation is widely known as a relaxation or
stress-reduction technique. In contrast, insight meditation aims to achieve wisdom
and “see the truth nature of life and the world(Payutto 2002). Insight meditation is
better suited to a study of spirituality at work because by focusing on the moment,
a person can achieve a focused awareness or mindfulness of him/herself, his/her
thoughts and feelings, that in turn enables a more complete (and appropriate) en-
gagement with everyday experience (Pra Rajaprommajarn 2004). Payutto (2002) has
noted that when people face problems, they may use tranquility meditation to calm
their minds and acquire happiness. Indeed, they could escape from reality and prob-
lems while practicing the meditation, but the problems still remain. In other words,
practicing tranquility mediation does not directly assist problem solving, but practic-
wo r kPl a ce s P ir i t ua l i ty , meD i tat i o n, a nD w or k Pe r f orm a n ce 193
ing insight meditation does. The mindfulness acquired by practicing insight medita-
tion enables insight or wisdom—see the truth of nature (which is the optimal benet
of Buddhist meditation) and by seeing truth be able to solve problems. Solving prob-
lems has direct, important consequences in the workplace and so is a more appropri-
ate meditation form to examine in a work context (see also Tischler et al. 2002). Also,
insight meditation aims at developing focus and concentration on the present. These
are mental skills that could plausibly be applied in the workplace such that focus and
concentration might be associated with improved task performance (Weick and Put-
nam 2006).
There has been some effort to connect meditation and work outcomes, but these
efforts have been limited, and have not focused on insight meditation. For example,
Schmidt-Wilk (2003) reported that 10 members of a Swedish top management team
who practiced transcendental meditation claimed to have developed a kind of de-
velopmental maturity that allowed them to implement a total quality management
program. Similarly, McCollum (1999) explored relationships between leadership de-
velopment and self-development. Study participants who practiced transcendental
meditation claimed to be more effective at work.
Study 1 developed a questionnaire measure for workplace spirituality and exam-
ined the relationship between spirituality scores and frequency of meditation. Items
for the questionnaire were adapted from previously published measures (cf. Ashmos
and Duchon 2000, Brown and Ryan 2003, Kinjerski and Skrypnek 2004, Delaney 2005,
Delgado 2005) and address the four factors noted in the denition above: compas-
sion (e.g. I am aware of my coworkers’ needs), mindfulness (e.g. I nd myself work-
ing without paying attention, reversed), meaning at work (e.g. My spirit is energized
by my work), and transcendence (e.g. At times I experience moments at work where
everything is blissful). The questionnaire was developed in English, then translated
into Thai and back-translated into English according to procedures recommended by
Maxwell (1996), Birbili (2000), and Hambleton (2002) to insure both text agreement
and conceptual equivalence. Informants indicated the extent to which they agreed
with each item on a Likert-type scale where 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly
agree. Full and complete details about the questionnaire’s development can be found
in Petchsawang and Duchon (2008).
Procedure and results
The questionnaire was randomly administered to 250 employees of a large (3800
employees) food and baking company in Thailand, none of whom subsequently par-
ticipated in subsequent data collection. Some 206 questionnaires were returned with
complete data (82.4% response rate). The informants (65 males, 141 females) were, on
average between 21 and 30 years of age and had been working for the company 5.8
years. The informants, on average, had earned a high school diploma. The informants
can be seen as typical of employees working in the food industry in Thailand.
194 Pe t chs a wan g a & Duc h o n i n J. of Ma n a g e M e n t , Sp ir i t ua l i ty & re l i g i o n 9 (2012)
These data were rened through the application of conrmatory factor analysis
2
= 312.575, df= 201, p =.00, CFI = .92, and RMSEA = .05). Workplace spirituality scores
are represented by the mean of 22 items, four items assessing compassion, six items
assessing mindfulness, seven assessing meaningful work, and ve assessing transcen-
dence. Correlations between each item and its underlying dimension ranged from .34
to .81 and the r
2
from .12 to .71, thus providing evidence of adequate convergent valid-
ity. Cronbach  for the entire scale is .85. (see Table 1) (Petchsawang and Duchon 2008).
In addition to routine demographic data, the questionnaire also posed the follow-
ing question: Do you practice meditation?” Informants checked one of four catego-
ries: never, once per month, every week, or every day. So few informants checked
“every day that the responses to that category were combined with those for
“weekly,thus achieving three balanced categories: never (n = 80), seldom (once per
month, n = 86), and often (daily or once per week, n = 38).
The mean workplace spirituality score for those who reported they never prac-
tice meditation was 3.92 (SD = .42), a score of 3.89 (SD = .37) was reported by in-
formants who claimed to meditate seldom, and informants who reported meditating
often achieved a score of 4.11 (SD = .33). Analysis of variance reveals statistically sig-
nicant differences across the three levels of meditation practice (F(2, 203) = 4.67, P =
.01). Post hoc Tukey tests show that those who practice meditation often have signi-
cantly higher spirituality scores than those who never practice meditation.
Overall, Study 1 connects spiritual practice (frequency of meditation) with a ques-
tionnaire measure of workplace spirituality. While such a connection is not surpris-
ing, establishing such a connection essentially creates a foundation for Study 2 where
individuals are trained in meditation techniques.
Study 2: Meditation training, workplace spirituality, and
work performance
The rst study establishes a connection between workplace spirituality scores ob-
tained from a questionnaire and the frequency of meditation, which is seen as a per-
sonal expression of one’s spiritual self. That is, a questionnaire score is connected to
a behavioral indicator of spirituality. Note in Study 1 that informants were asked
only if they practiced meditation. They were not asked which kind of meditation they
practiced. Study 2 examines the extent to which an insight meditation training pro-
gram might affect both workplace spirituality scores and work performance. Study 2
also extends Study 1 by examining how frequency of meditation might be related to
both spirituality scores and work performance.
Procedure
Study 2 is a quasi-experimental study—a pretest-posttest with nonequivalent
comparison groups design (Campbell and Stanley 1963). Some 30 participants em-
wo r kPl a ce s P ir i t ua l i ty , meD i tat i o n, a nD w or k Pe r f orm a n ce 195
Table 1. The items and psychometric properties of the workplace spirituality measure.
Analyses
Items Mean SD r R
2
Dimension 1: Compassion .63
1. I can easily put myself in other people ‘s shoes 4.31 .57 .61 .37
2. I am aware of and sympathize with others 4.07 .55 .69 .46
3. I try to help my coworkers relieve their suering 3.84 .68 .42 .18
4. I am aware of my coworkers’ needs 3.94 .60 .52 .28
Dimension 2: Mindfulness .79
5. I do jobs or tasks automatically, without being aware of what I am doing 4.17 .95 .57 .33
6. I nd myself working without paying attention 3.75 1.06 .65 .43
7. At work, I break or spill things because of carelessness, not paying attention, 3.65 1.05 .65 .42
or thinking of something else
8. I rush through work activities without being really attentive to them. 4.10 .79 .84 .71
9. I go to the places on “automatic pi lot” and then wonder why I went there 3.93 1.00 .58 .33
10. It seems I am working automatically without much awareness of what I’m doing 4.13 .95 .51 .26
Dimension 3: Meaningful work .78
11. I experience joy in my work 4.08 .69 .64 .41
12. I look forward to coming to work most days 3.42 .78 .52 .27
13. I believe others experience joy as a result of my work 3.56 .70 .45 .20
14. My spirit is energized by my work 3.85 .71 .72 .52
15. I see a connection between my work and the larger social good of my community 4.00 .76 .61 .37
16. I understand what gives my work personal meaning 4.38 .65 .65 .42
17. The work I do is connected to what I think is important in life 4.07 .71 .55 .31
Dimension 4: Transcendence .75
18. At times, I experience an energy or vitality at work that is dicult to describe 3.50 .97 .34 .12
19. I experience moments at work where everything is blissful 3.90 .73 .67 .45
20. At times, I experience happiness at work 4.21 .73 .78 .61
21. I have moments at work in which I have no sense of time or space 3.92 .79 .63 .39
22. At moments, I experience complete joy and ecstasy at work 4.00 .75 .73 .53
r is the correlation between the item and its underlying dimension. R
2
is a proportion of variance accounted for its underlying dimension by the item.
Cronbach’s alpha coecient is computed for each dimension excluding the strikethrough items.
196 Pe t chs a wan g a & Duc h o n i n J. of Ma n a g e M e n t , Sp ir i t ua l i ty & re l i g i o n 9 (2012)
ployed in the same Thai company noted in Study 1 attended a meditation train-
ing program. Some 26 of the participants were nominated for the program by their
supervisors because they were new employees, while four participants self-nom-
inated. None had previously attended the training program. The 30 members of
the comparison group (who also had never attended meditation training) were ran-
domly selected from the same branches and same departments as the participants
in the meditation training. From the total of the 60 subjects, some 43 were women
(72%). Most of the subjects were under 30 years of age, and most of them were not
married. Most of the subjects have at least a high school education and most have
been working at the company less than two years. Chi-square tests show that the
experimental and control groups do not differ in terms of demographics, in terms
of gender, age, marital status, religion, education, work experiences, and workplace
(p > .05).
The participants in the experimental group completed workplace spirituality
questionnaires before the meditation training (T1), one week after the training (T2),
and one month after the training (T3). Their work performance was evaluated one
month after the meditation training. The participants in the comparison group com-
pleted spirituality questionnaires twice, once at T1 and again at T3.
Meditation training
The meditation training consists of eight days of instruction and practice in insight
meditation, and also included learning about the philosophy of Buddhism and group
discussion regarding meditation practice. The Thai company has conducted medita-
tion training classes for over 30 years, and training participants are either volunteer
or nominated by their supervisors. Training programs are offered six times each year
at a company-built facility. Participants are given paid leave time to attend. The com-
pany’s extensive support for meditation training is a consequence of the CEO’s belief
that people can benet greatly from such training. Curiously, however, Study 2 is the
rst attempt to validate empirically this belief. Details about the training can be ob-
tained from the rst author.
Work performance evaluation
Work performance was assessed by the participants’ supervisors, using the com-
pany’s standard evaluation instrument and procedures. Essentially, supervisors rate
their subordinates on ve dimensions: (1) work content; (2) work behavior; (3) job
specication; (4) discipline; and (5) job knowledge and competency. Table 2 shows
that the dimensions are not treated equally; rather, they have different weights. Su-
pervisors assign a rating (5 = excellent to 1 = not satisfactory) to each indicator of a
work dimension. For example, the work content dimension has two indicators, qual-
ity and quantity of work and both indicators receive a weight of 5. In contrast, the
wo r kPl a ce s P ir i t ua l i ty , meD i tat i o n, a nD w or k Pe r f orm a n ce 197
work behavior dimension has ve indicators (enthusiasm, compliance with service
protocol, cooperation and teamwork, awareness of clean food and safety, and hy-
giene of equipment) and each indicator is assigned a weight of 4. The indicators, in
turn, are rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale that ranges from 5 = excellent to 1 = not
satisfactory. Each indicator rating score is multiplied by its weight, and the results are
summed for each dimension. The total score is averaged.
Mediation training, workplace spirituality, and work performance
As noted above (Weick and Putnam 2006), meditation practice aims to develop
wisdom (i.e. a capacity to be a better problem solver as a result of being able to “see”
Table 2. Work performance evaluation.
Rating
Very Not
Weight Excellent good Good Fair satisfactory
Dimensions scale 5 4 3 2 1
1. Work content
Quality of work 5
Quantity of work and timeliness 5
of service (eciency)
2. Work behavior
Enthusiasm and service mind 4
Compliance with service protocol 4
Cooperation and teamwork 4
Awareness of clean food and safety 4
Hygiene of equipments, tools, and 4
work areas
3. Job specication
Hygiene and healthiness 5
Human relation skill 5
Problem solving skill in service 5
4. Discipline
Compliance with supervisor’s 5
command and S&P policy
Attendance and discipline record 5
Reporting problems to supervisors 5
5. Job knowledge and competency
Knowledge regarding food and 8
S&P products
Learning and development skill 5
Initiation and creativity 7
198 Pe t chs a wan g a & Duc h o n i n J. of Ma n a g e M e n t , Sp ir i t ua l i ty & re l i g i o n 9 (2012)
the nature of the problem with greater clarity) and focus and concentration (i.e. a ca-
pacity to ignore or lter out distractions). Insight meditation means to develop these
mental abilities that enable a person to observe the moment, acknowledge thoughts
and feelings without preconception or judgment (mindfulness in the Buddhist sense),
and so achieve wisdom (penetrative insight). This enhanced state of awareness can
elevate the experience of almost any human activity, including conventional work ac-
tivity. Weick and Sutcliffe (2006) have noted that when people become more mindful
of their work, they develop a capacity for wise action and so perform better. The reg-
ular practice of insight meditation ought to enable wise action. Regular practice helps
the mind become more powerful in terms of being able to observe distractions and,
by observing them, let them go.
Insight meditation also trains the mind to seek a sense of peace and happiness
because increased concentration enhances a sense of calm and a sense of energy,
both of which can then be used to see things clearly and insightfully. A trained
mind can be applied to many circumstances and so there should be carry-over ben-
ets including the potential of performing better work. A calm, disciplined mind,
focused on the present, gathering energy is a mind that can better judge the re-
quirements of the moment, make better decisions, and understand more completely
the nuances of interpersonal relations. Thus, a trained mind ought to be an asset in
the workplace, as it is a mind that can attend to both routine and novel job require-
ments, can focus on the self or on a group, and, through observation, learn more
effectively.
We are not alone in believing that a person whose mind is trained by meditation
technique can be a better employee. For example, Marques (2010) argues that the em-
ployees who practice the Buddhist meditation will be better team players because
they are less likely to inject a selsh agenda. Weick and Sutcliffe (2006) also suggest
that by practicing meditation, people will become more creatively aware, become bet-
ter information processors and so might be more effective in their jobs. The enhanced
mental skills associated with practicing meditation can also help employees concen-
trate better on organizational goals (Weick and Putnam 2006). Finally, being present
in the moment (mindfulness) will enhance positive emotions and alleviate negative
emotions (Schroevers and Brandsma 2010). Positive emotions at work are believed by
some scholars to provide a kind of competitive advantage, and the emerging area of
positive organizational behavior is marshaling evidence in support of this belief (cf.
Luthans et al. 2007).
In regard to this paper, note that Study 1 presented data that found medita-
tion practice to be associated with a measure of workplace spirituality. That is,
meditation practice is associated with an informant’s sense of engagement (mean-
ingful work), care and support of coworkers (compassion), task focus and con-
centration (mindfulness), and enjoyment and energy (transcendence). Thus, it is
reasonable to predict that employees with higher spirituality scores will be eval-
uated by their supervisors as being more disciplined, more enthusiastic, better
problem solvers, and more concerned about work quality than those with lower
wo r kPl a ce s P ir i t ua l i ty , meD i tat i o n, a nD w or k Pe r f orm a n ce 199
spirituality scores because they are more present, more aware, and more focused
on the task at hand.
Data analyses
Table 3 presents a correlation matrix for the study’s variables. Similar to Study
1, the data in Table 3 indicate a relationship between meditation practice and work-
place spirituality (r = .38, p < .01) and work performance (r = .43, p < .01). Table 3
also shows a statistically signicant relationship between spirituality scores and work
performance (r = .33, p < .01).
We then explored further the relationships of workplace spirituality, meditation
practice, and work performance. Specically, we employed a multiple regression
approach suggested by Baron and Kenny (1986) to test whether or not meditation
practice acted as a mediator for the relationship between workplace spirituality and
work performance (see Figure 2). The data reported in Table 4 for step I indicate a
direct relationship between work performance and workplace spirituality (path c)
= .33, p < .01).
Step 2 also indicates a relationship between workplace spirituality and meditation
practice (path a) = .38, p < .001). There is relationship between workplace spiritual-
ity and work performance (path b, r = .36, p < .001), and controlling for this relation-
ship reduces the relationship between workplace spirituality and work performance
(path c′, Figure 1). Therefore, the data indicate that meditation practice partially me-
diates the relationship of workplace spirituality and work performance.
Beside the above-critical ndings, when the data presented in Table 3 are sub-
jected to ANOVA, signicant differences across the three levels of meditation prac-
tice for both spirituality scores, F(2, 57) = 4.89, P = .01 and work performance, F(2, 57)
= 6.85, p < .001 emerge. Follow-up Tukey tests indicate the signicance differences
are between those who never practice meditation and those who practice meditation
often for both spirituality scores and work performance scores.
Table 3. Correlation matrix.
Workplace Work Meditation
Variables Mean SD Training spirituality performance practice
Training .50 .50 1.00 .12 .12 .38**
Workplace spirituality 3.83 .4l 1.00 .33** .38**
Work performance 17.05 2.82 1.00 .43**
Meditation practice 1.63 .80 1.00
Training is indicated by 1 (experimental group) and 0 (control group).
** p = .01
200 Pe t chs a wan g a & Duc h o n i n J. of Ma n a g e M e n t , Sp ir i t ua l i ty & re l i g i o n 9 (2012)
We then examined the relationship between meditation training and the fre-
quency of meditation practice. A repeated measures ANOVA reveals an interaction
such that those study participants who participated in meditation training meditate
more frequently than those in the comparison sample (F (2,58) = 18.23, P < .001 (see
Figure 2).
However, the meditation training does not seem to have affected spirituality
scores. Mean scores for the workplace spirituality scale for both experimental and
Figure 1. A mediating effect of meditation practice on the relationship of workplace spirituality
and work performance.
Figure 2. An interaction effect between meditation training and frequency of meditation practice.
Frequency of meditation practice scale: 1.00= never, 2.00= seldom, 3.00 = often. Time: 1 = before
meditation training, and 2 = after meditation training one month.
wo r kPl a ce s P ir i t ua l i ty , meD i tat i o n, a nD w or k Pe r f orm a n ce 201
Table 4. Testing meditation practice as a mediator between workplace spirituality and work performance.
Variable Beta F R R
2
Change in R
2
Change in F
Step 1: Path c
Independent: workplace spirituality .33** 7.11** .33*** .11** .11** 7.11**
Dependent: work performance
Step 2: Path a
Independent: workplace spirituality .3 8*** 9.94*** .38*** .15*** .15*** 9.94***
Dependent: meditation practice
Step 3: Paths b and c
Independent: workplace spirituality .19
Mediating: meditation practice (path b) .36*** 8.00*** .47*** .22*** .11*** 8.06***
Dependent: work performance
** p < .01 ; *** p < .001
202 Pe t chs a wan g a & Duc h o n i n J. of Ma n a g e M e n t , Sp ir i t ua l i ty & re l i g i o n 9 (2012)
comparison groups indicate that the pre- and posttest spirituality scores are not dif-
ferent within either group, nor are the scores different between the groups (see Ta-
ble 5). A repeated measures ANOVA test of spirituality scores for the experimental
group at times 1, 2, and 3 indicates that spirituality scores do not signicantly dif-
fer across time, F(2, 58) = 1.25, P = .29. These analyses suggest that the 8-day medi-
tation training did not have an effect on spirituality scores. The data in Table 5 also
show that while work performance scores are higher for the experimental group than
the comparison group, these differences do not reach conventional levels of statistical
signicance (p > .05). The data in Table 5 also suggest that insight meditation train-
ing is not related to work performance. While the work performance scores for indi-
viduals who completed the training are higher than scores for the comparison group
(17.39 (SD = 3 .26) vs. 16.71 (SD = 2.31)), this difference does not reach conventional
levels of statistical signicance (t(58) = .95, p = .35) (see Table 5).
Discussion
One of the important tests in this research was an examination of the effects of a
spiritual intervention: insight meditation training. The expectation was that the train-
ing would not only raise informants’ sense of their own spiritual selves (i.e. spiritu-
ality scores would be higher after training), but also those who participated in the
training might transfer to their jobs their newly learned ability to achieve insight and
their work performance would improve. However, the data analyses reported cannot
support those expectations.
It is possible, that the training did produce a “spiritualityeffect but the measure
could not show it. This might happen because of a “re-calibration effect. That is,
the informants might have had a “false sense” of their own spirituality which they
discovered only as a consequence of the training. Additionally, meditation requires
practice over a period of time longer than one month before they produce observable
benets. Indeed, the data analysis did show a link between (long-term) meditation
practice and work outcomes. Also note that the 8-day training program may not be a
Table 5. Mean dierences of work spirituality and work performance for experimental and comparison
groups.
Experimental group Comparison group
(N = 30) (N = 30)
M SD M SD
Workplace spirituality scores
Pre 3.94 0.42 3.88 0.40
Post 3.82 0.35 3.78 0.43
Work performance scores
Post 17.39 3.26 16.71 2.31
Pre = time before attending training; Post = one month after attending training.
wo r kPl a ce s P ir i t ua l i ty , meD i tat i o n, a nD w or k Pe r f orm a n ce 203
sufcient length of time to produce an observable effect. Many researchers suggest an
examination of long-term meditation practice (Frew 1974, Schmidt-Wilk 2003, Mack-
enzie et al. 2007).
While the short-term training in meditation technique did not seem to produce an
effect in terms of a sense of spirituality or in terms of work performance, frequency
of meditation practice does. Both studies demonstrated an effect for the regular prac-
tice of meditation. Study 1 showed that people who practiced meditation have higher
workplace spirituality scores than those who practiced infrequently. Study 2 ex-
tended the examination of this relationship. Specically, the regular practice of medi-
tation partially mediates the positive relationship between workplace spirituality and
work performance. In other words, practicing meditation strengthens the positive re-
lationship between workplace spirituality and work performance. The more spiritual
people are, the more they practice meditation and the more they practice meditation,
the better they perform their work.
Finally, the research makes an important contribution to the study of spiritual-
ity at work because it provides empirical evidence of a signicant, positive relation-
ship between spirituality and actual work outcomes; not attitudes about work, not
attitudes about commitment or job satisfaction, but work performance as it is mea-
sured by the organization. The overall connection between spirituality and work per-
formance supports the ndings reported by Duchon and Plowman (2005) and con-
rms a theoretical assumption that bringing spirituality to the workplace positively
affects organizational outcomes (Neck and Milliman 1994, Biberman and Whitty
1997, Burack 1999, Cavanagh, 1999, Mitroff and Denton 1999, Cacioppe 2000, Pratt
and Ashforth 2003, Jurkiewicz and Giacalone 2004, Kinjerski and Skrypnek 2004).
Limitations
Although this research attempted to examine the relationship among a spiritual-
ity intervention, workplace spirituality, and work performance, the study was con-
ducted in Thailand with Thai subjects, many of whom, because of their Buddhist-cen-
tric culture, are conditioned to see meditation as something, if not “normal,at least
“not unusual.Similarly, the idea of “spiritualityas a part of human experience that
is separate from religion likely enjoys wider acceptance in the Thai culture than it
would in North American culture. Nonetheless, because western research methods
were used in an eastern (Thai) work context, it may be that the relationship between
spirituality and work may is robust in any work context, although such speculation
will, of course, require further examination.
Managerial implication
If the organization in which the research took place truly wants to achieve a work-
related outcome from the meditation training, it may have to modify the training in-
204 Pe t chs a wan g a & Duc h o n i n J. of Ma n a g e M e n t , Sp ir i t ua l i ty & re l i g i o n 9 (2012)
tervention. For example, rather than allowing the participants to gure things out,”
the training might include conversation and practice in how specically to trans-
fer meditation benets to the workplace. It may not be intuitively obvious to train-
ing participants how an effort to achieve wisdom transfers to performing job tasks.
Second, because an 8-day training may not be long enough to produce an effect, the
company should consider regular follow- up programs where participants can be re-
engaged in meditation practice (Astin 1997). Meditation is not an easy thing to learn
and a more long-term approach to the acquisition to meditation skills might be more
effective.
It seems likely that people obtain the benets of meditation, not quickly, but rather
over a period of time. Effective meditation requires patience and persistence. Practice
over a period of time enables the meditation practitioner to become more skilled at
achieving the kind of mindfulness that leads to a sense of meaning in life, compas-
sion, and transcendence. These cognitive effects are in addition to the stress reduction
attributed to meditation that has been reported by others (Schmidt-Wilk et al. 1996,
Biberman and Whitty 1997).
Nonetheless, the research reported here suggests that work performance is re-
lated to meaningful work, compassion, mindfulness, and transcendence and that at-
tending to these issues can create a more productive work environment. Meaningful
work provides employees an opportunity to realize their full potential as human be-
ings. To promote meaningful work, organizations need to focus not only on design-
ing jobs that provide meaning in a job characteristics sense (Hackman and Oldham
1976), but also addressing employee need at a deeper level (Ashar and Lane-Maher
2004, Duchon and Plowman 2005). This might mean paying attention to continu-
ous learning and development, fully appreciating employee contributions, enhanc-
ing exibility and autonomy, and promoting creativity and initiative (Kinjerski and
Skrypnek 2004). Paying attention to work-life balance may also enhance meaningful-
ness at work (Pratt and Ashforth 2003) and contribute to a sense of greater compas-
sion in the workplace. Larger structural and cultural issues such as organizational
integrity, social responsibility, positive workplace culture and atmosphere, sense of
community among members, and inspiring leadership can also play a role in enhanc-
ing workplace spirituality (Kinjerski and Skrypnek 2004).
Leadership is important in fostering a sense of transcendence. Pratt and Ashforth
(2003) suggest that leaders can model behavioral integrity. Additionally, leaders can
promote psychological safety by allowing employees to show themselves and dem-
onstrate initiative and creativity without a fear of negative consequences to their ca-
reer or status (Pratt and Ashforth 2003). The alignment of an employee’s identity,
value, and purpose, a result enabled by effective leadership, can foster transcendence
(Pratt and Ashforth 2003). When leaders demonstrate congruence among the organi-
zation’s vision, mission, goals, and practices, they will impact a sense of spirituality
in the wider organization and contribute to a more effective work environment (Fry
2003, Fry et al. 2005, Fry et al. 2006, Fry and Slocum 2008, Fry and Cohen 2009, Fry
and Kriger 2009). Indeed, the leader should insure that all parts of the organization
wo r kPl a ce s P ir i t ua l i ty , meD i tat i o n, a nD w or k Pe r f orm a n ce 205
are working together toward the same goals in support of corporate spiritual values.
As noted above, organizational factors such as culture, strategy, and HRM policies
can enhance workplace spirituality, but the organization’s leaders need to reinforce
spirituality values. For example, McCulloch (2006) notes that workplace spirituality
can be impaired when the employees’ perception of organizational spirituality does
not align with management’s perception of organizational spirituality. Organiza-
tional leaders need to pay attention to the alignment of perceptions, and not take for
granted that just because spirituality interventions like meditation training are avail-
able that the employees automatically understand such an opportunity indicating
that spirituality is a core organization value and therefore important. Finally, even
if organizational intentions and employee awareness are aligned, real effort needs to
go into developing and maintaining a spirituality intervention such as training in in-
sight meditation techniques. Insight meditation requires practice, and any organiza-
tion seeking the benets meditation promises will have to commit itself to a long-
term view, and thus not expect a sudden, dramatic payoff.
The Authors
Pawinee Petchsawang is an assistant professor of human resource management,
School of Business, University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. She received her
PhD in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville). She
has written a book, Organizational Behavior (Bangkok: Ratthara, 2002), and published
on human resource management and organizational behavior in management jour-
nals. She also has been a consultant for private and public sectors in the areas of hu-
man resource management in Thailand.
Dennis Duchon received his PhD in management from the University of Houston.
He has published widely in management journals in the areas of leadership, deci-
sion-making, workplace spirituality, motivation, and complexity science.
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... Workplace spirituality included different dimensions in studies performed in various areas (Ashmos & Duchon, 2000;Duchon & Plowman, 2005;Özğan, 2017;Petchsawanga & Duchon, 2012). When these studies are investigated, generally, it appears that meaning, values, transcendence, and inner life concepts come to the forefront. ...
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Purpose Without competent and talented employees, no organisation can grow and sustain for a long time. It becomes essential for every organisation to retain and satisfy the employees to achieve their predetermined organisational goals. The present study examines the mediating effect of workplace spirituality dimensions (i.e. meaningful work, compassion, transcendence, mindfulness and sense of community) in the link between job satisfaction and organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) among managerial employees of selected manufacturing firms of Chhattisgarh state. Design/methodology/approach Correlational research design was incorporated. Employees working at managerial positions at different private manufacturing firms of Chhattisgarh state were chosen as a sample for the present study. Regression analysis and confirmatory factor analysis tools were used to analyse the primary data collected from 400 respondents. Findings The results revealed that all the dimensions of workplace spirituality, i.e. meaningful work, compassion, transcendence, mindfulness and sense of community, were found statistically significant and partially mediated between job satisfaction and OCB among managerial employees of Chhattisgarh. The authors discussed the results thoroughly and provided avenues for the future research. Research limitations/implications The findings of the present research study will assist all private organisations in rethinking their employee retention and satisfaction strategies, since the presence of workplace spirituality in the organisation has a significant and beneficial impact on its environment. The current research will assist organisations in creating circumstances for OCB for employee via the introduction of workplace spirituality. Originality/value Creating spirituality in the current situation, where Covid-19 has suddenly affected all organisations around the world, would be extremely beneficial in terms of employee retention and satisfaction, which would eventually aid in the development of an environment conducive to citizenship behaviour at the workplace. However, the role of workplace spirituality as a mediator in the link between job satisfaction and OCB is innovative and has received little attention in the research community.
... There has been a significant rise in spirituality research in the last decade owing to the realisation by modern organisations that people do not just work with their hands and brains (Mitroff 2003;Petchsawang and Duchon 2012) but that their souls, whose essence is the spirituality (Del Rio and White 2014), are involved. The subject has attracted diverse definitive and conceptual modification and meaning on the course of its development. ...
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Spirituality research has attracted much interest in recent times, particularly among the management group of researchers, owing to the realisation that people come to work not with their hands and heads only but also with their spirit. The present study explores the intervening role of spiritual climate in the relationship between spirituality and turnover intentions among academics at tertiary institutions in Plateau State, Nigeria. A cross-sectional survey design was adopted and 320 questionnaires out of the 500 administered were used. The data set collected was analysed using Smart-PLS to test the hypothesised relationships. The results reveal: (1) No relationship between spirituality and turnover intention; (2) Spirituality relates positively to and significantly with spiritual climate; (3) Spiritual climate significantly influences academics' intention to leave; (4) Spiritual climate is found to mediate the relationship between spirituality and intention to quit. We situate our contribution in this paper to theory and practice.
... Spirituality in the workplace (Tombaugh et al., 2011) is thus seen as an integration of beliefs that influence spiritual experiences and practices. According to Petchsawanga and Duchon (2012), organisations could promote more productive work practices by promoting the expression of the spiritual identity of its workers. People who practiced meditation regularly had higher spirituality scores in the workplace than those who did not practice meditation regularly. ...
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... Harris and Ogbonna (2012) illustrated that the cost linked with deviant behaviors is high in the hospitality industry; therefore, it becomes essential to recognize its predictors to curtail it. Numerous researchers established positively association of spirituality at workplace with positive employee behavioral outcomes like "intuition, creativity, honesty, trust, personal fulfillment, organizational commitment, organizational performance, customer orientation, adaptability, service orientation, ethical selling behavior, job satisfaction, organizational citizenship behavior, job involvement, reduced unfavorable job attitudes like intention to quit the organization and incivility experienced by employees" (Krishnakumar and Neck, 2002;Kolodinsky et al., 2008;Rego and Cunha, 2008;Braud, 2009;Nasina and Pin, 2011;Petchsawang and Duchon, 2012;Albuquerque et al., 2014;Gupta et al., 2014;Movassagh and Oreizi, 2014;Pradhan and Jena, 2016;Milliman et al., 2018;Lata and Chaudhary, 2021). Hence, the present study will have vital contribution to hospitality literature because there has been limited attention on workplace spirituality. ...
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