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Spirituality at Workplace



Although the physical and psychological dimensions of individuals at work have been studied extensively, the spiritual dimension has been neglected for many years (Walt, 2007). Spirituality at work is not about religious beliefs. Rather, it is about people who perceive themselves as spirited beings, whose spirit needs energizing at work. It is about experiencing real purpose and meaning in their work beyond paychecks and task performance. Spirituality is really about people sharing and experiencing some common attachment, attraction, and togetherness with each other within their work unit and the organization as a whole. The current view is that spirituality, as opposed to religion, is a better construct for understanding the relationship between the individual and modern pluralistic workplaces. Spirituality in the workplace leads to improved ethical behavior at a personal level and an enhanced ethical climate/culture at an organizational level. Where spirituality is absent, there is a lack of understanding that we are deeply connected. Being in touch with spiritual principles and values helps to stimulate the moral imaginations of individuals and can provide depth of understanding of the many ethical problems that arise in business. The purpose of this paper is to review spirituality at work literature and to explore how spirituality improves employees' performances and organizational effectiveness. The objectives of the study is to know the role of spirituality in the workplace affect organizational performance and the benefits related to integrating spirituality into the workplace. Finally, some recommendations for promotion of workplace spirituality and future research directions are formulated.
National Conference on Paradigm for Sustainable Business: People, Planet and Profit
Spirituality at Workplace
Anu Dandona
Faculty-Management, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan’s Usha & Lakshmi Mittal Institute of Management, New Delhi.
Abstract: Although the physical and psychological dimensions
of individuals at work have been studied extensively, the
spiritual dimension has been neglected for many years (Walt,
2007). Spirituality at work is not about religious beliefs. Rather,
it is about people who perceive themselves as spirited beings,
whose spirit needs energizing at work. It is about experiencing
real purpose and meaning in their work beyond paychecks and
task performance. Spirituality is really about people sharing
and experiencing some common attachment, attraction, and
togetherness with each other within their work unit and the
organization as a whole. The current view is that spirituality, as
opposed to religion, is a better construct for understanding the
relationship between the individual and modern pluralistic
workplaces. Spirituality in the workplace leads to improved
ethical behavior at a personal level and an enhanced ethical
climate/culture at an organizational level. Where spirituality is
absent, there is a lack of understanding that we are deeply
connected. Being in touch with spiritual principles and values
helps to stimulate the moral imaginations of individuals and
can provide depth of understanding of the many ethical
problems that arise in business. The purpose of this paper is to
review spirituality at work literature and to explore how
spirituality improves employees’ performances and
organizational effectiveness. The objectives of the study is to
know the role of spirituality in the workplace affect
organizational performance and the benefits related to
integrating spirituality into the workplace. Finally, some
recommendations for promotion of workplace spirituality and
future research directions are formulated.
Keywords: Spirituality, Workplace, Ethical behavior,
Organizational effectiveness and Organizational performance.
Spirituality is not a new phenomenon but spirituality at
workplace is new and it is on the conceptual stage. Recently
it has got an enormous amount of attention in the field of
management research, because now organizations have
understood that employees are satisfied not only with
Materialistic things (money), they want more than that.
Every human being has both an inner and an outer life and
that the nourishment of the inner life can lead to more
meaningful and productive outer life. For the nourishment of
inner life employees desire that the work which they are
doing must have some meaning in their lives, they desire to
work in the community and they desire the feeling of
compassion impact towards others at workplace and it is
possible only by applying spiritual practices at workplace.
Workplace spirituality is new concept in the field of
management research and it is gaining popularity these days.
It is on conceptual stage, this is the reason that there are as
many definitions as many researchers are there. (Ashmos &
Duchon, 2000), came with the first scale to measure
workplace spirituality, they define a spiritual workplace as
one that enables the individual’s expression of an inner life
by performing meaningful work in the context of a
community. (Milliman et al., 2003), they also agree with
Ashmos and Duchon , According to them a workplace is
spiritual where individuals experienced meaningful work in
a community. In their views third element in the spirituality
should not be inner life; it should be an alignment with
organizational values. Petchsawang & Duchon (2009)
defines workplace spirituality as “having compassion toward
others, experiencing a mindful inner consciousness in the
pursuit of meaningful work and that enables transcendence”.
Several explanations have been offered as to why spirituality
at work has become such an important issue. One
explanation was the growing concern for work-life balance
prevalent today. Another explanation was that workplaces
had become impersonal and even insecure environments due
to organizational and societal changes. This insecurity in the
workplace has increased the importance of a heightened
spirituality (Hayden, Barbuto, & Goertzen, 2008, p. 3).
The most acknowledged definition of workplace spirituality
is one put forward by Giacalone & Jurkiewicz. They define
workplace spirituality as those aspects of the workplace,
either in the individual, the group, or the organization, that
promote individual feelings of satisfaction through
transcendence (Giacalone & Jurkiewicz, 2003, p. 13;
Giacalone & Jurkiewicz, 2010, p. 13). Gotsis & Kortezi
(2008) define workplace spirituality as an experience of
transcendence, interconnectedness, personal wholeness and
delight, examined in diverse theoretical frameworks (p.
“Several things have led to an increased spiritual hunger
among workers. Rapid change, uncertainty, and the demise
of the corporate loyalty pact. The company used to take care
of you and you did your job in return” explains Judi Neale,
Executive Director for the Center for Spirit at Work at the
University of New Haven. “As the outer sense of stability
has eroded, workers are looking for that inner center and
returning to core values. The small business owner may be a
key part of that trend. There is a renewed entrepreneurial
Spirituality at Workplace
National Conference on Paradigm for Sustainable Business: People, Planet and Profit
spirit in the U.S., partly driven by workers who are
disillusioned with larger companies that have put them in
ethical dilemmas. With a small business, they have more
opportunity to follow their own spirit and moral compass.”
Workplace spirituality suggests that people bring
exceptional and individual spirits to the workplace and are
highly motivated by the spiritual need to experiencing a
feeling of transcendence and community in their work (Fry
& Matherly, 2006, 2007). Spirituality results in
connectedness among beings and has the potential to change
the workplace into something extraordinary (Krishnan,
2008, p. 12).
Configuring workplace spirituality as a measurable aspect of
an organization’s culture, working in unison to provide a
sense of continuity with the world through one’s work
processes, allows for further development of the paradigm.
Organizations can then be assessed on each of these values,
culled from the theoretical work on workplace spirituality,
along a continuum (Jurkiewicz & Giacalone, 2004, p. 130).
According to Smith (2007) the crux of researchers' argument
is that promoting spirituality in the workplace actually
promotes organizational performance (p. 12). Various
researchers (Chawla & Guda, 2010; Komla & Ganesh, 2007;
Rego & Cunah, 2007 and Pawar, 2009) have done empirical
studies and found that workplace where spirituality is
respected and motivated, their employees are more
consistent, more satisfied, more committed, productivity is
high and there is also low rate of absenteeism as compared
to the workplace where spirituality is not motivated and
One has to tread carefully in this matter. Imposing
spirituality and religion on employees would be
counterproductive. Most corporations simply encourage
religious expressions at the workplace, and make some
resources available to help meet employees’ spiritual needs.
However, to be effective, spirituality needs to be integrated
into the corporate culture and reflected in organizational
policies and practices on a daily basis. This can be done only
when senior management and the governing board embrace
it as part of their vision.
There is empirical evidence to believe that spirituality at
workplace benefits both employees and organization
(Collins and Porras 1994, Heskett et al., 1997, Grant, 1998:
95, Komala and Ganesh 2007: 124-129, Pawar 2009, and
Javanmard 2012: 1961-1966). More often than not,
researchers postulate that workplace spirituality has positive
effects on workers and organizations. However, workplace
spirituality may also have negative effects especially when it
is adopted as an imposition of some religion in the
workplace (Krishnakumar and Neck 2002: 153-164). In
other words, if an organizations attempts to manipulate or
use the concept of spirituality at work as a tool to simply
increase productivity, it may be counterproductive. As such,
there is a need to have a favorable organizational culture to
effectively implement spirituality at workplace. Then only,
the benefits of workplace spirituality may grow to
employees and organization.
Following are some suggestions for successful
organizational change approaches to create a favorable
organizational culture for successful implementation of
workplace spirituality to reap its maximum benefits for both
employees and organization:
1. The organizational change approaches need to be guided
by a clear philosophy that workplace spirituality represents
the truth and is the right thing is practiced. Workplace
spirituality must also be practiced in an authentic manner
irrespective of its positive effects on employees in the short-
2. In order to ensure workplace spirituality having positive
impact on employees, employee participation in
organizational programmes aligned with spirituality at
workplace need to be encouraged and ensured. This may
generate employee feedback on workplace spirituality
experience at the organization. Training programmes on
inter-personal communication and listening skills may be of
great value to imbibe and practice workplace spirituality in
3. Workplace spirituality practices must be well aligned with
organizational goals. Whether or not the spiritual practices
have been aligned with organizational goals or mission can
be known from the regular feedback from various sources
like employees, customers, suppliers, consultants, etc.
4. Last but no means the least, where and whenever possible,
workshops or conferences should be held to decide how
organizations in future can integrate spiritual practices at
work so that it benefits both employees and organization.
The full benefits of spirituality on morale and productivity
will not be realized without a sustained, large-scale cultural
transformation at all levels of the organization. When this
happens, we will see the following changes at the
The organization will become purpose-driven and
Management with a mission will replace management
of efficiency and control.
Spirituality at Workplace
National Conference on Paradigm for Sustainable Business: People, Planet and Profit
There will be a shift from fear-based culture to love-
based culture.
Management practices and decisions will be clearly
consistent with spiritual values such as integrity,
honesty, love, hope, kindness, respect and nurturing.
Spirituality is about bringing passion - bringing our
heart, soul and spirit - to what we do, because from a
spiritual perspective, work has a deeper meaning and
serves a higher purpose.
Management learns to truly listen and builds a safe
place where employees can speak the truth without fear
of repercussions.
Management will break down the walls of hierarchy to
create a sense of community and inspire a sense of
belonging in the workers.
There is a new willingness to reflect on the meaning of
life and moral implications in making important
There is a shared attitude that products and services
need to be beneficial to community and humanity.
Management will value employees based on who they
are, what they can become, rather than what they can do
for the company.
Bosses will treat employees in a responsible, respectful
and caring way, because people are not instruments to
be used and exploited.
Management will also resort to spiritual ways of
resolving conflict. Therefore, they will be reluctant in
issuing ultimatum and slow in the "firing trigger".
There will be a move from command-and-control
leadership to horizontal servant leadership, which
emphasizes empowering, delegation and cooperation.
There will be an improvement in morale, job
satisfaction, loyalty and productivity.
Spiritual dimension will be fully integrated with every
aspect of work life, such as relationships, planning,
budgeting, negotiation, compensation, etc.
Spirituality is foremost (Braroe, 2002, P. 276), multifaceted
(Chaturvedi, 2007, p. 48) and has many definitions (Miller,
n.d. p. 1). Workplace spirituality appears to be an important
aspect of organizations and a noteworthy theme of inquiry
(Pawar, 2009, p. 375). Research indicates that one’s
spirituality does help decrease the perception of workplace
stressors and thus contributes to a sense of wellness
(Csiernik & Adams, 2005, p. 4). Many business people
consider spirituality as a means of increasing integrity,
motivation, job satisfaction and worker's performance
(Cavanagh & Bandsuch, 2002, pp. 109-110).
Spirituality acts as a regulative ideal. This ‘ideal’ generates
an embedded network of specific moral values that
represents an ‘internalized disposition’ to act and be
motivated in particular ways which address an spiritual
individual’s conception of what makes for excellence, in
terms of their roles and responsibilities. The regulative ideal
will provide a standard that informs judgment and helps to
govern moral choices made in the context of daily working
practice. It will be a reference point that will help to
regulate both motivation and conduct so that a spiritual
individual tends to conform to their internalized conception
of good or excellent spirituality. To put this differently,
motivations, decisions and actions that harmonize with a
person’s regulative ideal are appropriate and practiced, while
those that clash with it are rejected. Through repeated acts,
these values become “inculcate[d] specific habits of the
heart [i.e. Virtues]” (Spohn, 1997, p. 3) which, in turn,
contribute to the further development of one’s spiritual
character. This person, because they have developed certain
virtues, will act ethically, that is, do the right thing at work
and elsewhere.
Authentically spiritual individuals exercise certain virtues.
These virtues are the outward workings of an inward
mindset–their internalized regulative ideal. One would think
that such an individual would provide their work
organizations with significant advantages as they exercise
these virtues in their work context. Spiritual individuals have
greater organizational commitment (Milliman, Czaplewski,
& Ferguson, 2003), increased job motivation ( Jurkiewicz &
Giacalone, 2004), increased productivity (Duchon &
Plowman, 2005), and greater job satisfaction (Nur & Organ,
2006) because they see work as a calling not just a job; and
it is a job in which they want to do the best they can with
humility while respecting others. The spiritual individual’s
quest for a higher purpose, personal meaning and
transcendent values in their workplace does not equate to an
outward focus only; it also creates a desire to integrate the
self. For such individuals, spirituality is also a state of being,
a process towards wholeness. Being virtuous is about
seeking a fulfilled life, not just for others, but also for
oneself. This internal focus leads to a number of outcomes
that also indirectly benefit the organization.
Spirituality endows individuals with a general regulative
ideal that includes specific values and beliefs which give
stability to them when all else is in flux (Emmons, 1999;
Seidlitz et al., 2002). Spirituality is also efficacious. It
empowers individuals to achieve authentic spirituality,
realize their virtuous ends and cope with and solve problems
faced in life (Pargament, 1997; Silberman, 2003). Finally,
empirical evidence suggests that a spiritual life is likely to be
Spirituality at Workplace
National Conference on Paradigm for Sustainable Business: People, Planet and Profit
characterized by positive satisfaction, a greater sense of
fulfillment and a better quality of life (Dierendonck &
Mohan, 2006; Mohan, 2001; WHOQOL SRPB Group,
2006). The overall result of each of these factors is a
happier, healthier and more fulfilled employee.
There are variety of studies which demonstrates a clear
link between values and workplace behavior. People
bring to work their values that drive behavior (Roe & Ester,
1999). These values are relatively stable over time and
have an impact on attitudes and behavior. Values affect
one’s perception of a situation, how one relates to others,
and act as guides for choices and actions (Hitlin &
Piliavin, 2004). As Spohn (1997) notes, these “resources
for attentiveness may be derived from spirituality and
from morality or ethics” (p.3).
Spiritual persons have internalized a certain conception of
authentic excellence. This means that they not only
intellectually adhere to specific values but also are
committed to carrying them out.
Finally, because the virtues are predominately other-centered
(Cavanagh & Bandsuch, 2002), spiritualities that focus on
the self alone and its pursuit of personal balance and
happiness (a kind of spiritual narcissism) are not authentic
since they fail to develop the right kind of moral habits that
truly enhance the benefits of spirituality in the workplace
(Porth, Steingard, & McCall, 2003). Spiritual people are
empowered (and empower others) to look beyond self-
interest to make a difference in and a contribution to society
as a whole. Virtue is also useful in recognizing and
minimizing the potential problems of some inauthentic
spiritualities (e.g. certain types of fundamentalism) since
these are not directed at the good of others and do not
resonate with an authentically spiritual regulative ideal.
Whether applying, enabling, or incorporating spirituality
practices in organizations result in increase in productivity
or profitability is a very complex and controversial issue.
Dent, Higgins, and Wharff (2005) review the controversies
around the measurement and rigor issues of how spirituality
and performance are related. There are two opposite camps
or positions regarding the inquiries on the relationship
between spirituality and organizational performance. On the
one hand, some researchers view spirituality as anti-
materialist (Lips-Wiersma, 2003; Gibbons, 2000) and anti-
positivist (Fornaciari, Lund Dean, and McGee, 2003) by its
nature and question positivist research methods on
spirituality (see Fornaciari and Lund Dean, 2001; Mitroff
and Denton, 1999; Palmer, 1994; Fornaciari, Lund Dean,
and McGee, 2003; Gibbons, 2000, Lips-Wiersma, 2003).
These researchers argue that the antimaterialist characteristic
of spirituality may pose important challenges in the
scientific investigation of its links to financial performance
(Fornaciari and Lund Dean, 2001; Dent, 2005;
Fornaciari, Lund Dean, and McGee, 2003). Some
researchers supporting this position point out to the fact that
there may indeed be ethical pitfalls and moral concerns in
the research question of whether enabling or incorporating
spirituality at work results in better organizational
performance or profitability (Dent, Higgins and Wharff,
2005; Fernando, 2005). Other researchers also mention their
concerns about spirituality being used as an administrative
tool to anipulate employees (Brown, 2003; Fernando, 2005;
Mirvis,1997; Cavanagh and Bandsuch, 2002). These
scholars argue that spirituality should be seen as an end in
itself and should not be used as a managerial tool for
increasing financial performance in organizations (Fernando,
2005; Cavanagh and Bandsuch, 2002). Some scholars indeed
express their reservations and urge caution on the potential
abuses or misuses of spirituality at work (Brown, 2003;
Mitroff and Denton, 1999; Jackson, 2000; Cavanagh and
Bandsuch, 2002).
On the other hand, some scholars argue that spirituality can
be used to improve organizational performance (Ashmos and
Duchon, 2000; Garcia-Zamor, 2003; Giacalone and
Jurkiewicz, 2003a; Fry, 2005); and spirituality research
should demonstrate spirituality’s links with productivity and
profitability (Ashmos and Duchon, 2000; Giacalone,
Jurkiewicz and Fry, 2005; Fry, 2005; Garcia-Zamor, 2003;
Giacalone and Jurkiewicz, 2003a and 2003b). These
researchers, such as Giacalone, Jurkiewicz and Fry (2005),
make a call to spirituality at work researchers to empirically
and rigorously demonstrate the positive effects of spirituality
on performance to prevent the marginalization of spirituality
at work research. This position can be summarized as the
strategy to empirically demonstrate positive effects and
outcomes of spirituality in organizations. The basic aim is to
make the area of spirituality at work research more
legitimate and mainstream to organizational studies. Indeed,
it has been suggested that organizations that encourage
spirituality experiences improved their organizational
performance and profitability (Biberman and Whitty, 1997;
Biberman et al., 1999; Burack, 1999; Kriger and Hanson,
1999; Korac-Kakabadse, Kouzmin, and Kakabadse, 2002;
Neck and Milliman, 1994; Thompson, 2000). In the last
decade, several research projects have been conducted that
reported positive relationships between spirituality at work
and organizational productivity and performance (Bierly,
Kessler, and Christensen, 2000; Delbecq, 1999; Korac-
Kakabadse and Korac-Kakabadse, 1997; Mitroff and
Denton, 1999b). Additional research reveals that
organizations that have voluntary spirituality programs have
had higher profits and success (Dehler and Welsh, 1994;
Mitroff and Denton, 1999b; Konz and Ryan, 1999; Turner,
Spirituality at Workplace
National Conference on Paradigm for Sustainable Business: People, Planet and Profit
Spirituality at work integrates three different perspectives on
how spirituality enables or leads to organizational
a) Human resources perspective: Spirituality enhances
employee well-being andquality of life;
b) Philosophical perspective: Spirituality provides
employees a sense of purpose andmeaning at work;
c) Interpersonal perspective: Spirituality provides
employees a sense of interconnectedness and community.
This includes individual level positive effects of spirituality;
including subjective well-being, morale, and commitment.
This perspective purports that incorporating spirituality at
work a) increases employees’ well-being by increasing their
morale, commitment, and productivity; b) decreases
employees’ stress, burnout, and workaholism in the
Proposition 1: Spirituality enhances the general well-being
of employees:
a) by increasing their morale, commitment and productivity
b) by reducing stress, burnout and workaholism
This perspective is particularly salient in today’s workplaces
where employees spend most of their time in their lives.
Work sites have become the central pieces in our lives and
the source of values in society (Fairholm, 1996, p.11).
Workplaces are the places where people spend most of their
lives, develop friendships, create value, and make their most
meaningful contributions to society (Fairholm, 1996). The
organizations where people spend most of their time become
their most important community, their gemeinschaft. Thus,
work has meanings beyond the “nine-to-five” working
hours; it is even becoming the cradle of meaning in modern
knowledge society. For some people, work and colleagues at
work have even taken the place of family or social groups.
Conger (1994) observes workplace has become the
fountainhead of community for many people. However,
together with the increasing importance and centrality of
work in people’s lives, associated problems also have
increased such as stress, burnout and workaholism.
In addition to increasing workaholism, several additional
factors are reported that increase uncertainty and stress at
work. There have been many changes in work environments
over the past decades that created a climate of uncertainty,
chaos, and fear among employees (Cacioppe, 2000; Harman,
1992; Kennedy, 2001).
Research suggests that the development and expression of
the spirit at work may indeed solve these problems of stress
and burnout, as well as have beneficial consequences for the
well-being of employees. Reave (2005) mentions the review
of Emmons (1999, p. 876) that summarizes seven studies
that have reported “a significant correlation between
spirituality and mental health indices of life satisfaction,
happiness, self esteem, hope and optimism, and meaning in
life” (p. 667). There is growing evidence in spirituality
research that workplace spirituality programs result in
positive individual level outcomes for employees such as
increased joy, serenity, job satisfaction and commitment
(Paloutzian, Emmons, and Keortge, 2003; Kouzes and
Posner, 1995; Burack, 1999; Reave, 2005; Giacalone &
Jurkiewicz, 2003a, Krishnakumar and Neck, 2002; Fry,
2003, 2005). There is also evidence that these programs
improve organizational productivity and reduce absenteeism
and turnover (Fry, 2003, 2005; Giacalone and Jurkiewicz,
2003a). Milliman, Czaplewski, and Ferguson (2003) found a
positive correlation between workplace spirituality and
employee attitudes such as commitment to the organization,
intrinsic work satisfaction, and job involvement. Neck and
Milliman (1994) claim spirituality values have positive
effects on both personal well-being and job performance.
More employers today are encouraging spirituality in the
workplace as a way to enhance employee morale,
commitment and productivity. Research suggests fostering
spirituality and allowing free expression of spirituality at
work enables employees to feel complete and authentic at
work (Burack, 1999); which leads to a high degree of
personal fulfillment and morale; and this in turn results in
increased organizational performance (Turner, 1999). Bento
(1994) reviewed research proposing that spiritually
empowered employees are found to be more honest,
courageous, and compassionate individuals and they can
represent these characteristics on their job.
Krishnakumar and Neck (2002) suggested that the
encouragement of spirituality in the workplace can lead to
benefits in the areas of creativity, honesty, personal
fulfillment, and commitment, which will ultimately lead to
increased organizational performance. Some forms of
encouragement of spirituality in the workplace include
organizing optional morning prayers or yoga sessions;
designing multi-faith prayer spaces; starting corporate
chaplaincies, or introducing spiritual wellness and balance
programs for employees (Krishnakumar and Neck, 2002;
Mitroff and Denton, 1999).
This body of work provides preliminary support for the
argument that incorporating spiritual practices at work can
indeed increases employees’ morale, commitment, and
productivity; while decreasing their stress and burnout at
Spirituality at Workplace
National Conference on Paradigm for Sustainable Business: People, Planet and Profit
Philosophical and existentialist perspective; is connected to
the concepts such as the search for meaning and purpose in
what employees are doing at the workplace. Providing a
deeper sense of meaning and purpose for employees is
important; as this enables employees to perform better and to
be more productive and creative at work. This perspective
contends that incorporating spirituality at work provides
employees and managers a deeper sense of meaning and
purpose at work.
Proposition 2: Spirituality provides employees and
managers a deeper sense of meaning and purpose at work.
This perspective is based on the argument that today’s
workplaces have increasingly been emotionally and
spiritually barren, devoid of deeper meaning and spirit.
Organizations of the industrial age have been centered on
creating material wealth; putting economic goals and
profitability before the social and public ones (Walsh, Weber
and Margolis, 2003). As profit maximization has become the
main strategic objective and success is measured in financial
measures such as sales, cash flow, and market share; the
social, interpersonal, and spiritual functions and goals of
organizational life have taken a back seat in today’s
corporations (Walsh, Weber and Margolis, 2003; Hertz,
2002; Gull and Doh, 2004; Post, Preston, and Sachs, 2002).
In most of today’s corporations, the central focus persists to
be on observable, external, controllable, empirical, and
materialistic outcomes or variables (Gull and Doh, 2004);
which led to the creation of “a world without depth” (p. 129;
Gull and Doh, 2004) and the isolation of the soulful aspects
of work life (Bolman and Deal, 1995). The assumption that
material wealth and success will automatically lead to
individual and collective well being is starting to be
questioned as people desire more meaning and quality of life
at work (Cash and Gray, 2000; Gull and Doh, 2004; Laabs,
1995; Pratt and Ashforth, 2003; Wrzesniewski, 2003).
Moreover, a half century of ethical scandals and corporate
crimes coupled with environmental degradation necessitate
radical improvement in social, environmental, andethical
performance of companies (Frederick, 2006; Waddock,
2006). A large number of employees today often feel
psychological isolation and alienation at work (Cavanagh,
1999; Harman, 1992; Bolman and Deal, 1995); as well as a
vacuum and a lack of meaning in their work lives (Pratt and
Ashforth, 2003; Cavanagh, 1999, Dehler and Welsh, 1994).
Separating work, life, family, and spirit into compartments
may rip authenticity off employees; leaving them feeling
unfulfilled, stressed and alienated (Cavanagh, 1999;
Fairholm, 1996). Johnson (2004) reports 61% individuals
think their workplaces would benefit from a greater sense of
meaning and spirituality. Oldenburg and Bandsuch (1997)
interpret this trend as a longing in people's souls for deeper
meaning, deeper connection, greater simplicity, a connection
to something higher. In a time of rising emphasis on
business ethics and work life balance; corporations feel
compelled to respond to the employee need for meaning at
work (Cavanagh, 1999; Pratt and Ashforth, 2003; Gull and
Doh, 2004; Cacioppe, 2000). Indeed, many employees in
today’s workplaces are reported to question themselves and
their work, ask themselves about the essence and meaning of
their work, and search for a sense of purpose and meaning at
work (Neal, 1997; Brandt, 1996; Cacioppe, 2000; Ashmos
and Duchon, 2000; Konz and Ryan, 1999; Kouzes and
Posner, 2003; Burack, 1999; Fairholm, 1996). The following
set of existential questions employees reflect on and ask
themselves, introduced by Kouzes and Posner (2003),
exemplify this search of meaning and purpose for employees
(p. 69-70):
“What do I stand for? What do I believe in? Why?
What is the meaning of the work I am doing? Where
does this lead me to?
Is there a reason for my existence and the
What brings me suffering? What makes me weep and
wail? Why?
What am I passionate about? Why? What keeps me
awake at night? Why?
What do I want for my life? Why? What do I really care
about? Why?” (p. 69-70)
These questions can go deep in the heart of employees and
have implications for employees’ careers, lives, needs,
aspirations, passions, and spirituality. Responding to the
needs of employees for meaning at work is turning into a
critical success factor for companies as employees’ quest for
deeper meaning and fulfillment in their careers is intensified.
A number of researchers argue that workplace spirituality
has the potential to provide employees a feeling of purpose,
a sense of connection, and a sense of meaning at work
(Giacalone and Jurkiewicz, 2003a; Brandt, 1996; Bolman
and Deal, 1995). Lips-Wiersma (2002) associated
spirituality with finding meaning and purpose in life and
living in accordance with this meaning and deeply held
beliefs (p. 385). Gull and Doh (2004); who propose that
employees become more engaged and can work more
responsibly, ethically, collaboratively, and creatively when
they find meaning in their work activities. Supporting
employees to incorporate their spirituality and values into
their work is also reported to be increasing their personal
satisfaction and joy (Dehler and Welsh, 1994; Reave, 2005).
Lips- Wiersma (2002) argued that employees fully
expressing their spirituality can benefit their organizations
through “creativity and intuition”, “increased
empowerment”, “more cohesive vision and purpose”; and
“enhanced team and community building” (p. 385).
Spirituality at Workplace
National Conference on Paradigm for Sustainable Business: People, Planet and Profit
Paloutzian, Emmons, and Keortge (2003) report that work
takes on new meaning and significance when it is seen as a
calling, a sacred duty, a service opportunity or a way to
serve God, other deities, or a higher purpose. When work is
seen as a calling, it becomes more meaningful and this
increases productivity and commitment of employees
(Reave, 2005; Paloutzian et al., 2003). All this research
supports and shows how productivity and performance
increases as a result of deeper meaning at work; as well as
how spirituality at work can provide employees a sense of
meaning and purpose. The common pattern in all these work
seem to be the fact that workers want to be recognized for
who they are; as whole persons with spirit, heart, soul,
passions, hopes, talents, aspirations, families, private lives,
emotions, ups and downs, and diverse perspectives on
Interpersonal and community perspective is connected to the
concepts of belonging, community, and connectedness. This
perspective is centered on the interpersonal relationships,
collective dimensions, and social dynamics of spirituality.
This perspective contends that incorporating spirituality at
work provides organizational members a sense of
community and connectedness; thus increases their
attachment, loyalty and belonging to the organization.
Proposition 3: Spirituality provides employees a sense of
community and connectedness; increasing their attachment,
loyalty and belonging to the organization.
Providing employees a sense of community and
connectedness is critical in today’s workplaces and
corporations. Current concerns about ethical scandals and
violations, such as Enron and Arthur Andersen, have
negative effects such as the elimination of trust and sense of
community in corporations (Gull and Doh, 2004; Schroth &
Elliot, 2002; Neal, 2000). Waddock (2006) argues corporate
scandals have resulted from self-centeredness, greed,
egoism, and selfish passion instead of caring for others. As a
result of the failure of trust in institutions; employees are
searching for a sense of community, high quality
connections (Dutton and Heaphy, 2003) and compassion at
work (Frost et al., 2006). Because of the decline of local
communities and social groups that establish a sense of
connectedness Conger, 1994) and the dissolution of
traditional support systems such as the church and family
(Leigh, 1997); workplaces have replaced them as primary
sources of community for many people. It is also known that
employees are seeking ways and means to connect to each
other and to be united in a common vision that goes beyond
materialistic aims (Miller, 1998). Moreover, in times of
uncertainty; employees and managers face significant
challenges and traumatic experiences in their lives; such as
death, divorce, illnesses, and layoffs (Weiss, et al., 2001)
which force them to reach out to their communities for
support, guidance, and help. This makes the aspects of
community and connectedness in spirituality experiences
even more important in today’s organizations.
The conception of workplaces as human communities with
social functions and societal benefits is taking ground and
momentum in organizations (Walsh, Weber, and Margolis,
2003; Milliman et. al., 1999). This perspective stresses that
organizations are not just machines for producing goods but
also forms of human community that foster satisfying and
meaningful life experiences for individuals, families, and
society (Gull and Doh, 2004). This perspective has its roots
in Human Relations movement and the humanistic
discourses in organizational theory (e.g. McGregor, 1960;
Mayo, 1946). According to a study conducted by Ashar and
Lane-Maher (2004), mid- and senior level executives did not
describe success in materialistic terms (such as money or
promotion), but instead used terms such as being connected,
balance, and wholeness to define success.
Feeling part of a community and sharing a common purpose
are two dimensions that have been frequently associated
with workplace spirituality (Milliman et al., 1999; Brown,
1992, Gozdz, 1993; Ray, 1992). A sense of connection and
interconnectedness to something larger than oneself (Brown,
1992) has also been considered an important part of spirit at
work (Milliman et. al., 1999). A good sense of community
and connectedness becomes possible through high quality
connections at the workplace (Dutton and Heaphy, 2003).
Milliman et al. (1999) conducted a case study of Southwest
Airlines demonstrating how incorporation of spiritual values
at work and tapping into the deeper levels of employee
spirituality and motivation can nurture a genuine sense of
community, spirit and affection in the workplace. In
agreement with this finding, Chappell (1993) suggests
shared values and a shared sense of purpose can turn a
company into a community where daily work takes on a
deeper meaning and inner satisfaction. Spirituality at work
provides employees a sense of community and
connectedness. The consequences of spiritual experiences at
work are discussed in the literature including higher levels of
employee attachment, loyalty and belonging (Milliman et.
al., 1999; Fairholm, 1996; Duchon and Plowman, 2005).
Consequences of spiritual relationships include intimacy,
wholeness, authenticity, altruism, and integrity (Kendall,
1994; Burack, 1999; Stiles, 1994). In the spirituality
literature, spirituality is often linked to positive outcomes
and benefits associated with the “sense of community”; such
as unifying and building community (Cavanagh, Hanson,
Hanson, and Hinojoso, 2001), serving the need for
connecting to others at work (Khanna and Srinivas, 2000),
and being the source of daily expressions of compassion,
wisdom, and connectedness (Maxwell, 2003). There is also
considerable amount of research linking spirituality to
consideration towards others at work (Milliman,
Spirituality at Workplace
National Conference on Paradigm for Sustainable Business: People, Planet and Profit
Czaplewski, and Ferguson, 2003; and Milliman, Ferguson,
Trickett, and Condemi, 1999; Burack, 1999).
Examples of research presented above provide initial
empirical support for the proposition that spirituality
provides employees a sense of community and
connectedness; in turn increases employee commitment,
belonging, and effectiveness.
Spirituality is more of a process than an end. It is about how
things are performed instead of just achieving goals. The
development of an individual and building on creativity will
naturally require spiritual practices in the process of
achieving an organizational goal. The rate at which an
individual grows is mostly self-determined. For example, an
organizational goal to deliver a product on time within
budget may force or inspire an employee to learn new skills
and take on greater responsibility to achieve that goal. Here,
spiritual goals and organizational goals are not compatible as
well as mutually beneficial. The following recommendations
should help leaders and employees alike to establish
workplace spirituality and reap the benefits of increased
employee productivity leading to a flourishing
organizational culture.
1.Appointment of a committee to determine the role played
by spirituality in the organization with an appropriate
definition of "spirituality at workplace" is the first step
towards establishing workplace spirituality.
2. The strategic intent and the strategic plan need to be
defined integrating it with spirituality.
3. A Spirituality Survey of the organization would aid in
understanding the present levels of spiritual intelligence of
the workforce and the scope of further improvement in the
4. For this to become possible, it becomes necessary that the
organization has an environment of trust so that the
employees find if comfortable to question, learn, and
5. Personality development seminars and workshops that
include clarity of values and desired behavior of employees
with a humanistic tilt should be incorporated with higher
6. The organization should set up policies that facilitate and
foster diversity in culture, ideas and thoughts.
7. To adapt in a workplace scoring low in spirituality,
spiritually sourced personal values such as family, personal
time, creativity, religious practices, health, etc. need to be
defined, and compared to the personal workplace values of
money, respect, quality, empowerment etc. and then
decide to either remain non reactive to the workplace, bring
a positive change in the working atmosphere or look for a
workplace that satisfies your spiritual urge and provides you
with inner peace.
8. Leaders who need to lead a spiritually less intelligent team
should first begin with spreading and strengthening values
and morals in the name of business ethics.
9. Brainstorming sessions, discussions, and exposure to
literature on ethical practices in business or ethical business
conduct, initially and gradually on spirituality would go a
long way in raising the spiritual quotient of employees.
10. In order to practice workplace spirituality, it becomes
necessary that the employees are free to make mistakes as
far as they learn from every mistake not repeating the same
mistake. This is because; spirituality can spread its wings
only in the absence of fear. The fear of losing a job, of a pay
cut or of demotion are nothing but demotivating factors for
employees which hampers their productivity as well as
serves as a barrier to spiritual growth since it blocks their
potentials to be ready to experiment, change and innovate. It
also has negative impact on the organization culture.
11. Spirituality is not absence of competition; it is absence of
unhealthy competition. Hence, organizations should aid
healthy competition by disseminating information to all
uniformly, giving the employees an equal opportunity to
learn and grow and allows the best man to win
It turns out that business is more than just business. We need
to consider workers' need for meaning and spirituality in
order to unleash their full potential. It is refreshing that more
and more companies and corporations are embracing
spiritual values.
The present spiritual movement is probably the most
significant trend in management since the human-potential
movement in the 50s. It appears to be a grassroots
movement, as more and more people entertain the notion
that work can be meaningful and fulfilling. In the wake of
the Enron debacle, management is also more willing to take
spiritual and moral values seriously.
This trend will endure, simply because it speaks to the
deeper needs of the human heart, and provides a promising
remedy to declining job satisfaction. Even if research fails to
establish a direct link between spirituality and profitability,
an enlightened business attitude may still have the benefit of
creating a more compassionate, caring and ethical
Spirituality at Workplace
National Conference on Paradigm for Sustainable Business: People, Planet and Profit
workplace. This alone would be good news for people, who
spend most of their adult lives at work
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In summer 2020, this original article will be updated in a new book titled: Purpose, Mindfulness, Capitalism. The text below is from that book. The original of this book was written in 2000 and titled Spirituality at Work: Definitions, measures, assumptions, and validity claims. (Still awake?) It was published in academic “readers” (collections of articles) and as conference papers at the US Academy of Management. As one of the first systematic treatments of the subject, it was downloaded over 10,000 times. The 2000 edition proposed that many of the ideas about humankind’s relationship to work, to purpose, and to ethics have roots in spiritual writings, and that there are insights from scholars outside management circles (theologians, psychologists of religions, sociologists of religion) who offer great insight on topics we care about as business leaders and as business scholars. The original manuscript remains a “must-read” for those interested in spirituality and religion at work and is listed as “seminal work” on the subject in comprehensive, excellent bibliographies from one of the field’s founders, Professor Judi Neal—Workplace Spirituality Annotated Bibliography. What was unique about this book, that remains so, is that I culled research from the psychology of religion, the sociology of religion, economics, post-modern philosophy, theology, political philosophy, ethics, and numerous ancient and contemporary spiritual traditions. My eclecticism, as you will know if you’ve read my other work, is at the center of my brand. Although I write about business, I’m interested in how business intersects with the history of ideas such as democracy, capitalism, freedom, equality, reason, rationality, and science. This fascination finds its way into this book as we consider where our ideas about work and about human meaning come from.
A review of the broad and varying conceptualizations of spirituality inform the critical need to categorize such conceptualizations. One such categorization, suggested by this paper, is a simple division between those conceptualizations which are more closely tied to religion and those which are not. This stance leads to the proposition that nonideological conceptualizations are more suited for the workplace. This paper highlights limitations of more ideological conceptualizations, presents the development of nonideological conceptualizations derived from nearly universal values, and expands upon a non-ideological workplace model.
While spirituality and religion in work (SRW) as an inquiry field has been gaining interest in both the business world as well as in the popular press, it has only recently been recognized by the academic community as a viable research arena. Beyond the establishment of the Academy of Management's Management, Spirituality, and Religion interest group and several academic journals' special issue focus, SRW's relevance to important research questions and legitimacy within the larger academic community as contributing scholarly work may not necessarily follow. Part of the problem is that SRW concepts and variables of interest-such as faith, spirit, soul, cosmos, religiosity, and love-resist being measured and analyzed with "approved" positivist research models. This paper explores the tension between relevance and legitimacy, focusing on research methods, models and traditions that may serve both well. This paper suggests that SRW work is experiencing an interim time period when new research models appropriate to SRW subject matter are being developed. It also asserts that, while such models are being developed and subjected to review, there already exist research methodologies and traditions that could and should support such work. The paper discusses some of these in detail, and offers SRW researchers operational blueprints for alternative forms of excellent research. It argues that combining such methodological underpinnings with experimental models and new forms of data representation allows for truly scholarly work to emerge, and will facilitate SRW's desire to stay true to important and exciting research questions while respecting sound research traditions.
After more than 35 years of exposure to Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws, employers in the United States are struggling to understand and effectively deal with the challenges of employee rights and needs in the workplace. The workplace of the early 21(st) century is a much more diverse and dynamic environment than that visualized by legislative crafters of EEO laws. Though religion was addressed in the original laws, the primary focus was accommodation for religious observances outside the workplace. However, technology, global competition, downsizing, and reengineering have created a workforce of employees seeking value, support, and meaning in their lives that finds expression not only at home but also on the job. This search for religious and spiritual meaning in the workplace is a departure from the more traditional business mentality of "power, profit, and takeovers, where religion was something saved for the Sabbath day."(1) Greater spiritual and religious accommodation has become a source for achieving that meaning and support. Legal interpretations have historically required that employees requesting religious accommodation meet certain tests relative to the sincerity and meaningfulness of their belief. The practice of spirituality through meditation, visioning, or spiritual contemplation has become increasingly prevalent in the United States work environment and has remained less controversial and less subject to regulation as an employee rights issue than formal religion. Those practicing formal religion want the same opportunities and rights provided to employees who practice spirituality. This article investigates the current state of religious and spiritual practice in business organizations and discusses the impact of employment law on such activity. We offer a broad and inclusive interpretation of religious and spiritual belief relevant to the workplace and provide a framework of analysis in addressing accommodation concerns.
Is it appropriate to integrate spirituality info the management of an organization? Does spirituality make a company more profitable?.
There's a new connection happening in many organizations between employees and management that is resulting in a happier workforce and real bottomline improvements. Here's a look at who's doing it, why, and to what benefits.