Evolution of Workplace Spirituality Concept

Spirituality at work is the recognition that employees have an inner life that nourishes and is nourished by meaningful work that takes place in the context of community. Thus spirituality at work has three components: the inner life, meaningful work, and community.

  • Conditions for community include items that assess the extent to which necessary elements or enabling conditions for community are present. Thus, a community is a place in which people can experience personal growth, be valued for themselves as individuals, and have a sense of working together.
  • Meaning at work includes items that capture a sense of what is important, energizing, and joyful about work. That is, it taps into work-related dimensions of human experience that are neither physical nor intellectual, but spiritual.
  • Inner life is composed of items that capture an individual’s hopefulness, awareness of personal values, and concern for spirituality.

Five societal trends have formed the basis for arise of the recent concern for increasing spirituality in the workplace. The first trend was workers who are demoralized due to downsizing, re-engineering, or layoffs. The second trend was “the decline of neighborhoods, churches, civic groups, and extended families as principal places for feeling connected and the substitution of the workplace “as a primary source of community.” A third impetus for interest in spirituality in the workplace was curiosity about Asian cultures and philosophies which emphasized meditation, loyalty, and “finding one’s spiritual center in any activity.” A fourth trend was aging and concern with the meaning of life, particularly by the baby boomers. Finally, and fifth, global competition leading to the need to gain competitive advantage from full utilization of the individual, including the heart, fostered spirituality. The emergence of people-centered management is yet another factor.

Traditional support systems like places of worship, neighborhoods, and extended families are declining in importance to the individual, and time previously spent there is being substituted by time spent at work; work is thus becoming increasingly central to employees’ personal growth. Consequently, individuals are seeking to merge their personal and professional values, desiring to achieve personal fulfillment through their labour.

The spirituality in the workplace movement had its genesis in America in the early 1990s. Elementary attempts at an understanding of workplace spirituality was born of organizational and social psychology, ethics, and management as evidenced in books, articles, and special journal issues or section (e.g., Journal of Managerial Psychology, Journal of Management Inquiry, Journal of Management Education, Organization, MSR version of Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Organization Change Management). The theory of workplace spirituality emerged through theoretical advocacy and organizational case study.

People were getting burned out and de-motivated by the ego dominated world of business and knowledge workers started to get a feeling of instability. In a way, spirituality in the workplace was born out of the collision of the new age movement with soulless culture of corporate world. Gradually, as we entered the 21st century, the image of spirituality shifted.

Workplace spirituality has been suggested to be an important aspect of future organizations and of organizational science as a field. The community aspect is likely to be increasingly significant in future organizational development efforts. A particular form of relational sensitivity is required to enable creative and innovative strategic problem solving. Investigations are going on how spiritual maturity leads to the capacity to preserve in time of great trial.

The current concept of workplace spirituality can be seen as a part of the stages in the evolution of a distinct orientation in OB characterized by broader recognition of an employee as a human being and by greater attention to providing more complete engagement and fulfillment to an employee at workplace.

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