Spirituality – a new found emphasis!

Spirituality – a new found emphasis!


Spirituality is finding renewed appeal, in recent times, among individuals and organizations and among people in academia and management alike. Its growing importance in management discourses is readily acknowledged today, so much so that some believe that a paradigm shift is taking place.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, spirit, spirituality, and spiritual phenomenon in Western society has been coming into sharp focus (McGhee & Grant, 2008). Lately this focus has shifted to the modern workplace, with numerous articles and books, both popular and academic, championing the role of spirituality in improving organizations, markets and economies and, subsequently, of society, state the authors. A 1999 issue of U.S. News & World Report revealed that in the preceding decade more than 300 titles on workplace spirituality – from Jesus CEO to the Tao of Leadership, had flooded the bookstores.

The emerging paradigm, being termed as “spirituality at workplace”, is interpreted in many ways by scholars. Schrage (2000) points out that a fundamental tension between rational goals and spiritual fulfilment now haunts workplaces around the world. Management surveys affirm that a majority of people are keen on finding a meaning of their work. Something has been stirring in workers souls for quite some time now – a longing for deeper meaning, deeper connection, greater simplicity, a connection to something higher (Oldenburg & Bandsuch, 1997).

From organizational perspective, gaining strength is the notion that spiritual individuals are ethical in business, and consequently, are a significant asset to an organization (McGhee & Grant, 2008). This line of thinking is supported by other writers too. Individuals are more likely to demonstrate enhanced teamwork (Mitroff & Denton, 1999; Neck & Milliman, 1994), greater kindness and fairness (Biberman & Whitty, 1997), increased awareness of other employee needs (Cash & Gray, 2000), increased honesty and trust within their organizations (Brown 2003; Krishnakumar & Neck, 2002), higher evidence of organizational citizenship behaviour (Nur & Organ, 2006), and express more servant leader behaviour (Beazley & Gemmill, 2006). They tend to believe in the ethical nature of business (Giacalone & Jurkiewicz, 2003b) and corporate social performance (Giacalone, Paul & Jurkiewicz, 2005).

In 1994, a large international study was conducted to assess workplace values and role of spirituality in the workplace (White & Renesch, 1994). Fifty five percent of the international respondents, admitted to a “personal transformation” in recent years. Over two thirds of the respondents expressed a desire to become part of a “formal organization to further ‘new thinking’ and humanistic values in the workplace.’ In a Newsweek poll, 58% of American respondents said that, they felt the need to experience spiritual growth (Kantrowitz et al., 1994).

Another survey conducted a few years ago by human resource strategists Act -1 found that 55% of the 1,000 workers polled believed that spirituality played a significant role in the workplace. In addition, 34% of them said that its role had increased since 9/11 terrorist acts (Stewart, 2002).

At a deeper and more personal level, there appears to be a growing interest in spirituality among individuals (Kantrowitz et al., 1994), as also at the workplace (Conger et al., 1994; Nicholas, 1994). The individual hunger for jobs that nourish the soul and make life meaningful at the chaotic and unpredictable workplace is in evidence more and more (Neal, 1995).

Most researchers agree that a transformation is occurring in today’s organizations (Ashmos & Duchon (2000). Many individuals, including business executives, management theorists, researchers, and employees in general acknowledge this organizational transformation (Cash, Gray & Rood, 2000), which according to them, is driven by the urge to pursue a spiritual approach.

It is not rare in modern organizations to find individuals asking questions that are essentially spiritual in nature: “What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What is my purpose? What is my true work? Have I accomplished what I set out to do? (Neal, 1997). Finding answers to these is indeed critical to striking a balance between work, community and spiritual needs because it does have a bearing on an individual’s commitment and performance at work. “I have a deep conviction that everybody has a need for something bigger in life than just making money and going to work”, remarks one CEO.

(The above short article is an extract from a paper titled – ‘Reawakening of Spirit - seeking answers from ancient Indian scriptures’ by Chandrashekhar Pandey. This formed a part of the seminar given at the University of Paderborn in the summer of 2009)

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