Workplace spirituality is not about organized religious practices. It’s not about God or theology. Workplace spirituality recognizes that people have an inner life that nourishes and is nourished by meaningful work that takes place in the context of community. Organizations that promote a spiritual cultural recognize that people have both a mind and a spirit, seek to find meaning and purpose in their work, and desire to connect with other human beings and be part of a community.
Historical models of management and organizational behavior had no room for spirituality. The myth of rationality assumed that the well-run organization eliminated feelings. Similarly, concern about an employee’s inner life had no role in the perfectly rational model. But just as we’ve now come to realize that the study of emotions improve our understanding of organizational behavior, an awareness of spirituality can help you to better understand employee behavior in the twenty first century.
What do Southwest Airlines, Hewlett-Packard, The Men’s Wearhouse, AES, Wetherrill Associates and Tom’s of Maine have in common? They’re among a growing number of organizations that have embraced workplace spirituality.
Of course, employees have always had an inner life. So why has the search for meaning and purposefulness in work surfaced now? There are a number of reasons.
The concept of workplace spirituality draws on our previous discussions of topics such as values, ethics, motivation, leadership, and work/life balance. As you’ll see, for instance, spiritual organizations are concerned with helping people develop and reach their full potential. Similarly organizations that are concerned with spirituality are more likely to directly address problems created by work/life conflicts.
What differentiates spiritual organizations from their non-spiritual counterparts? Although research on this question is only preliminary, our review identified five cultural characteristics that tend to be evident is spiritual organizations.
Strong Sense of Purpose:
Spiritual organizations build their cultures around a meaningful purpose. While profits may be important, they’re not the primary values of the organization. Maximizing profits may excite investors but it rarely stirs employees’ emotions or imaginations. People want to be inspired by a purpose that they believe is important and worthwhile. Southwest Airlines, for instance, is strongly committed to providing the lowest airfares, on-time services, and a pleasant experience for customer. Tom’s of Maine strives to sell personal care household products that are made from natural ingredients and are environmentally friendly. AES, the world’s largest independent power producer, seeks to provide electricity around the globe and to fundamentally change people’s lives and their economic well-being.