Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Spirit at Work: Spiritual Typologies as Theory Builders

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

Spirit at Work: Spiritual Typologies as Theory Builders

Article excerpt


This article is an examination of the concept of spirituality with a focus on the workplace. It examines how the concept has been often confused and intertwined with specific religious ideas over the years. It also looks at the current, newfound emphasis on spirit in the work setting. This article offers a framework for spiritual typologies. Finally, the paper provides a two-fold definition of spirituality, which will assist researchers in a variety of disciplines to further the inquiry into the spiritual dimension of work.


The objectives of this paper are to define types of spirituality, describe the dimensions of each type, and to suggest which types of spirituality are acceptable regarding the workplace. Doty and Glick (1994) cautioned against using typologies as merely classification systems. Therefore, we attempt to firmly ground spiritual typologies in theory. Having theory based typologies will enable researchers to develop research designs that will measure distinct constructs. This paper begins with a literature review on spirituality, in its relationship with religion, and then presents three schools of thought about the construct, Religious, New Age, and Humanistic. The paper further examines a secular humanistic approach to spirituality and how such a relationship would be acceptable in advancing the body of knowledge about spirit in the workplace. Finally, a definition of spirituality that can be used in scholarly research is proposed and a typology is offered.


One often hears people assert, "I'm not a religious person, but I am very spiritual." This may mean a greater awareness that there are forces at work that are beyond a person's experience or that there is a need to find a personal connection outside of organized religion ENRfu(Spohn, 1997). In general, people see spirituality as either a personal affirmation of the divine with a connectedness to spiritual/humanistic values or an affiliation with and allegiance to an organized religion ENRfu(Kelly, 1995). In many cultures, spirituality and religion are considered one and the same. Traditionally, a spiritual person is a religious person, but this view disregards the basic humanness of spirituality ENRfu(Elkins, Hedstrom, Hughes, Leaf, & Saunders, 1988).

Spirituality lives outside of any exclusive domain of any specific religious orientation ENRfu(Elkins, 1998; ENRfuJung, 1932; Maslow, 1998; ENRfuPaloutzian, 1997). Literature makes a distinction between spirituality and religion ENRfu(Bhindi & Duignan, 1997; ENRfuConger, 1994; ENRfuJagers & Smith, 1996; ENRfuKing & Nicol, 1999; ENRfuLee & Zemke, 1993; ENRfu Frankl, 1975). Even some writers and thinkers that do not separate religion and spirituality define religion in two states--the personal and the public. Some examples are:

   Fromm's (1967) humanistic and authoritative religions;
   ENRfuAllport & Ross' (1967) intrinsic and extrinsic religions,
   Maslow's (1970) "big R" and "little r" religions,
   Roof 's ENRfu(1979) meaning and belonging dimensions of religion.

Pargament (1997) defines religion as a "... process, a search for significance in ways related to the sacred." (:32). It is interesting to note that Pargament (1997) makes no mention of doctrines, rituals, beliefs that are associated with organized religion. The internalization of religion concerns itself with beliefs, feelings, and experiences, while the external dimensions concern themselves with ritual participation, communalism, and social involvement (Roof, 1979).

Spirituality is not religion. Rather, it is a part of being human. Religions are man-made and are very important to a person feeling comfortable in becoming more spiritual, but they are not a prerequisite for spirituality. Religion is a man-made concept with all the idiosyncrasies, fallacies, and ego's that goes with things man-made. …

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