The topic of spirituality has been widely explored by scholars, researchers, and organizations in an effort to understand human responses to life endeavors and to individuals’ relationships to society at large and to work environments more specifically (Giacalone & Jurkiewicz, 2010a, 2010b). Spirituality has been associated with a person’s desire to perform meaningful work and to feel connected with the community that is being served through this work (Chalofsky, 2003; Fagley & Adler, 2012). Since most adults spend a large amount of their productive hours at work pursuing meaning and purpose in their jobs (Madden, 2015), the concept of workplace spirituality (WS) has gained considerable attention.
In recent years, there has been a steady increase in research publications on WS and its relevance for organizations (Suárez, 2015), for leadership development (Nicolae, Ion, & Nicolae, 2013), for professionals seeking foreign employment (Kumar, 2015), and for the development of the emotion, intelligence, and ethics of the whole person (Lowery, Duesing, & Beadles, 2014). Interest in WS has grown from studying its impact on individuals (Marques, Dhiman, & Biberman, 2014) to its benefits within an organization (Giacalone & Jurkiewicz, 2010b). There has been growing evidence of a link between WS and employee performance and job satisfaction (Osman-Gani, Hashim, & Ismail, 2013), especially under adverse work conditions (Tejeda, 2015).
With regard to the nature of work, work has increasingly shifted to the use of teams of expert talent (Lacerenza, Marlow, Tannenbaum, & Salas, 2018), often in insecure environments, which must rapidly and effectively respond to critical organizational needs in an adaptable and powerful way to solve complex problems (West, 2012). Li, Kirkman and Porter (2014) observed that this change in the workforce structure calls for further research on team member behaviors that effect team productivity and member motivation. Thus, given the prevalence and increasing use of work teams (Sense & Fernando, 2011), a better understanding of WS in work teams is needed. However, limited empirical research is available on the topic (Lowery et al., 2014), and even less research has examined WS within the context of work teams (Daniel, 2010; Sense & Fernando, 2011). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore workplace spirituality (WS) in the context of work teams and was guided by the following research questions:
1. How do individuals express and experience workplace spirituality (WS) within their work teams?
2. How does WS influence the work team?
The design of this study was a qualitative phenomenological multi-case study approach using an embedded design unit of analysis (Yin, 2018), which allowed multiple units of analysis to be included such as experiences of individuals within teams and that of teams within organizations. A two-tiered intensity purposeful sampling was employed (Patton, 2015). Data was collected through face-to-face, semi-structured interviews collective work team interviews, observations, and field notes (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). A pilot study consisting of six participants within two teams in one organization was conducted to examine the feasibility of the study design and to strengthen the interview protocol. The main study was comprised of 19 total participants, 10 participants within three teams in Organization 1 and nine participants within three teams in Organization 2. This study has found that employees experience WS when they express and receive behaviors of respect, honesty, humbleness, cooperation, inclusivity, peacefulness, and diplomatic communications. It has also found that in a work environment where WS is present, there is a sense of synergy and harmony within work teams, a sense of connectedness and family with their teammates, and a sense of well-being.
This research study also offers support for some existing research on WS that suggests that when spiritual behavior is expressed, demonstrated, and nurtured, employees find satisfaction within these work environments which offers purpose and meaning in what they do. As a result, employees create synergistic work environments, practice organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB), form relationships at work that are respectful and professionally rewarding, and bring benefits to their work teams, their organizations, and the society which they serve. New contributions of this study include distinguishing between religion/religiosity and spirituality, identifying specific roles that team members embrace on their teams, an articulation of the creation of synergistic work team environments, work team, organization, and societal outcomes, potential drawbacks of WS and amendments to existing classification of faith orientations for organizations that may wish to promote WS.
The significance of this research is that it specifically addresses the lack of empirical research on WS in the context of teams. This study further contributes to the ongoing research on WS and its effects on employee performance as well as organizational performance and change (Osman-Gani & Anwar, 2014; Suárez, 2015). It also offers support for existing motivation theories in the workplace in the context of teams and workplace spirituality (WS). This research has implications for a variety of stakeholders that may wish to consider how WS can contribute to global workplace environments where the virtues and ethical principles of meaningful work, motivation in the workplace and employee well-being have been neglected (Guillén et al., 2015).
Date of publication
Andrea D. Ellinger, Ph.D., Rochell R. McWhorter, Ph.D., AAhad Osman-Gani, Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Development
McClurg, Nandini O., "EXPLORING WORKPLACE SPIRITUALITY IN THE CONTEXT OF WORK TEAMS" (2019). Human Resource Development Theses and Dissertations. Paper 44.