Workplace spirituality

Workplace spirituality or spirituality in the workplace is a movement that began in the early 1920s. It emerged as a grassroots movement with individuals seeking to live their faith and/or spiritual values in the workplace. Spiritual or spirit-centered leadership is a topic of inquiry frequently associated with the workplace spirituality movement (Benefiel, 2005; Biberman, 2000; Fry, 2005; Giacalone & Jurkiewicz, 2003; Jue, 2006).


The movement began primarily as U.S. centric but has become much more international in recent years. Key organizations include:

  • International Center for Spirit at Work (ICSW)
  • European Baha'i Business Forum (EBBF)
  • World Business Academy (WBA)
  • Spiritual Business Network (SBN)
  • Foundation for Workplace Spirituality

Key factors that have led to this trend include:

  1. Mergers and acquisitions destroyed the psychological contract that workers had a job for life. This led some people to search for more of a sense of inner security rather than looking for external security from a corporation.
  2. Baby Boomers hitting middle age resulting in a large demographic part of the population asking meaningful questions about life and purpose.
  3. The millennium created an opportunity for people all over the world to reflect on where the human race has come from, where it is headed in the future, and what role business plays in the future of the human race.

In the late 1990s, the Academy of Management formed a special interest group called the Management, Spirituality and Religion Interest Group. This is a professional association of management professors from all over the world who are teaching and doing research on spirituality and religion in the workplace.


The International Center for Spirit at Work offers examples of workplace spirituality including:[1]

  • "Vertical" spirituality, transcending the day-to-day and developing connectedness to a god or spirit or the wider universe. This might include meditation rooms, accommodation of personal prayer schedules, moments of silence before meetings, retreats or time off for spiritual development, and group prayer or reflection.
  • "Horizontal" spirituality, which involves community service, customer service, environmentalism, compassion, and a strong sense of ethics or values that are reflected in products and services.


Spirituality is shown in a workplace when the following activities are included:

  • Bereavement programs.
  • Wellness information displayed and distributed.
  • Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Programs that integrate work/family.
  • Management systems that encourage personal and spiritual transformation.
  • Servant leadership – the desire to serve others first in preference to self.
  • Stewardship – leadership practices that support growth and well-being of others.
  • Diversity programs that create inclusive cultures.
  • Integration of core values and core business decisions and practices.
  • Leadership practices that support the growth and development of all employees.

Leading from within

Our complicity in world making is a source of awesome and sometimes painful responsibility—and a source of profound hope for change. It is the ground of our common call to leadership, the truth that makes leaders of us all.

A leader is someone with the power to project either shadow or light onto some part of the world and onto the lives of the people who dwell there. A leader shapes the ethos in which others must live, an ethos as light-filled as heaven or as shadowy as hell. A good leader is intensely aware of the interplay of inner shadow and light, lest the act of leadership do more harm than good. (Palmer, p 78)

See also


  1. From the 2008 International Spirit at Work Award Application, p. 2).


  • Benefiel, M. (2005). Soul at work: Spiritual leadership in organizations. New York: Seabury Books. ISBN 1596270136
  • Biberman, J. (Ed.).(2000). Work and spirit: A reader of new spiritual paradigms for organizations. Scranton, PA: University of Scranton Press. ISBN 0940866897
  • Bowman, T.J. (2004). Spirituality at Work: An Exploratory Sociological Investigation of the Ford Motor Company. London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Fairholm, G.W. (1997). Capturing the heart of leadership: Spirituality and community in the new American workplace. Westport, CT: Praeger. ISBN 0275957438
  • Fry, L.W. (2005). Toward a paradigm of spiritual leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 16(5), 619-722.
  • Giacalone, R.A., & Jurkiewicz, C.L. (2003). Handbook of workplace spirituality and organizational performance. New York: M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 0765608448
  • Jue, A.L. (2006). Practicing spirit-centered leadership: Lessons from a corporate layoff. In Gerus, C. (Ed.). Leadership Moments: Turning points that changed lives and organizations. Victoria, BC: Trafford. ISBN 1412099641
  • Miller, D.W. (2006). God at work: The history and promise of the faith at work movement. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195314808
  • Palmer, Parker J. (2000) Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Ch 5 "Leading from Within." ISBN 978-0-7879-4735-4.
  • Russell, Mark L., ed. (2010). Our Souls at Work: How Great Leaders Live Their Faith in the Global Marketplace. Boise: Russell Media. ISBN 9780578039893
  • Marques, Joan, Dhiman, Satinder, and King, Richard, ed. (2009) The Workplace and Spirituality: New Perspectives on Research and Practice SkyLight Paths, Woodstock, VT.
  • N.T., Sree Raj. (2011). Spirituality in Business and Other Synonyms: A Fresh Look at Different Perspectives for its Application, 'Purushartha' A Journal of Management Ethics and Spirituality Vol.IV, No.II, pp 71–85
  • Mitroff, I.I, and Denton, E.A. (1999) A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America, A Hard Look at Spirituality, Religion, and Values. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Further reading

  • Business Week, June 5, 2005. "Companies hit the road less traveled: Can spirituality enlighten the bottom line?"
  • William Miller (1992). "How Do We Put Our Spiritual Values to Work". New Traditions in Business: Spirit and Leadership in the 21st Century. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
  • Gilbert Fairholm (1997). Capturing the Heart of Leadership: Spiritual Community in the New American Workplace.
  • Jay Conger (1994). Spirit at Work: Discovering the Spirituality in Leadership.
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