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Spirituality at work: The development of a theoretical model

Palframan, J T (2014) Spirituality at work: The development of a theoretical model. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Spirituality at work has received much interest in recent years, and a stream of research notes its benefits beyond a trend. Despite the topic’s growing recognition, the research community raised the need for the integration of spirituality at work with traditional areas of investigation (Giacalone & Jurkiewicz, 2003). A potentially fruitful first step towards this involves use of person-organisation (PO) fit theory (Ashforth & Pratt, 2003; Sheep, 2004, 2006; Singhal & Chatterjee, 2006; Singhal, 2007). The purpose of this study is to build upon initial attempts towards this integration and to promote further acknowledgement of the potential benefits of incorporating spirituality at work into wider organisational psychology frameworks. This was achieved by integrating both PO fit and transpersonal psychology, and subsequently developing a theoretical model that investigates three questions: a) what antecedents lead individuals and organisations to seek spirituality at work?, b) what are the perceived spiritual preferences (needs) of individuals and how are those preferences fulfilled through the context of the workplace (supplies)?, and c) what are the consequences of meeting spiritual preferences (needs), as perceived by individuals?

Using constructivist grounded theory, analysis of interview data from thirty-four participants located in organisations (one spiritual and three non-spiritual) across The Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Portugal led to a theory in which I propose a core category of reconciling self as a critical factor of spirituality at work. Reconciling self captures the process whereby the self consistently attempts to maintain a congruent relationship with the ego and the environment, and this construct emerged as the primary concern for participants. Reconciling self was influenced largely by meaning and purpose and the need to connect to something larger than oneself, and through the organisation making a difference. The congruence or perceived fit within the workplace was captured through the action strategy conscious reconciling experiences; in the case where the immediacy of such expression was compromised, reconciling self was noted through the action strategy active adjustment. The action strategies were influenced through a set of intervening conditions that included a set of spirituality at work needs and supplies, through a context that emphasised attributes such as spiritual values, a culture that focused on openness and support, and relational leadership. The consequences of spirituality at work included benefits such as individual job satisfaction, positivity and self-realisation, and organisational outcomes as being a force for good and fostering employee commitment.

The contribution of this study includes a new theoretical model concerning why, when, and how spirituality at work influences individual and organisational processes and outcomes. Such understanding contributes to better understanding of spirituality at work, and identifies ways in which PO fit occurs within a broader psychological context than that proposed in mainstream organisational psychology (i.e. through reconciling self influenced by meaning and purpose, the need to connect to something larger than oneself, and a set of spirituality at work needs). These findings reduce the PO fit gap. Implications of the study include the findings that spirituality at work creates positive outcomes, and insistence on the role of connecting to something larger than oneself implies individuals are always in the process of moving toward reconciling self. Organisations should consider their ability to harness latent human potential and transcendence by extending self-boundaries and developing the self. Limitations and future research directions are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Spirituality in the workplace; person-organisation fit, transpersonal psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Divisions: Natural Sciences & Psychology (closed 31 Aug 19)
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2016 12:27
Last Modified: 30 Aug 2022 14:40
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00004325
Supervisors: Lancaster, L and Tattersall, A
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/4325
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