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Spirituality and Work
Module 7: The Quest for
Authenticity in the Work Place
RELS 2330.1WW
Instructor: David Sable
davidsable@eastlink.ca
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
1
Class 7 Objectives
➢ Introduce
the concept of authenticity
➢ Introduce a framework for considering
authenticity in the workplace
➢ Contemplate questions of our authenticity
at work
Note: This module is based on the work of Scott MacMillan, PhD, who now
teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. The reading for this module
Is Scott MacMillan’s article “Existentialism, Spirituality and Work.”
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
2
The Progress Paradox
Disengagement
Progress






Technology
Medical care
Longevity
Wealth
Comfort
Choices




Stress/Anxiety
Depression
Drug dependency
Alienation from coworkers
• No control
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
3
Consider
“Man does not simply exist, but
always decides what his existence
will be, what he will become in the
next moment.”
– Man’s Search For Meaning, Victor Frankl
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
4
Authenticity
➢ Spirituality
in the workplace intersects with
the concern for authenticity: discovering
meaning for ourselves.
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
5
The Authentic Self
Situated in a Context
Self
• Self is created
each day, we
are always
changing,
making choices
unconsciously or
consciously.
Choice:
Possibilities for Change
Bad Faith
Authenticity
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
6
Consider

“Meaningful work isn’t just
about the meaning of the
paid work we perform; it’s
about the way we live our
lives… it’s the alignment
of purpose, values,
relationships, and
activities that we pursue
in life.”
– Chalofsky (2003: 58)
Sisyphus is a figure from Greek
mythology who was condemned
to repeat forever the same
meaningless task of pushing a
boulder up a mountain,
only to see it roll down again.
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
7
A Framework for Authenticity at Work
1)
2)
3)
1)
2)
3)
Do I want to be at this
place where I work?
Do I enjoy the work
environment and the
work activities?
Does my work fit with
my non-work life?
Being-with-Others
How much do I enjoy being
around other people?
Do I prefer to work with
other people or alone?
Do the people I work with
affect me positively?
1)
Self
2)
Being at Work
Every Day
Acting on
Beliefs and
Values
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
3)
Does my work make me
feel worthwhile?
Is my work the main
place where I actualize
my beliefs and values?
Do I have other avenues
to actualize my beliefs
and values?
8
Defining our Work as…



Jobs – work to get paid
Careers – life-long professions that we think
contribute to society; work that has prestige
Your “Calling” – work that has personal
meaning; work that feels naturally fulfilling
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
9
Recommended Reading

Baumeister, R. (1991). Meanings of life.
➢ Easterbrook, G. (2003). The progress paradox.
➢ Frankl, V. (1985). Man’s search for meaning.
➢ Fromm, E. (1976) To have or to be?
➢ Gini, A. (2000). My job, my self: Work and the
creation of the modern individual.
➢ May, R. (1953) Man’s search for himself.
➢ Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: Why
more is less.
copyright © 2019 by David Sable
10
Spirituality and Work
Module 8: Promises, Problems And
Dangers of Spirituality in the Workplace
RELS 2330
Instructor: David Sable
david.sable@smu.ca
copyright © 2019 David Sable
1
Objectives
➢ Introduce
key theories of organizational
development
➢ Explore the concepts of Authentic
Leadership
➢ Contemplate conventional values and
spiritual values
copyright © 2019 David Sable
2
Organizational Development

Human resource development in the workplace
led to research on how organizations develop.
➢ Theories of organizational development
describe the behavior of people in work places.
copyright © 2019 David Sable
3
Theory X
copyright © 2019 David Sable
4
Theory Y
copyright © 2019 David Sable
5
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Spirituality in the workplace
https://web.archive.org/web/20100211014419/http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/
FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/maslow.htm
copyright © 2019 David Sable
6
Review: Spirituality in the Workplace

“Spirituality in the Workplace is about individuals
and organizations seeing work as a spiritual
path, as an opportunity to grow and to contribute
to society in a meaningful way. It is about care,
compassion and support of others; about
integrity and people being true to themselves
and others. It means individuals and
organizations attempting to live their values
more fully in the work they do.”
— Smith and Rayment
copyright © 2019 David Sable
7
Leaders Have a Shadow Side
copyright © 2019 David Sable
8
The Dilemmas of Authentic
Leadership
copyright © 2019 David Sable
9
The Promise of Authentic Leadership
www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/05/12/what-is-authentic-leadership/
www.mindfulleader.org/#home
copyright © 2019 David Sable
10
Remember the Core Messages
of the Antigonish Movement?
copyright © 2019 David Sable
11
Approaches to Spirituality and
Authentic Leadership

identifying with something greater than our
ordinary self-interest;
➢ reflective practices that engage an inner journey:
e.g., meditation, prayer, contemplation, yoga, tai
chi, etc.
➢ Genuineness and trustworthiness; “walking the
talk;”
➢ the “promise” of the future: cultivating Theory Y
copyright © 2019 David Sable
12
Weekly Assignment: Do you think you could help others to appreciate
spiritual values in the workplace in addition to conventional values?
What would be the challenges?
Purpose of
Work
Needs
addressed
Conventional
Values
Achievement
Materialism
Comfort
Conformity
Winning
Survival, identity
Organization Maximize profit
Goal
World view
Winners & Losers
Survival of fittest
Spiritual Values
Authentic life –
meaningful work,
meaningful
existence
Respect, selfconfidence,
creativity and
cooperation
Benefits for society,
serve society; solve
big problems
Recognizing
Interdependence
copyright © 2019 David Sable
13
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EXISTENTIALISM, SPIRITUALITY, AND WORK: TOWARD A PARADIGM OF
AUTHENTICITY
Scott McMillan
Saint Mary’s University
August, 2006
ABSTRACT
This paper argues that existential philosophy offers particular insights into the individual
and organizations that should be incorporated into the management, spirituality and
religion discussion. The interest in spirituality and work is focusing attention on a major
problem in the workplace – work which lacks meaning for many people. However, the
relationship between meaning, work, and organizations is viewed from a number of
varying perspectives. Existential philosophy offers a new paradigm, one that focuses the
discussion on the creation of individual authenticity. This new paradigm has major
implications for how we view work, organizations, and the development of society.
Keywords:
Spirituality, Management, Transformation
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INTRODUCTION
The growing interest in management, spirituality and religion is focusing attention on the
relationship between work, spirituality, and individual meaning, and stimulating debate on a
major problem in the workplace, that is, a lack of meaning for the individual. Since work is for
most people a significant component of life it has a major effect on the challenge of living a
meaningful life.
It is hard for many of us to separate our work from the rest of our being…we spend too
much of our time at work or in work-related social and leisure activities for us to expect to
continue trying to compartmentalize our lives into separate work, family, religious and
social domains. As one result, the pressure many of us feel to recognize and respond to
the sacred in us must find outlet in the secular workplace. If personal or social
transformation is to take place, it will most likely take place at work. For, after all, life is
about spirit and we humans carry only one spirit that must manifest itself in both life and
livelihood. (Fairholm, 1996: 12)
According to many scholars personal meaning is one of the most important questions of
our era. Belliotti (2001: 10) states, “reflecting on the meaning of life may be spurred by
psychological crisis but it may also arise from an acute awareness that Henry David Thoreau was
correct: most people do lead lives of quiet desperation… the human condition is unique in that
we can evaluate and enhance our lives by confronting ultimate questions that resist simple
resolutions…to renounce the quest is to close off an important sense of human meaning.” Frankl
(1959: 121) notes, “man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a
“secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives…this meaning is unique and specific in that it
must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy
his own will to meaning.”
However, personal meaning is complex and there are a variety of perspectives on the
relationship between spirituality, meaning, and our work lives. Howard (2002: 240) notes, “the
desire by many individuals to live lives which are compatible with the demands of their
spirituality is insistent and requires attention by practitioners and academics alike…this sense of
spirituality is provoking some far-reaching questions about the choices we make in our lives,
including how we view our work.” Despite a number of arguments for the incorporation of
spirituality into the workplace, it is unclear what this means, and what a “spiritual workplace” or
a “spiritual organization” would look like (Bell & Taylor, 2003; Butts, 1999; Garcia-Zamor,
2003; Howard, 2002; Ottaway, 2003).
Even if we accept spirituality as central to our world philosophy, we are insufficient in
our ability to understand this and to live with it. We might understand more of the
mysteries of the universe and the different levels of reality that exist but we still have
trouble connecting and applying this in our lives… spirituality provokes uncomfortable
questions in us and may mean confronting pain. Deep reflection on one’s life does not
represent an easy option and that is why many people avoid it. (Howard, 2002: 238)
The field of management, spirituality and religion is in need of a paradigm that can bring
together the various perspectives on meaning, spirituality, and work, and unite secular and nonsecular views in the spirituality and work field. Existential philosophy can provide the basis for
this new paradigm as it focuses on the individual and the creation of a meaningful or “authentic”
life. Webster (2004: 7) states, “Spirituality is understood to involve an engagement with the
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meaning of one’s life, and Existential philosophy is founded upon the premise that human
individuals have a concern for the meaning of their being.”
Existential philosophy has previously been utilized as a means of understanding the
individual under the context of human existence, most notably in the area of psychological
counseling (Barnes, 1959; Bugental, 1965; May, 1968). Bugental (1965: 1) states, “An existential
orientation to personality and psychotherapy recognizes the human existence as the central fact of
existence, examines the vicissitudes of that experience in the perspective of the basic nature of
being, and orients its growth-inducing efforts toward maximum accord with the whole of life.”
There have also been attempts to bring an existential perspective into the study of work and
organizations, but only by a limited number of management scholars (Kelly & Kelly, 1998;
Pauchant, 1993, 1995). This paper adds to the argument for the use of existential philosophy in
work and organizational analysis, specifically using the concept of authenticity as the basis for a
new paradigm. A paradigm of authenticity can unite the spirituality and work field and focus the
discussion on the impact work and organizations have on the individual and his/her desire to live
a meaningful life. Through this lens we view work and organizations primarily as a means of
achieving authenticity.
The paper is divided into three sections. Firstly, I will outline the current problem with
how we view and study meaning, work and organizations. Secondly, I will review existential
philosophy, with a focus on the concept of authenticity. Thirdly, I will discuss some of the
implications an authenticity paradigm would have on how we view work, organizations, and
society.
THE PROBLEM
Work serves a variety of needs for people including economic, social, challenge,
engagement, identity, and life fulfillment, and as a result it is a major part of what defines us as
human beings (Karp & Yoels, 1981; Law, Meijers & Wijers, 2002; Moen, 1998; Mutlu & Asik,
2002). Gini (2000: ix) notes, “work is the most common experience of adult life…some love it,
others hate it, but few of us are able to avoid it…because we spend two-thirds of our waking life
on the job, work is the way we come to know the world and are known to the world…work
becomes our identity, our signature on the world…to work is to be and not to work is not to be.”
Mills and Simmons (1999: 114-115) state:
…people do not leave their selves behind when they come to work. The workplace is
charged with emotionality, family concerns, sexuality, worries, hopes and dreams: try as
they may, persons cannot divorce their selves from the workplace. Organizations are
composed of persons with diverse psychological needs and behaviours which inevitably
come to influence, and are shaped by, working relationships.
Unfortunately, many of today’s organizations are described as “toxic environments” with
a variety of problems for employees: high levels of stress, depression, feelings of being treated
unfairly, bullying, low productivity, high absenteeism, turnover, and work-related health
problems (Browne, 2002; Gini, 2000; Jamal & Baba, 2000; Kimura, 2003; Lane, 1993; Leiter &
Maslach, 2001; Lerner, Levine, Malspeis & D’Agostino, 1994). Providing a positive environment
and a meaningful experience for the individual is generally a secondary consideration for the
average organization to the primary goal of profit maximization. Many researchers argue that the
emphasis on the maximization of profit has resulted in organizations detrimental to meaningful
existence (Bakan, 2004; Kimura, 2003). Bakan (2004: 159) argues that, “we have over the last
three hundred years constructed a remarkably efficient wealth-creating machine, but it is now out
of control.” Many organizations provide a system of meaning that “may be misplaced,
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manipulated cynically, and even destructive, and may engender myopia, resistance to change,
existential disappointment, and a loss of individuality” (Ashforth & Vaidyanath, 2002: 368). Gini
(2000: 199) comments that, “we have made work simultaneously compulsory and
unsatisfactory…work isn’t about what we want to do, but what others tell us to do.” Lane (1993:
65) notes, “Market economies have made us prosperous, but they do not maximize “utility” or
the satisfaction of human wants.” Almost thirty years ago, Levinson (1978) noted the negative
effects organizations had on the individual and questioned whether or not we were working
toward creating the type of organization that was conducive to development.
We are still learning how to create organizations that work productively, humanely and in
ways that support the adult development of their employees and clients. The aims of
productivity and profit making have had top priority in the industrial age that is now
passing. As we move into an age in which production and power might be less overriding
concerns, we have a chance to reorder our priorities. It remains to be seen whether we
shall give higher priority to enhancing the meaning of work and to creating work
organizations that foster development as well as productive efficiency. (Levinson, 1978:
338)
To address the problems of work and organizations a new and growing voice is the field
of management, spirituality and religion (Bell & Taylor, 2003; Dalton, 2001; Elmes & Smith,
2001; Fox, 2003; Garcia-Zamor, 2003; Harrington, Preziosi & Gooden, 2001; Howard, 2002;
Lavelle, 1999; Lips-Wiersma, 2002, 2002; McCormick, 1994; Mitroff & Denton, 1999; Ottaway,
2003; Tischler, 1999). Spirituality in the workplace is even being referred to as a new emerging
paradigm for business (Ashar & Lane-Maher, 2004; Dhiman & King, 2005). It is argued that:
…as a context for human development, work activities provide a venue for becoming
more than one used to be. In and through work, individuals develop themselves by
expressing the occupational interests, vocational talents, and work values that move them
from a felt negative to the perceived plus. This progressive development constitutes a
spiritual quest for meaning and self-completion that, in the process, helps people become
someone they want to be, a person they themselves would like. (Savickas, 1994: 5)
However, there are a variety of perspectives on management, spirituality and religion, and
there is no agreed upon vision for work and organizations or a common management/spirituality/
religion lens. Mitroff and Denton (1999: 83) define spirituality “as the basic feeling of being
connected with one’s complete self, others, and the entire universe.” Ashmos and Duchon (2000:
137) define spirituality at work as “the recognition that employees have an inner life that
nourishes and is nourished by meaningful work that takes place in the context of community”.
Ottaway (2003: 34) describes spirituality in the workplace in terms of “a source of energy
empowering and transforming the life of daily work…beyond the rational… creating a new
order.” Spirituality and work is regarded by some from a religious perspective, i.e., bringing
religious beliefs into work practices, while others view it from a secular perspective (Harrington,
Preziosi & Gooden, 2001; Marques, Dhiman & King, 2005). It has also been suggested that
spirituality at work can be viewed as either spirituality in work, or spirituality of work.
Spirituality in work “suggests that the two domains are separate but one can be exercised within
the context of the other” and spirituality of work means that “work is a vehicle of transcendence”
(Haroutiounian, Ghavan, Gomez, Ivshin, Phelan, Freshman, Griffin & Lindsay, 2000: 670-671).
It is understandable that there are a variety of perspectives on spirituality and work since
it is dependent on individual beliefs about meaning, and, “whatever one’s underlying belief
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system, everyone has a spiritual life, just as they have an unconscious, whether they like it or not”
(Howard, 2002: 234). Regardless of these different viewpoints, however, the common
denominator in the spirituality and work movement is the emphasis on finding meaning, and it is
in that goal that we might find unity.
We each need to find meaning and purpose and develop our potential, to live an
integrated life. Spirituality encompasses the way an individual lives out his or her sense of
interconnectedness with the world through an ability to tap into deep resources. It
encompasses such terms as truth, love, service, wisdom, joy, peace, and wholeness. It is
about self-awareness and about unity with others. It combines our basic philosophy
towards life, our values, with our conduct and practice. Hence the difficulty with
definition – spirituality is both highly individual and intensely personal, as well as
inclusive and universal. (Howard, 2002: 231)
Despite the many perspectives and lack of consensus, the management, spirituality and
religion field is focusing attention …
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