Issue #34

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A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America:
A Hard Look at Spirituality, Religion, and Values in the Workplace

by Ian Mitroff and
Elizabeth Denton

© 1999
$32.00 Hardcover


If spirituality plays a significant part in what defines us, and if our work plays an equally big role in our definition of who and what we are, why hasn’t there been more study of spirituality as it relates to the workplace?

Mitroff and Denton conducted extensive surveys and over 90 in-depth interviews on spirituality in the workplace with high-level managers and executives. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the respondents did not have widely varying definitions of spirituality. There was near unanimous agreement with regard to the definition of spirituality. In brief, spirituality is the basic desire to find ultimate meaning and purpose in one’s life and to live an integrated life. Although the majority of people in organizations have strong spiritual beliefs, few feel they can act on their beliefs in the workplace, the setting where they spend the majority of their waking lives. As a result, both individuals and organizations are spiritually impoverished. Other major findings in the book include:

  • People do not want to compartmentalize or fragment their lives; they especially want to be acknowledged as whole persons in the workplace.
  • People differentiate strongly between religion and spirituality. Religion is viewed as intolerant and divisive. Spirituality is seen as universal and broadly inclusive.
  • Those who are associated with organizations that are perceived as more spiritual also consider their company more profitable, and report that they are able to deploy more of their full creativity, emotions and intelligence.
  • Only a small number of models for practicing spirituality in the workplace exist, and most are not clearly identified or known.

As a result of their research, the authors have identified five distinct models as to how spirituality can be practiced in the workplace:

  • The Religion-Based Organization brings religion into the workplace to take over an organization for Christ, like Mormon-owned AgReserves, Inc., the largest producer of nuts in America.
  • The Evolutionary Organization begins its life with a strong association or identification with a particular religion, and over time, evolves to a more ecumenical position, like the YMCA and Tom’s of Maine.
  • The Recovering Organization adopts the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous as a way of running an ethical organization.
  • The Socially-Responsible Organization occurs when the founders are guided by strong spiritual principles which they apply directly to their business for the betterment of society, like Ben & Jerry’s.
  • The Values-Based Organization derives from the fundamental, personal values of its founders which they believe in intensely and wish to carry forward (includes family values and general virtues, but religious and spiritual values are downplayed or even rejected), like Kingston Technology in Orange County.

More than a personal guide to spiritual well-being, A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America demonstrates how to harness the immense spiritual energy that is at everyone’s core and outlines solutions for bringing that energy back into the organization.

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