Missing from the discourse on spirituality are the injustices experienced in the workplace, particularly by individuals marginalized by social group identity or affiliation. This is a critical omission in that spirituality can stimulate reflection, response, healing, and transformation of the soul. Filling the gap by addressing the role of spirituality in relation to meaningful work, this volume extends ideas about teaching and learning about spirituality to workplace settings, including the transformative learning theory. In seeking ways to promote moral and socially responsible workplaces and to establish a new way of thinking, the volume lays down a philosophical framework for Spirituality in the Workplace as a means of emancipation and social justice, and shows how the workplace can be a fruitful context for social justice education. This is the 152nd volume of the Jossey Bass series New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. Noted for its depth of coverage, it explores issues of common interest to instructors, administrators, counselors, and policymakers in a broad range of education settings, such as colleges and universities, extension programs, businesses, libraries, and museums.
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New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education
Susan Imel Jovita M. Ross-Gordon Joellen E. Coryell COEDITORS-IN-CHIEF
Marilyn Y. Byrd EDITOR
Number 152 • Winter 2016
Spirituality in the Workplace: A Philosophical and Social Justice Perspective
Marilyn Y. Byrd (ed.)
New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, no. 152
Coeditors‐in‐Chief: Susan Imel, Jovita M. Ross‐Gordon, and Joellen E. Coryell
NEW DIRECTIONS FOR ADULT AND CONTINUING EDUCATION, (Print ISSN: 1052‐2891; Online ISSN: 1536‐0717), is published quarterly by Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., a Wiley Company, 111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030‐5774 USA.
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1: Spirituality as Foundation of Agency in Turbulent Economic Times
Discourse of Spirituality in the Workplace
Spiritual Dimensions and Work in Historical Context
Spirituality and the Changing Nature of Work and Career
Spirituality and Work: Integration, Differentiation, or Fragmentation?
2: Social Justice and Spirituality: Educating for a Complicated Workplace
The Context and the Challenges
The Critical Components
Enhancing Spirituality in Adult Education
3: To Address Suffering That the Majority Can't See: Lessons from Black Women's Leadership in the Workplace
It's All About Love
Theorizing Suffering, Marshaling Strength and Love
4: Womanist Pedagogical Love as Justice Work on College Campuses: Reflections from Faithful Black Women Academics
Searching for a Better Way
Differences: Womanism, Feminism, and Black Resistance
A Little Housekeeping
Conceptual Roots: Womanist Theology
Methodological Deliverance: Scholarly Rearing
Benediction: Reflections and Concluding Thoughts
5: Spirituality: The Core of Healing and Social Justice from an Indigenous Perspective
Indigenous Spirituality Is Land-Based Spirituality
Spirituality One on One
Spirituality in the Big Picture
Spirituality Connects Us All
Thirteen Grandmothers: Spirituality Can Heal Our World
6: Creating Spaces for Transformative Learning in the Workplace
Connecting the Autobiographical with Cultural Context
Voices from the Literature
Guided by Our Own Narratives
Making Meaning of Our Stories
Reflecting on Our Reflections
7: Spirit-ness at Work: Connections Between Workplace Spirituality, Transformative Learning, and Social Justice
Spirituality, Spirit-ness, and Spirit
Workplace Spirituality: Definitions, Tensions, and Possibilities
Workplace Spirituality, Transformative Learning, and Social Justice: Powerful Connections
A Tale of Two Workplace Experiences
Pulling It All Together
8: The Enlightened Revelation: Toward a Spirit-Centered, Socially Just Workplace
Culturally Relevant Spirituality
Social Justice Education and Emancipatory Learning
The Enlightened Revelation Framework: An Emancipatory Perspective
New Horizons: Giving Voice and Expanding the Paradigm
End User License Agreement
Figure 8.1 Enlightened Revelation: A Spiritually Relevant Framework.
Table of Contents
The trend toward spirituality in the workplace has emerged as more organizations and institutions have adopted a humanistic approach for creating fulfilling work environments (Garcia-Zamor, 2003). Spirituality is recognized as a conveyor or purpose in creating meaningful work and empowering people to achieve organizational goals (Gockel, 2004; Mitroff & Denton, 1999). Spirituality in the workplace has also been linked to fulfillment at work and its impact on the bottom line.
There has been a reasonable amount of literature from the field of education that speaks to the role of spirituality in teaching and learning (e.g., Dillard, Abdur-Rashid, & Tyson, 2000; English, 2000; Groen, 2005; Tolliver & Tisdell, 2006). The fields of social work and nursing have also made inroads for exploring how spirituality engages the beliefs of professionals (e.g., Grant, O'Neill, & Stephens, 2004; Matthews, 2009; McSherry, Cash, & Ross, 2004). But this is understandable given the humanistic nature of those helping professions.
In our work, we bring our authentic selves. Often, the authentic self is vulnerable to subjected to injustices derived from social identity designation or affiliation or from adverse, disempowering experiences that attack the soul. Therefore, perspectives of spirituality should consider ways that people engage in spirituality as a response to social injustice in the workplace. When work and the authentic self are in sync, work can be meaningful—a pathway to self-fulfillment and self-actualization (Maslow, 1968; Mathieson & Miree, 2003). But if the workplace becomes a site of social injustice, work and the authentic self are no longer in sync. People are then more likely to abandon individual pursuits in search of meaning-making responses to the injustice (Mathieson & Miree, 2003).
However, there is an absence of literature that has recognized spirituality as a force that creates energy to question, challenge, and reject systems of social injustice in the workplace. This volume seeks to create new discussions about spirituality and social justice in the context of the workplace. “Unless action is taken to contest prevailing systems in favor of justice, the unjust order will be strengthened and perpetuated” (Balasuriya, 1978, p. 2).
Chapter 1 explores how the meaning of work has changed in the contemporary workplace, hence creating a struggle for wholeness of self. Chapter 2 is a discussion of pedagogical strategies needed to transition learners from educational to organizational settings. Chapters 3 and 4 highlight spirituality in the narratives of women faculty of color who are often considered to be less competent or less knowledgeable than their counterparts in academic settings. Chapter 5 connects Indigenous philosophies of wholeness and the quest for a better world to principles of spirituality and social justice in workplaces and all places inhabited.
Chapters 6 and 7 apply transformative learning theory (Mezirow, 1997) to spirituality and social justice in the workplace. Transformative learning theory illustrates how engaging in discourse with others similarly affected stimulates critical reflection for greater meaning-making opportunities. Chapter 8 introduces the enlightened revelation framework, an integrative model of spiritual liberation and a vehicle for social change in the workplace. An enlightened revelation conveys hope and empowerment for those who resist and take action against social injustice in the workplace.
Our overarching vision is that this volume will benefit the work of educators, researchers, scholars, practitioners, and consultants who are seeking ways to promote spiritually engaging workplaces that are not only values added and leadership centered but morally responsible with social justice education goals. When one's conscience cannot uphold injustice in workplaces or if one can no longer endure its sufferings, it is necessary to create a new space for spirituality in which contesting the injustice is a natural part of self-growth and fulfillment of purpose by a Higher Power (Balasuriya, 1978).
Marilyn Y. ByrdEditor
Balasuriya, T. (1978). Towards a spirituality of social justice.
Dillard, C. B., Abdur-Rashid, D., & Tyson, C. A. (2000). My soul is a witness: Affirming pedagogies of the spirit.
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education (QSE)
(5), 447–462. doi:10.1080/09518390050156404
English, L. M. (2000). Spiritual dimensions of informal learning. In L. English & M. Gillen (Eds.),
New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education: No. 85. Addressing the spiritual dimensions of adult learning: what educators can do
pp. 29–38. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Garcia-Zamor, J. (2003). Workplace spirituality and organizational performance.
Public Administration Review
Gockel, A. (2004). The trend toward spirituality in the workplace: Overview and implications for career counseling.
Journal of Employment Counseling
Grant, D., O'Neil, K., & Stephens, L. (2004). Spirituality in the workplace: New empirical directions in the study of the sacred.
Sociology of Religion
Groen, J. (2005). Spirituality of adult education and training.
Studies in Continuing Education
Maslow, A. H. (1968).
Toward a psychology of being
. New York: D. Van Nostrand Company.
Mathieson, K., & Miree, C.E. (2003). Illuminating the invisible: IT and self-discovery in the work-place. In R. A. Giacalone & C. L. Jurkiewicz (Eds.),
Handbook of workplace spirituality and organizational performance
(pp. 461–474). Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe
Matthews, I. (2009).
Social work and spirituality
. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
McSherry, W., Cash, K., & Ross, L. (2004). Meaning of spirituality: Implications for nursing practice.
Journal of Clinical Nursing
(8), 934–941. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2004.01006.x
Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. In P. Cranton (Ed.),
New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education: No. 74. Transformative learning in action: Insights from practice
(pp. 5–12). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Mitroff, I. I., & Denton, E. A. (1999). A study of spirituality in the workplace.
Sloan Management Review
Tolliver, D. E., & Tisdell, E. J. (2006). Engaging spirituality in the transformative higher education classroom. In E. W. Taylor (Ed.),
New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education No. 109. Teaching for change: Fostering transformative learning in the classroom
(pp. 37–47). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Marilyn Y. Byrd, PhD
is assistant professor of human relations, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK.
The changing meaning of work calls for care and concern for the spiritual dimension of the workplace. Toward this end, a more liberal form of workforce education and human resource development in response to workplace preparation for managers is needed.
K. Peter Kuchinke
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
Ian McLaren, 1850–1907
Writing about spirituality invites, like few other dimension of adult and continuing education, reflection about one's own trajectory as well as a personal and conversational style of expression rather than the traditional analytic and detached form of writing. Markers of my own development, both private and professional, might be a commitment to the existential philosophies of Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Sartre during early adulthood and professional training and qualification in psychological counseling approaches affiliated with the humanistic orientations of Rogers and Janov. The shift to a career in workforce and human resource education since the mid-1980s, as administrator, consultant, and university teacher, I was driven by the desire to be of use beyond the confines of the one-to-one clinical setting and to test what insights I may have gained in the wider world of work. An underlying theme of my scholarship in areas as disparate as leadership competencies, education of workforce trainers, and the changing meaning of work has been an interest in exploring the personal and inner dimensions of being at work. More precisely, a fascination is with the private selves at work, so often hidden behind the veil of the public persona, we enact our occupational roles in organizational and institutions. Questioning the demarcation between public and private selves, I have critiqued the functionalist reading of workforce education as insufficient for pragmatic and ethical reasons and instead positioned a liberal form of education as a much needed antidote (e.g., the critique of the business school preparation of modern managers (Kuchinke, 2007). Although instrumental and managerialist orientations are endemic to contemporary workforce and human resource education, and, sadly, the wider field of educational research and practice (for an excellent set of articles on the state of the humanities in education, see Higgins, 2015), care of and concern for the spiritual dimension of work and working should be seen as a central concern of adult, professional, and continuing education.
A second consideration in writing this chapter is the need for respect, perhaps even reverence, for the nature of the topic, the deep intellectual traditions of its foundations, and our own shortcomings and limitations. Here, I echo Kang's insightful essay on the need for humility in theorizing and practicing our craft: “Humility as a virtue in both the East and the West is characterized as embracing self-awareness about one's own capacities, exercising self-discipline and having a humanitarian orientation…. It is the recognition … of the limits of one's own virtues and talents” (Kang & Kuchinke, 2008, p. 5).
Although the growing interest in spirituality in many areas of educational practice is welcomed by many educators, mainstream corporate and neoliberal ideologies easily dismiss it as the idle obsession of starry-eyed academic idealists, who do not understand the real world of business anyhow (see e.g., Milton Friedman's  wholesale dismissal of corporate social responsibility). Where spirituality does find acceptance, I observe the tendency toward commercialization and cheapening of what, in my understanding, is a dimension of human existence that eludes easy capture and instrumental use. Spiritual growth and development, in many wisdom traditions, are connected to notions such as blessings and grace, struggle and failure, longing, lifelong quest, and unknowing (e.g., Foster, 1988; Johnston, 1996; Loy, 1996). Based on this understanding, I view with concern the attempts to put spirituality to use in order to achieve exterior goals, to build it into the formal workforce education or corporate curriculum, or to create corporate cultures built on spirituality. The important lessons in life are learned and not taught, and the teacher will arrive only when the student is ready, as two old axioms go. To me, matters of spirituality are private and the role of the educator best described as the guide who, ever so gently, listens, supports, offers guidance when requested, and, perhaps foremost, leads through her own example in words and action. And yet, despite the private nature of spirituality, I welcome the rise of interest, publications, and research on the topic in educational and even workplace contexts. They are evocative reminders of the need for a holistic understanding of ourselves and of the interdependence of heart, head, and hands so well articulated in the cooperative education movement. They also suggest powerful ways to counter the tendency toward fragmentation and consumer-oriented nihilism in contemporary society and to strengthen the focus on humane education as a much-needed alternative to behaviorist-focused teaching and scholarship.
In this chapter, I try to articulate some perspectives as a scholar, teacher, and practitioner in workforce education and human resource development. The focus on inner dimensions of the self takes on particular salience in an educational field of practice that attempts the balancing act between performative dimensions and well-being and flourishing in workplace settings (Kuchinke, 2011) in what Fenwick (2011) has aptly described as our field's “dance with capital” (p. 88). I begin with a reflection on the state of the discussion in the professional community to show the range of approaches and considerations as exemplified at a recent annual meeting. I then explore the burgeoning interest in spirituality in a historical frame and then as related to conceptualizations of the role of work and career in today's society. Three ways of connecting spirituality and work are described, and I conclude with some thoughts on the role and responsibility of adult education and workforce and human resource development. Throughout, I refrain from attempts to bound, limit, or define the term, an effort beyond the scope of this chapter and undertaken elsewhere, not the least in the 2000 issue of this journal (English & Gillen, 2000). Instead, I simply refer interchangeably to the spiritual, inner, and personal dimensions of work, a stance taken in light of the thorny problem of capturing a holistic notion within the limits of language. I recognize further that spirituality, by whatever definition or approach, is not anything special or extra, but in fact part and parcel of our being, and that the struggle to realize deeper aspects of our being does, indeed, characterize every one of us, and thus Ian McLaren's aphorism at the beginning of this chapter.
A starting point for this essay might be the symposium on spirituality at a recent national conference of the Academy of Human Resource Development (Abichandani, Alagaraja, & Ghosh, 2015). Although the topic had gained acceptance and even popularity over the past several years—some 25 conceptual and empirical conference papers have been presented since 2012—the 2015 session was the first focused event bringing together scholars from a variety of perspectives, persuasions, and cultural backgrounds. Panelists and participants addressed, in often highly personal style, their commitments, struggles, and hopes for an understanding and a practice of workforce and human resource education that was not fragmented and paid homage to the holistic nature of being in this world. The range of contributions was broad indeed. Several colleagues were quite comfortable exploring the utility of spirituality in the workplace in terms of individual-, group-, and organization-level outcomes and argued for operational definitions, measurement, and theory building. Some spoke of the need for conceptual clarification, whereas others still warned of the risks of normalization and instrumental use in the hands of business consultants, self-help book authors, and corporate executives, and others questioned if the private and sacred nature of spirituality could find a place in the rough and tumble of organizational life.
A short foray into the historical understandings of the relationship between the spiritual dimension and work serves to show the context and time-bound nature of today's discussion and perspectives. Many authors have alluded to the hunger for connectedness and grounding in today's highly individualistic and fragmented society. Conger (1994), for example, notes the decline of traditional institutions, such as religious and civic organizations, and the increased expectation that employment settings provide meaning and belonging. Yet workplaces have become unstable institutions unable to provide sustained meaning and satisfaction of deeper needs. The betrayal of modern work, the subtitle of Joanne Ciulla's (2000) book, is a frequent theme in the sociology of work. Postmodern scholars speak of the untethering of meaning and identity from tradition in today's consumer-oriented society, a moment in history well characterized by Zygmunt Bauman's (2000) term of liquid modernity. In this context, a burgeoning literature positions spirituality and meaning as a personal resource to counter the vagaries of today's social and economic environment. Ambrose (2006), for example, invites readers to “find meaning in the madness [of work]” (p. 1) by exploring its mysteries and paradoxes and making peace with our work. Simplistic as this form of self-help advice may be, it points to a widely felt need grounded in the increased expectation of work as a source of spirituality.
Placher's (2005) analysis of the evolution of work and spiritual identity provides a historical perspective. Writing from a Christian perspective, he distinguished four historical periods. During the centuries preceding the Reformation in the early 16th century, spiritual growth and development were entirely separated from work and maximally connected to formal religion. Being called was seen as a particular form of spiritual expression and meant allegiance to the church in the early centuries. During the Middle Ages, it became associated with joining the clergy. The vocation of early Christians, the term derived from the Latin vocare
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