Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 357–375 | Cite as

Nurturing the Whole Person: The Ethics of Workplace Spirituality in a Society of Organizations

  • Mathew L. SheepEmail author


In a world which can be increasingly described as a “society of organizations,” it is incumbent upon organizational researchers to account for the role of organizations in determining the well-being of societies and the individuals that comprise them. Workplace spirituality is a young area of inquiry with potentially strong relevance to the well-being of individuals, organizations, and societies. Previous literature has not examined ethical dilemmas related to workplace spirituality that organizations might expect based upon the co-existence of multiple ethical work climates, nor has previous literature accounted for the relevance of the cosmopolitan (external, societal) source of moral reasoning in the ethical treatment of workplace spirituality. The purpose of this paper is to address these gaps by articulating two such ethical dilemmas related to workplace spirituality: the “quiet desperation” dilemma and the instrumentality dilemma. Moreover, I propose two theoretical contexts that foster “both-and” rather than “either-or” thinking, thereby mitigating (moderating) the relationships between climate combinations and conflictual aspects of the ethical dilemmas. For the “quiet desperation” dilemma, I propose a person–organization fit perspective to emphasize diversity of individual preferences instead of a managerially prescribed uniformity of spirituality. For the instrumentality dilemma, I propose a multiparadigm approach to workplace spirituality research to avoid the privileging of one research interest over another (e.g., instrumentality, individual fulfillment, societal good). I conclude with suggestions for future research.


workplace spirituality social systems ethical work climate ethical dilemma person–organization fit multiparadigm research 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiU.S.A.

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