Spirituality and Caring in Organizations: The Covenant Metaphor

  • Ora Setter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Sustainable Business In Association with Future Earth book series (PSSBAFE)


The paper underlines the fact that metaphors determine the way we perceive and understand our world. There are a wide variety of metaphors for organizations, many of which depict rationality, but only a few of which express their spiritual and human side. The paper discusses three metaphors by which the mutual entitlements and obligations of employees and organizations can be understood. The first is the transactional, market-based “balance sheet” metaphor which is used in exchange and equity theories, where accountant-style “quid pro quo” exchanges are pertinent. The second is the legal-like “contract” metaphor where agreements, promises and tacit expectations about exchanges and the rules of exchange are prevalent. Finally, the spiritual metaphor of the “covenant” in the Jewish tradition is presented, by which obligations and entitlements are not dependent on other parties’ fulfilling their role, and where “horizontal” relations between employees and management are complemented by “vertical” obligations to a higher cause. The paper refers to empirical studies to show that the covenant elements are pertinent in the mutual obligations of members of business firms. Some new findings are presented in the paper that validate the idea that the employee-organization relation is partially covenantal. The paper concludes that the covenant metaphor can be fruitfully used to describe and explain care and spirituality in organizational settings.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ora Setter
    • 1
  1. 1.Tel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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