Home / Regular Issue / JSSH Vol. 29 (3) Sep. 2021 / JSSH-8132-2021


Spiritual Well-being and Work Performance among Ground-level Employees: Unravelling the Connection

Jeffrey Khong Loong Yee, Jonathan Smith and Simon Robinson

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 29, Issue 3, September 2021

DOI: https://doi.org/10.47836/pjssh.29.3.11

Keywords: Ground-level employees, narrative inquiry, qualitative, spiritual inclinations, spiritual well-being, work performance

Published on: 27 September 2021

Extant research shows that spiritual well-being and work performance are directly connected. The connection is theorised to be due to the alignment between what employees are spiritually inclined towards and what they do at work. However, research overemphasises the performative benefits of spiritual pursuits and privilege the leaders’ views. These developments, coupled with the prevalent use of quantitative methods, have resulted in one-sided and uncontextualised theorisations that constrict how workplace spirituality is investigated, understood, and converted into action. In response to these gaps, this paper investigates the experiences of ground-level employees to uncover stories of how spiritual well-being may be connected to their work performance. The study uses the qualitative paradigm and narrative inquiry as its methodology to uncover the diverse ways in which spiritual well-being and work outcomes are connected, including ones that diminish or are inconsequential to work performance. There is a need to re-examine accepted knowledge regarding the direct connection between spiritual well-being and work performance and the assumed compatibility of enacting spiritual inclinations in organisational settings. This paper calls for a more nuanced understanding of how spiritual well-being is experienced and the implications these experiences might have on the ground-level employees’ work performance. Even as research unravels this relationship further, prescriptions for practice ought to be qualified, contextualised, tentative, and customised for and by the ground-level employee.

  • Afsar, B., & Rehman, M. (2015). The relationship between workplace spirituality and innovative work behavior: The mediating role of perceived person–organization fit. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 12(4), 329-353. https://doi.org/10.1080/14766086.2015.1060515

  • Albuquerque, I. F., Cunha, R., Martins, L. D., & Brito Sá, A. (2014). Primary health care services: Workplace spirituality and organizational performance. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 27(1), 59-82. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2012-0186

  • Ashar, H., & Lane-Maher, M. (2004). Success and spirituality in the new business paradigm. Journal of Management Inquiry, 13(3), 249-260. https://doi.org/10.1177/1056492604268218

  • Ashforth, B. E., & Pratt, M. G. (2003). Institutionalized spirituality: An oxymoron? In R. A. Giacalone & C. L. Jurkiewicz (Eds.), Handbook of workplace spirituality and organizational performance (pp. 93-107). M. E. Sharpe.

  • Ashmos, D. P., & Duchon, D. (2000). Spirituality at work: A conceptualization and measure. Journal of Management Inquiry, 9(2), 134-145. https://doi.org/10.1177/105649260092008

  • Barrett, R. (2009). What’s right and wrong with spirituality in the workplace. Journal of Management, Spirituality and Religion, 6(3), 261-268. https://doi.org/10.1080/14766080903069372

  • Bruner, J. (1991). The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry, 18(1), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1086/448619

  • Case, P., & Gosling, J. (2010). The spiritual organization: Critical reflections on the instrumentality of workplace spirituality. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 7(4), 257-282. https://doi.org/10.1080/14766086.2010.524727

  • Cavanagh, G. F., & Bandsuch, M. R. (2002). Virtue as a benchmark for spirituality in business. Journal of Business Ethics, 38(1/2), 109-117. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1015721029457

  • Chen, C.-Y., & Yang, C.-F. (2012). The impact of spiritual leadership on organizational citizenship behavior: A Multi-sample analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 105, 107-114. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-0953-3

  • Conklin, T. A. (2012). Work worth doing: A phenomenological study of the experience of discovering and following one’s calling. Journal of Management Inquiry, 21(3), 298-317. https://doi.org/10.1177/1056492611414426

  • Connelly, F. M., & Clandinin, D. J. (1990). Stories of experience and narrative inquiry. Educational Researcher, 19(5), 2-14. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X019005002

  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2004). Good business: Leadership, flow, and the making of meaning. Coronet.

  • Dent, E. B., Higgins, M. E., & Wharff, D. M. (2005). Spirituality and leadership: An empirical review of definitions, distinctions, and embedded assumptions. The Leadership Quarterly, 16(5), 625-653. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.07.002

  • Elm, D. R. (2003). Honesty, spirituality, and performance at work. In R. A Giacalone & C. L. Jurkiewicz (Eds.), Handbook of workplace spirituality and organizational performance (pp. 277-288). M. E. Sharpe.

  • Fox, C., Webster, B. D., & Casper, W. C. (2018). Spirituality, psychological capital and employee performance: An empirical examination. Journal of Managerial Issues, 30(2), 194-153.

  • Fry, L. W., & Slocum Jr., J. W. (2008). Maximizing the triple bottom line through spiritual leadership. Organizational Dynamics, 37(1), 86-96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orgdyn.2007.11.004

  • Garg, N. (2017). Workplace spirituality and employee well-being: An empirical exploration. Journal of Human Values, 23(2), 129-147. https://doi.org/10.1177/0971685816689741

  • Hassan, M., Nadeem, A. B., & Akhter, A. (2016). Impact of workplace spirituality on job satisfaction: Mediating effect of trust. Cogent Business & Management, 3(1), 1189808. https://doi.org/10.1080/23311975.2016.1189808

  • Hoffman, A. J. (2010). Reconciling professional and personal value systems. In R. A. Giacalone & C. L. Jurkiewicz (Eds.), Handbook of workplace spirituality and organizational performance (2nd ed., pp. 155-170). M.E. Sharpe.

  • Joelle, M., & Coelho, A. M. (2019). The impact of spirituality at work on workers’ attitudes and individual performance. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 30(7), 1111-1135. https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2017.1314312

  • Jurkiewicz, C. L., & Giacalone, R. A. (2004). A values framework for measuring the impact of workplace spirituality on organizational performance. Journal of Business Ethics, 49(2), 129-142. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:BUSI.0000015843.22195.b9

  • Kim, H. S., & Yeom, H.-A. (2018). The association between spiritual well-being and burnout in intensive care unit nurses: A descriptive study. Intensive & Critical Care Nursing, 46, 92-97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iccn.2017.11.005

  • Kinjerski, V., & Skrypnek, B. J. (2004). Defining spirit at work: Finding common ground. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 17(1), 26-42. https://doi.org/10.1108/09534810410511288

  • Kinjerski, V., & Skrypnek, B. J. (2008). The promise of spirit at work: Increasing job satisfaction and organizational commitment and reducing turnover and absenteeism in long-term care. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 34(10), 17-25. https://doi: 10.3928/00989134-20081001-03.

  • Kolodinsky, R. W., Giacalone, R. A., & Jurkiewicz, C. L. (2008). Workplace values and outcomes: Exploring personal, organizational, and interactive workplace spirituality. Journal of Business Ethics, 81(2), 465-480. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-007-9507-0

  • Lewin, R., & Regine, B. (2001). Weaving complexity & business: Engaging the soul at work. Texere Publishing.

  • Lieblich, A., Tuval-Mashiach, R., & Zilber, T. (1998). Narrative research: Reading, analysis, and interpretation. SAGE.

  • Lips-Wiersma, M., Dean, K. L., & Fornaciari, C. J. (2009). Theorizing the dark side of the workplace spirituality movement. Journal of Management Inquiry, 18(4), 288-300. https://doi.org/10.1177/1056492609339017

  • MacDonald, D. A. (2011). Studying spirituality scientifically: Reflections, considerations, recommendations. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 8(3), 195-210. https://doi.org/10.1080/14766086.2011.599145

  • Maxwell, J. A. (2013). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.

  • McGhee, P., & Grant, P. (2008). Spirituality and ethical behaviour in the workplace: Wishful thinking or authentic reality. Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies 13(2), 61-69.

  • Milliman, J., Ferguson, J., Trickett, D., & Condemi, B. (1999). Spirit and community at Southwest Airlines: An investigation of a spiritual values-based model. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 12(3), 221-233. https://doi.org/10.1108/09534819910273928

  • Milliman, J., Gatling, A., & Kim, J. (2018). The effect of workplace spirituality on hospitality employee engagement, intention to stay, and service delivery. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 35, 56-65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhtm.2018.03.002

  • Mirvis, P. H. (1997). ‘Soul Work’ in organizations. Organization Science, 8(2), 193-206.

  • Mishler, E. G. (1986). Research interviewing: Context and narrative. Harvard University Press.

  • Mitroff, I., & Denton, E. (1999a). A spiritual audit of corporate America: A hard look at spirituality, religion, and values in the workplace. Jossey-Bass Publishers.

  • Mitroff, I., & Denton, E. A. (1999b). A study of spirituality in the workplace. MIT Sloan Management Review. https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/a-study-of-spirituality-in-the-workplace/

  • Moon, T., Youn, N., Hur, W.-M., & Kim, K.-M. (2020). Does employees’ spirituality enhance job performance? The mediating roles of intrinsic motivation and job crafting. Current Psychology, 39, 1618-1634. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-018-9864-0

  • Ottaway, R. N. (2003). Defining spirituality of work. International Journal of Value-Based Management, 16(1), 23-35. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021984029154

  • Petchsawang, P., & Duchon, D. (2012). Workplace spirituality, meditation, and work performance. Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 9(2), 189-208. https://doi.org/10.1080/14766086.2012.688623

  • Pfeffer, J. (2003). Business and the spirit: Management practices that sustains values. In R. A. Giacalone & C. L. Jurkiewicz (Eds.), Handbook of workplace spirituality and organizational performance (pp. 29-45). M.E. Sharpe.

  • Phuong, V., Khoa, T., Khanh, H., & Ho, P. (2018). The role of leader’s spiritual leadership on organisation outcomes. Asian Academy of Management Journal, 23, 45-68. https://doi.org/10.21315/aamj2018.23.2.3

  • Reave, L. (2005). Spiritual values and practices related to leadership effectiveness. The Leadership Quarterly, 16(5), 655-687. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2005.07.003

  • Rego, A., & Cunha, M. P. e. (2008). Workplace spirituality and organizational commitment: An empirical study. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 21(1), 53-75. https://doi.org/10.1108/09534810810847039

  • Rego, A., & Pina e Cunha, M. (2008). Workplace spirituality and organizational commitment: An empirical study. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 21(1), 53-75. https://doi.org/10.1108/09534810810847039

  • Riessman, C. K. (2004). Narrative interviewing. In M. S. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. F. Liao (Eds.), The Sage encyclopedia of social science research methods (pp. 709-710). Sage Publications.

  • Riessman, C. K. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. Sage Publications, Inc.

  • Robinson, S., & Smith, J. (2014). Co-charismatic leadership: Critical perspectives on spirituality, ethics and leadership. Peter Lang UK.

  • Rosso, B., Dekas, K., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2010). On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review. Research in Organizational Behavior, 30, 91-127. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.riob.2010.09.001

  • Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2(1), 3-20. https://doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1116

  • Sengupta, S. S. (2010). Correlates of spiritual orientation & managerial effectiveness. Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, 46(1), 45-60. https://doi.org/10.2307/25741096

  • Singh, J., & Chopra, V. G. (2018). Workplace spirituality, grit and work engagement. Asia-Pacific Journal of Management Research and Innovation, 14(1-2), 50-59. https://doi.org/10.1177/2319510X18811776

  • Squire, C. (2008). Experience-centred and culturally-oriented approaches to narratives. In M. Andrews, C. Squire, & M. Tamboukou (Eds.), Doing narrative research (pp. 41-63). SAGE Publications.

  • Swinton, J., & Pattison, S. (2010). Moving beyond clarity: Towards a thin, vague, and useful understanding of spirituality in nursing care. Nursing Philosophy, 11(4), 226-237. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1466-769X.2010.00450.x

  • Tejeda, M. (2015). Exploring the supportive effects of spiritual well-being on job satisfaction given adverse work conditions. Journal of Business Ethics, 131(1), 173-181. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2269-6

  • Tourish, D., & Tourish, N. (2010). Spirituality at work, and its implications for leadership and followership: A post-structuralist perspective. Leadership, 6(2), 207-224. https://doi.org/10.1177/1742715010363210

  • Tzouramani, E., & Karakas, F. (2016). Spirituality in management. In M. de Souza, J. Bone, & J. Watson (Eds.), Spirituality across disciplines: Research and practice (pp. 273-284). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31380-1_21

  • van Tonder, C. L., & Ramdass, P. (2009). A spirited workplace: Employee perspectives on the meaning of workplace spirituality. SA Journal of Human Resource Management, 7(1), 230-241. https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v7i1.207

  • Vasconcelos, A. (2018). Workplace spirituality: Empirical evidence revisited. Management Research Review, 41(1), 789-821. https://doi.org/10.1108/MRR-07-2017-0232

  • Wan Yunan, W. R., Ahmad, A., & Omar, Z. (2018). Linking workplace spirituality and employee commitment in Malaysian public service organizations. Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities, 26(T), 205-220.

  • Wang, M., Guo, T., Ni, Y., Shang, S., & Tang, Z. (2019). The effect of spiritual leadership on employee effectiveness: An intrinsic motivation perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 2627. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02627

  • White, H. (1980). The value of narrativity in the representation of reality. Critical Inquiry, 7(1), 5-27.

  • Wu, W.-L., & Lee, Y.-C. (2020). How spiritual leadership boosts nurses’ work engagement: The mediating roles of calling and psychological capital. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(17), 6364. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17176364

ISSN 0128-7702

e-ISSN 2231-8534

Article ID


Download Full Article PDF

Share this article

Related Articles