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The Importance of Creating Workplace Spirituality in Long-Term Care Environments

Published July 28, 2008 12:16 PM by Brian Garavaglia

When someone hears the word spirituality, along with a statement of attempting to introduce it into the workplace, what immediately comes to mind is someone attempting to interject their religious beliefs into the workplace environment. Although this may be one interpretation of workplace spirituality, in this case the theistic nature of such a definition is not the focus. The emphasis that will be part of this discussion will be more secular in nature. Workplace spirituality as a secular rather than a sacred phenomenon is a topic that has recently been spoken about, and even though there is not a great deal of empirical research on this topic, its introduction into a long-term care environment does make some intuitive sense. 

Workplace spirituality or organizations that foster such spirituality look to nurture the worker and the needs they bring to the organization. Spiritual organizations that foster individual needs in these areas often garner reciprocal benefits in their own right. At the basis of workplace spirituality is an understanding that people have spiritual needs, needs within the individual that are not necessarily religious, but are based on an inner need for meaning. People need to achieve a sense of meaning. They also have a humanistic need to potentiate themselves as human beings, to develop to their full human potential. 

Sense human beings spend a great deal of their lives in work environments, spiritual organizations look to tap the inner resources of individuals. This in turn applies to long-term care environments, which as organizational environments can also become spiritual organizations that tap the often untapped resources of their workers. Since individuals spend a considerable portion of their lives in work environments, nourishing the spiritual needs of individuals, helping them find meaning through their work, is critical in organizations that nurture an organizational spirituality.      

Why is this important for long-term care? Many individuals who work in long-term care environments have done so for many years and continue to dedicate a considerable portion of their lives to this type of work and work environment. In fact, many of us, when asked who we are, come to provide answers such as nurse, administrator, caregiver, physical therapist, etc. Generally speaking a key factor in shaping all human beings' identities is the work that they do. Spiritual organizations come to understand this and attempt to help the individual with their inner needs through shaping the organizational culture and environment to target many of their inner, spiritual features. Organizations that help foster this also obtain reciprocal benefits in that workers that are more fulfilled also can work more productively for the organization itself. 

This is important for many long-term care facilities. Nursing care facilities that have successfully achieved a spiritual organizational environment not only enhance worker productivity through satisfaction with their work, but also have lower worker turnover and increased levels of trust. This latter quality is extremely important. Successful organizations depend upon successful teamwork. Moreover, for successful teamwork to exist a sense of trust has to exist as well among the team players. In a healthcare environment that is predicated on the care that it provides frail and sick individuals, teamwork not only on the administrative levels, but also on the line levels is extremely important for the success of the organization and for the lives of those that they serve. Therefore, organizational spirituality not only helps foster the needs that individuals have, but also fosters the growth and development of the organization itself.     

Another important need that helps foster the growth of the individual in spiritual organizational environments is enhancing their sense of security, but here again the need is reciprocal. Human beings need to feel secure and that includes feelings of security in their work environment. But this need is not just unilateral. Spiritual organizations recognize the importance of their workers and in these types of long-term care environments the benefit of fostering a sense of worker security helps reduce worker-management conflict, turnover, and enhances the care, morale, and the general well-being felt about the environment. Therefore, spiritual organizations do not just provide inner levels of personal growth on a psychological level for the workers, but they also derive the benefits from their worker's personal growth as well.     

Key to human development is establishing a sense of purpose and meaning and possibly no other factor in our lives provides use with this sense of purpose than the work that we do. Work in all areas of society has to nurture more than just the base needs for people, but they have to nurture many of those higher level needs that provide us with a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Health care workers, especially due to the close interaction with other human beings that they serve, have a special affinity with the customers they service. Their sense or purpose is tied to more than just the production of widgets, but to the nurturance of other human lives. 

However, this type of work is also very difficult and emotionally draining at times. Therefore, it is important for long-term care organizations to recognize the purposeful importance that long-term care workers derive from their work, yet spiritual organizations also recognize that they need to help promote their worker's feelings of purpose and help guard against those destructive forces that may lead to burnout or stagnation of human growth.    

A long-term care organization that invests in the development of a spiritual organization helps to nurture the fundamental needs that human beings have, which is for personal growth. Workers in all walks of life often identify with the work that they do. It often provides them with a very important piece of their personal identity. 

Long-term care workers are no different. Many individuals who work in long-term care often do so for more than a casual passing. Many workers in long-term care have worked in this area for numerous years and identify with the work that they do as a critical part of their identity. It is because of this that long-term care organizations have to pay greater attention to stroking the important spiritual foundation that helps to provide purpose and meaning for them in their daily lives. Furthermore, as was mentioned, the benefits of developing a culture based on a spiritual organization that targets the internal needs of the worker are not unilateral, but reciprocally come to hold benefits for the organization as well. 

Organizations that infuse their culture with the beliefs in a spiritual workplace come to find that the benefits they sow ultimately lead to greater team cohesion, less turnover, higher levels of morale, less tension between different work groups, a more enjoyable work environment, and workers that have a greater ethic toward the provision of care. Because of this the investment toward achieving a spiritual organization will ultimately lead to a work environment that is more productive and workers that are more satisfied. Such a win-win situation for the organization and the individual need to be further investigated for possible implementation in many of our long-term care facilities. 


someone know who gave the concept of workplace spirituality for the first time and when? Thanks

jawad khan, hrm - student May 22, 2014 7:36 AM
islamabad IT

Dear Mehdi,

Workplace spirituality is somewhat of a new concept in organizational research. However, although it can entail religious features, most of the major elements of workplace spirituality deal with this topic in a more secular manner.  What this means is that workplace spirituality often deals with the meaning and purpose that work holds for a person.  We must remember the the culture of any society also influences the culture of the workplace.  This being said workplace spirituality is often related to how we can construct a work culture and environment that nurtures the needs that people obtain for work.  The work that we do satisfies many needs that people have and workplace spirituality looks to address these needs.  

Regarding methodology for research in this area, probably the best method to target workplace spirituality is through use of interviewing.  This topic does not lend itself as well quantitatively as is does with qualitative research methodology.  

As far as developing an operational problem statement defining the nature of workplace spirituality, there probably is no single best definition.  In doing research you often have to develop your own parameters set forth in the problem statement, make it clear, and make sure your research is directed toward that statement.  I hope this helps.  

Brian December 22, 2008 11:37 AM


I am mehdi sanei, a PHD student in HRM(Human Resource Management) in  IRAN. My phd theses is in organizational spirituality. I have not any clear method for research in “organizational spirituality”. To this time, I don’t present a final define of "organizational spirituality". My first definition is similar to definitions that are presented in literature in "work spirituality" and so on. Present an operational definition for "organizational spirituality" is very difficult for me, because:    

"We live in a religious society that in witch, Islamic beliefs and traditions are very important and employees in organizations are very believable to these Islamic beliefs. There fore, leaders of society and public (even many of private) managers believe that spirituality only comes from Islamic beliefs and traditions and have an important and positive impact on employee performance and finally, on organizational performance. In my PhD theses, I want to breakdown this belief and say that: spirituality in organization not only comes from religious beliefs, but it is in some part, the result of organizational factors and we can manage spirituality in organization. I know that the above sentence was proved in literature. But, traditional managers don’t accept this fact, so I decide to do a research in organizational spirituality in public sector of our traditional and religious society. I am being faced with many serious problems in my research, because managers and even many of university professors believe that in a religious society, we should not do such a research, because spirituality and its components are determined by tradition (Islam). Therefore, we should not attach any things to Islamic spirituality. But I believe that Islamic spirituality and organizational spirituality are in some points similar and in some point different from each other and Islamic spirituality can help to make organizational spirituality(in its western concept).  Therefore, we need to do such research to find out these similarities and different points.

In this regard, my important questions from you are:

1- Do we can actually research in the field of organizational spirituality in a religious society?

2- In a religious society, do we can define organizational spirituality apart from religion and tradition?

3- What are the best research methods for research in the field of organizational spirituality (with special regards to limitations that are in a religious society)?

4- With what method(s), we can measure the impact of organizational spirituality on organizational performance?

5- In a religious society that employment and promotion in it is based on Islamic beliefs and implementing these beliefs in action (not only in saying), many of employees engage in role-playing and show themselves as "a religious man!". With what method(s), we can screen these apparently religious employees from employees that are actually believed to religion?

in IRAN, My access to scientific resources is very limited. Do you can guide and help me to find a scientific method for research? And send me any articles in this subject(organizational spirituality )?

Thanks for your regards.

Mehdi sanei

mehdi sanei, hrm - student December 20, 2008 10:31 AM

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About this Blog

    Brian Garavaglia, PhD
    Occupation: Long-term care administrator
    Setting: Sterling Heights, Mich.
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