The impact of spirituality on the work of organization development consulting practice

Abstract
The purpose of this study was to learn how spiritual attitudes and beliefs impact the work of external organization consultants. The growing interest in spirituality in the workplace and in organization development (OD) are the background for this study. The twelve participants were women and men from different racial and religious backgrounds, including African-Americans, Asians, Latino/as, South African white males, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, and those with no religious affiliation. This study reviewed two distinct literatures: spirituality/religion and organization development. Participants discussed their definition of spirituality, how they arrived at their beliefs, and how their attitudes affect their consulting work in in-depth phenomenological interviews. The analysis of the interviews revealed the following themes: (1) participants made a clear distinction between spirituality and religion; (2) participants described spirituality in terms of universal principles such as unity, interconnectedness, love, compassion, energy and intuition; (3) participants described spirituality as a personal experience involving action, service and requiring self-awareness; (4) spiritually-oriented participants experienced life's events as inter-connected lessons and applied this understanding in their consulting work; (5) balance and detachment are important but difficult to maintain in stressful consulting work; (6) participants used their attitudes and actions as tools for consulting work, including the use of intuition; (7) participants maintained their spiritual orientation through practices such as yoga, meditation, and understanding of the Chakra system. This study highlights the difference between spirituality and religion, points out the complexities of openly discussing spirituality in OD, and stresses the need to address issues of religious freedom in the workplace.
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