'The Prayer Factory': spirituality at work, and the paradoxes of performativity, monoculturalism and dissent.
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Recent years have witnessed a significant growth of academic and practitioner interest in ‘spirituality’ within the workplace, and in particular in spirituality management and leadership development. This paper argues that the literature in the area is replete with unresolved paradoxes. These revolve around how spirituality is defined, with advocates variously stressing its religious dimensions, usually from a Christian perspective, and others articulating a more secular approach focusing on nondenominational humanistic values. Additionally, much of the literature stresses the value of spirituality as an aid to increasing productivity and profits. Thus, spiritual means are attached to performative ends, even as its advocates stress its emancipatory intent. In exploring these contradictions, this paper argues that, despite asserting the opposite intention, spirituality management approaches seek to abolish the distinction between people’s work based lives on the one hand, and their personal lives and value systems on the other. Influence is conceived in uni-directional terms: it flows from ‘spiritual’ managers to more or less compliant staff, deemed to be in need of enlightenment, rather than vice versa. It is therefore argued that, despite the emancipatory rhetoric in which much spirituality discourse is couched, it promotes constricting cultural and behavioural norms, and thereby seeks to reinforce managerial power at the expense of individual autonomy. The implications for the management of culture, and such issues as conformity and dissent, are considered.