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Defining spirit at work: finding common ground

Val M. Kinjerski (Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)
Berna J. Skrypnek (Department of Human Ecology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 1 February 2004



Debate over the definition of “spirit at work” continues in both the popular and academic literatures. The lack of a clear, accepted definition has hindered the development of useful measures and has delayed research that would advance our understanding of the conditions/characteristics that influence the experience of spirit at work and the individual and organizational outcomes that result from spirit at work. To obtain a clearer understanding of an individual level construct of spirit at work, an exploratory, qualitative study was conducted. A total of 14 professionals, who not only experienced spirit at work, but whose work also involved researching or promoting spirit at work, participated through face‐to‐face interviews, telephone interviews, or written surveys. Participants were asked about what is spirit at work and then they were asked to describe a personal experience of spirit at work. Although most people had difficulty providing a comprehensive definition for spirit at work, they found it very easy to recall and describe such an experience. These rich descriptions of their personal experiences of spirit at work revealed much consistency in experiences among individuals. Participants’ descriptions revealed that spirit at work is a distinct state that has physical, affective, cognitive, interpersonal, spiritual, and mystical dimensions. This state involves physiological arousal, positive affect, a belief that one's work makes a contribution, a sense of connection to others and common purpose, a sense of connection to something larger than self, and a sense of perfection and transcendence. The usefulness of a clear, comprehensive definition of spirit at work to advancing theory, research, and practice is discussed.



Kinjerski, V.M. and Skrypnek, B.J. (2004), "Defining spirit at work: finding common ground", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 26-42.



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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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