Experience level: 
Intended Audience: 
Teresa J. Rothausen

Spiritual Wisdom and Meaningful Work: A Theoretical Framework

One driver of inequality and of alienation from work is conceptualizations of work as an individually based economic transaction—the dominant conceptualization today, rather than as a community-connected and psychologically and spiritually meaningful contribution to society. A Spiritual Wisdom Framework is developed which explains the origin of meaningful work within the human person in a temporal, societal, and cultural context, from the perspective of wisdom traditions incorporating spirituality. This framework is developed on a foundation of applied theology, informed by insights from philosophy and adult development literatures. The framework reflects wisdom about the meaning of work arising from an integration of spiritually motivated self-expression and meeting a significant need in the world or addressing a significant issue causing pain for the environment, creatures, or other people. These two primary elements are supported by two additional elements that facilitate meaningfulness in work, a path of personal growth and development over time, and interactive forms of care. Some implications of this framework include that: meaningfulness arises within the human person within their particular location in time, space, and society; meaningfulness in work comes from a deep interiority, often called spirit or soul; work will not be intrinsically meaningful if the team or organization in which the work occurs does not engage with the more meaningful issues of the times, such as environmental sustainability and social justice in our times. Implications for business ethics, leadership, and organization management are discussed.