The Influence of Spiritual Traditions on the Interplay of Subjective and Normative Interpretations of Meaningful Work

Mai Chi Vu*, Nicholas Burton

*Corresponding author for this work

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7 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper argues that the principles of spiritual traditions provide normative ‘standards of goodness’ within which practitioners evaluate meaningful work. Our comparative study of practitioners in the Buddhist and Quaker traditions provide a fine-grained analysis to illuminate, that meaningfulness is deeply connected to particular tradition-specific philosophical and theological ideas. In the Buddhist tradition, meaningfulness is temporal and rooted in Buddhist principles of non-attachment, impermanence and depending-arising, whereas in the Quaker tradition the Quaker testimonies and theological ideas frame meaningfulness as eternal. Surprisingly, we find that when faced with unethical choices and clashes between organizational normativity and spiritual normativity, Buddhist practitioners acknowledge the temporal character of meaningfulness and compromise their moral values, whereas in contrast Quaker practitioners morally disengage from meaningless work. Our study highlights how normative commitments in different spiritual traditions can influence different levels of adaptability in finding work meaningful and stresses the central importance of normative commitments in meaningful work. Our study concludes with practical implications and future pathways for inter-disciplinary research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543–566
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Early online date4 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022

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