Respecting Spiritual Identity at Work: A 21st Century Cultural Viewpoint
Globalisation today is the omen of cheaper air fares, hence the growth in the movements of different people across the world in pursuit of a better life. Workforces are now rich with those of multiple spiritual and cultural identities, topics that still remain an enigma. Although research evidence suggests that spirituality is no longer taboo in academe, strong cultural norms consider issues of spirituality to be a private matter both in and outside of the workplace. Hitherto, what are the implications of multiple spiritual and cultural identities for those working in multicultural-teams in businesses operating in Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) climates? This paper aims to answer this question, by exploring the concept of spiritual identity vis-à-vis culture. It draws on a study of cultural meanings of respect for multidisciplinary final-year undergraduate business students as future business cadre, enrolled at a London-based university with learners who reflect world nationalities. These students were required to work in culturally-diverse teams of 4-6 individuals of spiritual difference to identify real business solutions. The findings focused on group dynamics and processes, collated via focus group discussions of emerging shared-stories of respect and disrespect. Verbal and non-verbal data were analysed from audio-visual recordings of the focus-group conversations. The analysis revealed a need for leaders today to understand and respect the spiritual identities of their culturally diverse workers. And that respect is often taken for granted and can be perceived as disrespect in another culture, hence little understanding of its true meaning for those of difference. When disrespect occurred it was interpreted as intentional leading to conflict. This process unearthed cultural meanings of respect that addressed misinterpretations, fostering team-harmony, improving learning outcomes and performance. This paper considers the implications of promoting awareness of cultural respect for enhancing business sustainability, adding to diversity debates today.