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Don gratuit, spiritualité au travail, sens au travail : trois théories pour un management non instrumental du travail

Abstract : Although scholars have long recognized the human need to experience work as a meaningful experience (Maslow, 1964, 1998), they have not yet developed a theoretically sound framework to address management and spirituality at work. The logics of rationality and instrumentality dominate management theories and are based on a reductionist understanding of work. In so far as spirituality is dealt with the management literature, the discussion tends to oscillate between instrumental analyses of spirituality and meaning at work on the one hand, and denunciations of these risks of instrumentalization on the other hand. This article takes a different approach by opening the frame of reference to include non-instrumental logics. It can therefore be considered a contribution to the emerging field of "diverse economies" (Gibson-Graham, 2008). The first non-instrumental logic explored here is the theory of the gratuitous gift. It differs from the logic of gift exchange (Blau, 1964; Caillé et Godbout, 1992; Balkin et Richebé, 2007), which is based on an underlying expectation of reciprocity, even if there is a taboo on calculating the value of the gift, and timing and content of the counter-gift are uncertain. By contrast, the concept of the gratuitous or existential gift is rooted in an altruistic logic (e.g., Kolm, 1981). It is rooted in the human need to give without calculating, leaving the recipient free to accept the gift or not (Frémeaux et Michelson, 2011). A second non-instrumental logic is to be found in theories of spirituality at work. Scholars have identified a broad range of characteristics associated with spirituality, such as personal experience, a feeling of connection, a sense of serving and participating in humanity (e.g., Mitroff, 2003). We retain two principal elements relating work and spirituality: work can enable people to connect with others and with something greater than themselves. Third, theories related to the meaning of work are also non-instrumental in nature. Scholars in this field note that "meaningful work" does not depend entirely on management or external conditions (Nozick, 1974). They position individuals as capable of creating meaning and making sense of their work for themselves in all walks of life, at all levels of organization (Michaelson, 2005, Weick, 1995). We highlight the convergence between these three approaches and identify four similar dimensions: personal development, relations with others, service to others, and humanist ideals. The model reveals the avenues open to management in this context, after specifying that the management of spirituality is risky, just as the management of the gratuitous gift is unconceivable, and management control of sensemaking at work is a counterproductive illusion. We offer a way out of the problem of "dehydrated" management (Adler, 2010) by suggesting that taking a spiritual approach can become a source for transforming management into the intentional pursuit of creating the collective conditions for freedom of development, quality relations, service to others, and the realization of humanist ideals.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 10:58:38 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, December 13, 2016 - 4:18:45 PM

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Ariane Berthoin Antal, Sandrine Frémeaux. Don gratuit, spiritualité au travail, sens au travail : trois théories pour un management non instrumental du travail. RIMHE : Revue Interdisciplinaire Management, Homme(s) & Entreprise, Association pour la recherche interdisciplinaire sur le management des entreprises, 2013, pp.3-18. ⟨10.3917/rimhe.008.0003⟩. ⟨hal-00994240⟩

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