Work organizations as secular religions

Blake E. Ashforth, Deepa Vaidyanath

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


The authors argue that the secular and the sacred should be viewed not as mutually exclusive but as interpenetrated. As the conventional anchors for spiritual strivings loosen their grip, many work organizations appear increasingly willing to play the role of secular religion. Secular religions offer transcendence through edifying cosmologies that address fundamental questions about identity and meaning, without necessarily invoking a supernatural power. Normative controls are used to instill faith in the often distant ends of the organization and to sacralize the means through which the ends are pursued. Founders may become deities of sorts; key insiders may become clergy; jobs, callings; institutionalized processes, rituals; and failings, sins. However, because a secular religion is only a claim to a system of meaning, it should inspire not only wonder but wariness. The authors conclude that a certain ironic distance from such a religion may be healthy for the individual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-370+443-444
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Work organizations as secular religions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this