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Can management practices from spiritual traditions improve decision-making in organizations? (SF19/EIS/BURTON)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Perhaps the most-widely used spiritual management practice in secular organizations is mindfulness. Another spiritual tradition that has received attention in management is the distinctive Quaker approach to decision-making (discernment).

Religious and spiritual practices can potentially foster personal transformation for the individual leader and improve various financial and non-financial organizational outcomes. Despite increasing scholarly interest in the use of these practices by secular leaders, management contexts characterized by uncertainty and technological change pose non-trivial challenges to how leaders of groups/teams use such practices, and ultimately to how organizations are envisioned and led. For example, the McMindfulness phenomenon fails to position and conceptualize mindfulness practices adequately and is problematic.

The spiritual practice literature is dominated by studies that analyse individual leaders in corporate contexts, and the interaction between individual practice and organizational outcomes. There exists an empirical vacuum at the level of the group/team - somewhat surprising given that most organizations are structured as departments, teams, groups or project teams. How practices such as mindfulness or discernment are perceived and experienced by groups/teams in organizational settings remains unexplored.

Thus, this PhD seeks to examine:
• How do groups/team understand and experience religious and spiritual management practices?
• To what extent are such practices perceived by the group/team to change organizational decisions?

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF19/…) will not be considered.

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers.

Funding Notes

Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend.


Recent publications by supervisors relevant to this project:

Muers, R., & Burton, N. (2018), Can We Take the Religion out of Religious Decision-Making? The Case of Quaker Business Method, Philosophy of Management. 1-12

Burton, N., Koning, J., and Muers, R. (2018). Organisational ethnography and religious organisations: the case of Quaker decision-making practice, Journal of Management, Spirituality & Religion, 15(4), 349-367.

Burton, N. (2018). Template analysis: a perspective on management history, Qualitative Research in Organisations and Management

Burton, N., & Turnbull, R. (eds), (2018, forthcoming), Quakers and responsible business: lessons and cases in Corporate Social Responsibility, Springer Press.

Burton, N. (2017). The Quaker Business Method, past, present & future, in Dandelion, & Angell, S (Eds), Quakers, Business & Technology, Friends Association in Higher Education, United States.

Burton, N., & Hope, A. (2018), What can we learn from the Quakers? in Ross, D (ed), Quakers, Politics and Economics, Friends Association of Higher Education, United States

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