Cross Cultural Management: AnInternational JournalVol. 15 No. 1, 2008pp. 5-19
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Islamic work ethic: a criticalreview
Abbas J. Ali
School of International Management, Eberly College of Business and Information Technology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA, and
Kuwait University, Safat, Kuwait
– The purpose of this paper is to present a coherent but critical treatment of Islamic workethic (IWE). It explores the nature of IWE in the context of cultural and political evolution and offersa cultural and religious perspective pertaining to organization and management.
– It briefly investigates the economic and cultural conditions thatfacilitate the emergence of work ethics and the centrality of trade in Islamic culture. The paper, then,reviews the pillars and foundations of IWE and investigates various empirical studies conducted invarious countries.
– IWE has economic as well as moral and social dimensions. These along with basicelements of IWE seem to provide the faithful with a sense of worthiness and strengthenorganizational commitment and continuity. That is, work is viewed not as an end in itself, but as ameans to foster personal growth and social relations.
– Offers managers and consults various avenues on how to designteamwork and new methods of change that focus on producing results which reinforce existingcommitment and enthusiasm. As justice and generosity in the workplace are considered virtues,issues of a hiring and firing become part of a broader concern with consequences far beyond theorganization.
– IWE is a multidimensional concept. It links an organization’s prosperity andcontinuity to societal welfare. Its four elements – effort, competition, transparency and morallyresponsible conduct – have the promise to strengthen commerce and economic progress in today’sworld.
Work ethic, Islam, Culture, Managers, Motivation (psychology)
Researchers have frequently attributed the rise and evolution of work ethics tochanging economic and religious environments in the Western world. Theseresearchers claim that economic expansion in Europe and later in the USA created newforms of economic enterprises and subsequently changed the nature and meaning of work. Zuboff (1983) argued that as industrial capitalism emerged in the 18th centuryemployees faced the demands of new work and asked themselves why they should doit. Zuboff indicated that the answer came from the employers rather than fromemployees. Employers sought a theory of productive behavior which offered thepromise of engaging the spirit as well as the body of the worker. He argued that theconceptualization of work ethic was necessary to ease the management of the newlyinventedwork organization.
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The author wishes to thank Professor Helen T. Bailie for her comments on an earlier version of this paper.