For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"What makes work meaningful—Or meaningless"

by Bailey, Catherine; Madden, Adrian (2016)


Meaningful work is something we all want. The philosopher Victor Frankl famously described how the innate human quest for meaning is so strong that, even in the direst of circumstances, people seek out their purpose in life. More recently, researchers have shown meaningfulness to be more important to employees than any other aspect of work, including pay and rewards, promotion or working conditions. Meaningful work can be highly motivational, leading to improved performance, commitment and satisfaction. But, so far, surprisingly little research has explored where and how people find their work meaningful, and the role that leaders can play in this process. .

Key Passage

Finding your work meaningful is an experience that reaches beyond the workplace and into the realms of the individual’s wider personal life. It can be a very profound, moving and even uncomfortable experience. It arises rarely and often in unexpected ways; it gives people pause for thought not just concerning work, but what life itself is all about. In experiencing our work as meaningful, we cease to be workers or employees and become human beings, reaching out in a bond of common humanity to others. For organizations seeking to “manage meaningfulness” the ethical and moral responsibility is very great, since in trying to manage individuals’ experiences of meaningfulness, we are stepping over the boundary between work and personal life. Yet the benefits for individuals and organizations that accrue from meaningful workplaces can be immense. Building an ecosystem that is conducive to meaningfulness makes sense in the post-crash era with its focus on values beyond the profit motive. Organizations that succeed in this are more likely to attract, retain and motivate the employees they need to build sustainably for the future, and to create the kind of workplaces where human beings can thrive. (p.14)


Meanfinfull Work, Working Conditions, Worker Satisfaction, Worker Happiness


Meaningful Work

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