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Most organizations nowadays have the required resources and should offer an appropriate culture to provide each employee with the opportunity and context to develop the feeling of meaningful work. The managers and organizational leaders should be the first to recognize and perceive the work they do as being important. In this article, we examine the current development of the study of the nature, causes, and consequences of meaningful work, and we offer ideas of research opportunities regarding the interface of organizational perspectives on performing and providing meaningful work.
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Studies in Business and Economics no. 12(2)/2017
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DOI 10.1515/sbe-2017-0020
GRAMA Blanca
Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania
Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania
Most organizations nowadays have the required resources and should offer an
appropriate culture to provide each employee with the opportunity and context to develop the
feeling of meaningful work. The managers and organizational leaders should be the first to
recognize and perceive the work they do as being important. In this article, we examine the
current development of the study of the nature, causes, and consequences of meaningful work,
and we offer ideas of research opportunities regarding the interface of organizational
perspectives on performing and providing meaningful work.
Key words: meaningful work, convincing, productive, dedicated, work motivation, job
1. Introduction
Meaningful work refers to the perception that the job role and responsibilities
are noteworthy, valuable and serve some purpose; it is basically the evaluation of the
individual about the work, its purposefulness and importance (Ahmed et. al. 2016,
Rosso, Dekas & Wrzesniewski, 2010). Rosso et al. (2010) posit “the fact that work has
a particular meaning does not necessarily determine that it is meaningful”, elaborating
on this observation by noting “meaningfulness refers to the amount of significance
something holds for an individual.’’ This is because they should be the first to
implement the necessary changes before expecting change from the rest of the
organization and the staff (Chalofsky & Krishna, 2009). The aim of this change is
developing a deep-seated interest for the activity at the work place, based on the
satisfaction of the person for the work itself and their perception of how well they can
do the job. All these lead to devoting oneself to higher levels of motivation and to
perceiving work as meaningful. The research on the concept of meaningful work is
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accelerating due to the fact that organizational scientists have realized that meaningful
work can potentially induce more convincing, productive and dedicated workforce
(Setger & Dik, 2009).
2. Overview of the concept
Meaningful work is generally defined as the value of work goals seen in
relation to an individual’s own ideals and passions, and, specifically, as work that
“gives essence to what we do and brings fulfillment to our lives” (Chalofsky, 2003, p.
Bailey & Madden (2015) defined the meaningful work as arising “ when an
individual perceives an authentic connection between their work and a broader
transcendent life purpose beyond the self”.
Moreover, meaningful work represents the clear understanding and grasp of
the purpose, sense, value, direction, logic and justification of the work performed by an
individual (Chalofsky & Krishna, 2009). The literature on the construct has underlined
its importance in predicting critical employee outcomes such as work motivation, job
satisfaction, and organizational commitment (Chalofsky & Krishna, 2009; Littman-
Ovadia & Steger, 2010; Arnold et al., 2007; Steger, Dik & Duffy, 2012). Moreover, a
wide range of studies have analyzed the concept in relation to the general well-being
factors such as intrinsic motivation, organizational citizenship behavior, satisfaction
with life (Steger, Dik, & Duffy, 2012; Littman-Ovadia & Steger, 2010), and
organizational ethics (Michaelson et al., 2014).
The concept of meaningful work has been of significance for organizational
scientists since the mid 20th century, when numerous studies were aimed at exploring
the significance of work for people. Moreover, research on work motivation (Gagné &
Deci, 2005) has also outlined that when people view the work to be meaningful, it
enhances their value and contribution respectively. People who feel their work is
meaningful report greater well-being (Arnold et al., 2007), view their work as more
central and important (Harpaz & Fu, 2002), and report greater job satisfaction (e.g.,
Kamdron, 2005). People who feel their work serves a higher purpose also report
greater job satisfaction and work unit cohesion (Sparks & Schenk, 2001).
Asik-Dizdar and Esen (2016) have critically considered outlining how sense-
making is important and have shown that when individuals make sense of their work
and see their work to be meaningful, it enhances their work well-being and
performance. (Ahmed et al. 2016). Michaelson et al., 2014, has examined job crafting
and attempts to build a community via the management or creation of specific types of
organizational cultures, ideologies, or identities.
The factors required for developing the feeling of meaningful work could be
described as perceiving the self as a whole, which means that the person feels
complete, has a self awareness on an emotional and spiritual level and recognizes and
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develops their potential. Moreover, the work itself must be perceived in a certain
manner – including attributes such as the ability to perform the work, creativity,
learning, continuous development, performance, autonomy and control over own work
(Chalofsky & Krishna, 2009). In addition to these, the feeling of balance is,
nonetheless, required; this implies stability, harmony between work and personal life,
between the working self and the personal self. None of these factors can exist by itself
and none is more important than the others. The concept of meaningful work requires
the synergy between all the elements above (Chalofsky & Krishna, 2009).
The most comprehensive model of meaningful work stemmed from the
business and management fields. Lips-Wiersma (2002) developed her initial model
based on findings from a qualitative research study exploring work meanings of 16
spiritually oriented people. The model was subsequently refined through additional
research including a large-scale action-research project spanning six years across five
Western countries (Lips-Wiersma & Morris, 2009). Their holistic model of meaningful
work proposes four sources of meaningful work: 1) Self-developing and becoming, 2)
Unity with others, 3) Expressing full potential, and 4) Serving others. Meaningful work
arises from a combination of these four sources and also requires a balance or
harmony among them. For example, if an individual serves the others to the point of
damaging his or her own well-being, the sense of meaningfulness declines. Moreover,
participants experienced the strongest sense of coherence of their meaningfulness
experience when they could see all four sources of meaning in a full, comprehensive
Figure 1: The Four Elements of the Meaningfulness Ecosystem
(Apud Bailey&Madden, 2016)
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Based on our interviews and a wider reading of the literature on
meaningfulness, Bailey&Madden, 2016, present (fig.1) the four elements that
organizations can address that will help foster an integrated sense of holistic
meaningfulness for individual employees. Building an ecosystem that is conductive to
meaningfulness makes sense in the post-crash era with is focus on values beyond the
profit motive. Organizations that succeed in this are more likely to attract retain and
motivate the employees and to create workplaces where human beings can thrive
(Bailey&Madden, 2016).
The study of Arnod and his collaborators (2007) is a typical example of the fact
that the perception of an individual is important in declaring that one’s work is
meaningful and valuable. The study shows that the effects that a transformational
leader has over the well-being and satisfacton of the employees are indirect, because
the influence that is exerted over the employees stems from the concept of meaninful
work from both social and personal perspective. A manner of conceptualization and
practical illustration of meaninful work is, actually, the finding of significance and
reason in the work performed by the individual. This may lead to considering that the
typically humanistic values have a significant influence over the probability of finding
meaning in the activity on the job, in the day-to-day work. In the same context, it
seems that most of the understandings and conceptualizations of meaninful work stem
from the physical and pshychological well-being and are emotions that can be more
transitory than the level of wellbeing, and, unfortunately, there are too many potential
influences that have a positive or negative effect on them.
This theme has received a great focus especially in the past decade, as many
of the current articles aim to study transformational leadership, which clearly
demonstrates the positive effects over motivation and performance. Arnold et al.
(2007) have shown in the two studies that investigated the relationship between this
type of leadership and the psychological well-being, that the effects of the influence of
the transformational leader over the employees take place, at least in this case,
through a psychological mechanism. In a nutshell, the employees of an organization
that work under the coordination of a transformational leader will benefit from the
feeling and experience of meaninful work, with great personal, social and professional
significance this is, in itself, the mechanism that leads to the effect of this type of
leadership, which is psychological well-being. Arnold et al.(2007), have focused their
interest on a study that measured well-being with reference to experiencing positive
emotions, and, in the general context of the concept, the general well-being and mental
health of the employees. Their conclusion was that the perception of the employees
that their work is significant on a professional and personal level (“meaningful work”) is
one of the reasons for the manner in which the subordinates of a transformational
leader reach a psychological state of well-being and satisfaction in life.
Therefore, the perception according to which work is meaningful plays an
important role in the full understanding of this positive relationship between
transformational leadership and psychological well-being. The results of the Keller
study (2006) underline the connection between the charismatic leadership and team
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performance. All these lead to the conclusion that the main charactersitic of a
transformational leader, which is charisma, is a character trait with a substantial effect
on group performance; work teams are highly influenced by this characteristic and can
rise beyond the personal level of professional expectancy. In a study by Steger & Co
(2012), the individuals that scored average and high on the survey measuring
meaningful work have also reached high scores in other evaluations that measured
concepts such as: well-being, personal satisfaction, intent of leaving the organization,
personal motivation, absenteeism and organizational involvement. The perception of
an individual according to which own work is meaningful and valuable form a social
and personal point of view leads to an increased satisfaction at the workplace and a
strong engagement in the organization.
Steger et al., (2012) examined the employees working in a university in the
United States. The study found that individuals that perceived work to be meaningful
scored significantly high in work engagement; the study concluded that employees
sensing meaningfulness with work is of critical nature especially when it comes to
fostering their well-being at work. Fairlie (2011a) in his study on employees from a
company in North America has highlighted that meaningful work predicted work
engagement more than any other employee outcomes. Ahmed (2016) refers to Oliver
and Rothmann (2007), who examined employees working in a MNC in South Africa.
The study found that meaningful work is an important job resource in accordance to
the resource theory (Hobfoll, 2001) and a significant indicator of work engagement.
The authors suggested that meaningful work can have a varied impact on employees`
well-being at work, through which they can maintain high work connectivity. Moreover,
Stringer and Broverie (2007) have also reported similar findings. Rothmann and Buys
(2011) have also reached the conclusion that meaningful work can influence work
engagement. The authors reported significant work engagement amongst the
employees who reported higher meaningfulness in their work. A current study by
Ahmed et. al. proposes that meaningful work can be of acute importance particularly
for predicting work engagement (Ahmed et. al. 2016). More importantly, the study of
Ahmed, 2016, considers the recommendations of past researchers and encourages
further research regarding the relation between meaningful work and work
Lips-Wiersma 2016, analyzed the importance of meaningful work and
determined the frequency by which it is experienced in blue-, pink-, and white-collar
occupations. The authors’ data suggests that white-collar workers placed more
importance than blue-collar workers on expressing full potential and serving others.
The frequency of experiencing meaningful work differed across the three groups with
white-collar workers experiencing higher levels of unity with others, expressing full
potential, and serving others; however no significant differences were found for
developing the inner self.
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3. Conclusions
We can, therefore, conclude that meaningful work defines the way in which a
person balances their activity at the workplace and their personal life and not the
importance of work for which an individual receives a salary. Balance, harmony and
synergy of purposes, values, relationships and activities that we perform daily, as well
as the things that we perform with responsibility and involvement matter the most and
are the only ones that can develop and define what is called meaningful work. Thus,
meaningful work refers to the degree in which a person sees their own work as being
significant, important for themselves and the society; meaningful work is a fundamental
human need. Moreover, it represents the clear knowledge and understanding of the
purpose, intention, value, direction and logic behind the work of the individual
(Chalofsky & Krishna, 2009). Recently and as a result of the more recent focus on the
subjective aspects of meaningful work, effort has been made to more carefully focus
on measuring the experience of meaningful work per se, as opposed to the conditions
from which meaningful work arise (Lips-Wiersma 2016).
4. References
Ahmed, U., Majid, A.B., Zin, M.L.M. (2016). Meaningful Work and Work Engagement: A
Relationship Demanding Urgent Attention. International Journal of Academic Research
in Business and Social Sciences, 6 (8), 116-122.
Arnold, K. A., Turner, N., Barling, J., Kelloway, E. K., & McKee, M. C. (2007). Transformational
leadership and psychological well-being: The mediating role of meaningful work.
Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 193–203.
Asik-Dizdar, O., & Esen, A. (2016). Sensemaking at work: meaningful work experience for
individuals and organizations. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 24(1), 2-
Bailey, C., Madden, A. (2015). Time reclaimed: temporality and meaningful work. Work,
Employment and Society. 2.
Bailey, C., Madden, A. (2016). What makes work meaningful – or meaningless? MIT Sloan
Management Review, 57 (4).
Chalofsky, N. (2003). An emerging construct for meaningful work. Human Resource
Development International, 6, 69–83.
Chalofsky, N., & Krishna, V. (2009). Meaningfulness, commitment, and engagement: The
intersection of a deeper level of intrinsic motivation. Advances in Developing Human
Resources, 11(2), 189-203.
Fairlie, P. (2011a). Meaningful Work, Employee Engagement, and Other Key Employee
Outcomes: Implications for Human Resource Development. Advances in Developing
Human Resources, 13(4), 508-525.
Gagné, M., & Deci, E. L. (2005). Selfdetermination theory and work motivation. Journal of
Organizational Behavior, 26(4), 331-362.
Harpaz, I., & Fu, X. (2002). The structure of the meaning of work: A relative stability amidst
change. Human Relations, 55, 639–667.
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Hobfoll, S. E. (2001). The influence of culture, community, and the nestedself in the stress
process: advancing conservation of resources theory. Applied Psychology, 50(3), 337-
Kamdron, T. (2005). Work motivation and job satisfaction of Estonian higher officials.
International Journal of Public Administration, 28, 1211–1240.
Keller, R.T. (2006). Transformational leadership, initiating structure, and substitutes for
leadership: A longitudinal study of research and development project team
performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 202–210.
Littman-Ovadia, H., & Steger, M.F. (2010). Character strengths and well-being among volunteers
and employees: towards an integrative model. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 419-
Lips-Wiersma, M. (2002). Analysing the career concerns of spiritually oriented people: lessons
for contemporary organizations. Career Development International, 7(7), 385-397.
Lips-Wiersma, M., Morris, L. (2009). Discriminating between meaningful work and the
management of meaning. Journal of business ethics, 88, 491-511.
Lips-Wiersma, M., Wright S., Dik, B. (2016). Meaningful work: differences among blue-, pink-,
and white-collar occupations. Career development International. 21 (5), 1-18.
Michaelson, C., Grant, A., Pratt, M. G., Dunn, C. P. (2014). Meaningful work: connecting
business ethics and organization studies. J Bus Ethics, 121:77-90
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company. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 33(3), 49-56.
Rosso, B.D, Dekas, K.H., Wrzesniewski, A. (2010) On the meaning of work: A theoretical
integration and review . Research in Organizational Behavior 30. 91-127.
Rothmann, S., & Buys, C. (2011). Job demands and resources, psychological conditions,
religious coping and work engagement of reformed church ministers. Journal of
psychology in Africa, 21(2), 173-183.
Sparks, J. R., & Schenk, J. A. (2001). Explaining the effects of transformational leadership: An
investigation of the effects of higher-order motives in multilevel marketing organizations.
Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22, 849–869.
Steger, M. F., & Dik, B. J. (2009). If one is looking for meaning in life, does it help to find
meaning in work? Applied Psychology: Health and WellBeing, 1(3), 303-320.
Steger, M. F., Dik, B. J., & Duffy, R. D. (2012). Measuring meaningful work: The work and
meaning inventory (WAMI). Journal of Career Assessment, 00 (0) 1-16.
Stringer, C., & Boverie, P. (2007). The role of meaning in work: A study of the transformational
power of meaningful work. Transformative Learning: Issues of Difference and Diversity,
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... İnsanlar için işin önemini ortaya koymayı amaçlayan çok sayıda araştırma yürütülmüş ve yürütülmeye devam edilmektedir. Zamanla işin anlamlılığı konusunun gittikçe önem kazanmaya ve ilgi toplamaya başladığı görülmektedir (Grama ve Todericiu, 2017). İşin anlamlı olarak algılanmasının ve bir motivasyon aracına dönüşmesinin en çok STK'lar için önemli olduğu ifade edilmektedir. ...
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... Physically and psychologically, people want to a live meaningful life (Michaelson et al., 2014). Within the organizational context, work becomes meaningful when the individual believes that his or her work is driven by a clear purpose and effectively contributes to the betterment of the organization (Rosso et al., 2010) Simply, employees tend to believe that the tasks, duties, and responsibilities that they perform are remarkable and valuable (Blanca, et al., 2017). Though there is a meaning in each job, it does not mean it is meaningful (Rosso et al., 2010). ...
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Kazakhstan's public sector has changed rapidly since the country gained independence and in 2016 there were 90,730 employees in this sector. The present study examined the influence of growth opportunity, supportive management and meaningful work towards turnover intention among Generation Y Employees in the Public Sector in Astana, Kazakhstan. This was a quantitative research that used a survey method. Data was collected from a sample of 211 Gen Y employees in the public sector in Astana, Kazakhstan. The findings revealed that meaningful work and supportive management had a significant impact on turnover intention. However, the results revealed that growth opportunity had an insignificant relationship towards the turnover intention. The findings supported the results from some earlier studies and bring out several new ideas such as the importance of supportive management. The findings have significantly contributed to the advancement of knowledge in the turnover intention of public sector employees. As for practical implication, the significant and positive impact of supportive management and meaningful work suggests the importance of these factors in retention of Gen Y employees. It is recommended that organizations implement policies to support meaningful work and supportive management policies and practices. The results of this study will add to the current body of knowledge. The paper's primary contribution is that it provides an understanding that supportive management and meaningful work have an impact on reducing the turnover intention of Gen Y employees in Astana, Kazakhstan.
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to compare the importance currently placed on meaningful work (MFW), and determine the frequency by which it is experienced in blue-, pink-, and white-collar occupations. Design/methodology/approachs Using the comprehensive meaningful work scale (Lips-Wiersma and Wright, 2012) with 1,683 workers across two studies, ANOVAs were conducted to examine differences in dimensions of MFW. Findings While unity with others and developing the inner self were regarded as equally important for white-, blue-, and pink-collar workers, the authors data suggest that white-collar workers placed more importance on expressing full potential and serving others than blue-collar workers. The frequency of experiencing MFW differed across the three groups with white-collar workers experiencing higher levels of unity with others, expressing full potential, and serving others; however no mean differences were found for developing the inner self. Originality/value This study is the first to empirically investigate an oft-discussed but previously untested question: does the experience of MFW differ across white-, blue-, and pink-collar jobs?
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In the human quest for meaning, work occupies a central position. Most adults spend the majority of their waking hours at work, which often serves as a primary source of purpose, belongingness, and identity. In light of these benefits to employees and their organizations, organizational scholars are increasingly interested in understanding the factors that contribute to meaningful work, such as the design of jobs, interpersonal relationships, and organizational missions and cultures. In a separate line of inquiry, scholars of business ethics have examined meaningful work as a moral issue concerning the management of others and ourselves, exploring whether there are definable characteristics of meaningful work to which we have moral rights, and whether there are moral duties to ourselves and others to fulfill those rights. In this article, we examine contemporary developments in both disciplines about the nature, causes, and consequences of meaningful work; we explore linkages between these disciplines; and we offer conclusions and research opportunities regarding the interface of ethical and organizational perspectives on performing and providing meaningful work.
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Many people desire work that is meaningful. However, research in this area has attracted diverse ideas about meaningful work (MW), accompanied by an equally disparate collection of ways of assessing MW. To further advance study in this area, the authors propose a multidimensional model of work as a subjectively meaningful experience consisting of experiencing positive meaning in work, sensing that work is a key avenue for making meaning, and perceiving one’s work to benefit some greater good. The development of a scale to measure these dimensions is described, an initial appraisal of the reliability and construct validity of the instrument’s scores is reported using a sample of university employees (N = 370) representing diverse occupations. MW scores correlated in predicted ways with work-related and general well-being indices, and accounted for unique variance beyond common predictors of job satisfaction, days reported absent from work, and life satisfaction. The authors discuss ways in which this conceptual model provides advantages to scholars, counselors, and organizations interested in fostering MW.
Meaningful work is something we all want. The psychiatrist Viktor Frankl famously described how the innate human quest for meaning is so strong that, even in the direst circumstances, people seek out their purpose in life.1 More recently, researchers have shown meaningfulness to be more important to employees than any other aspect of work, including pay and rewards, opportunities for 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. We interviewed 135 people working in 10 very different occupations and asked them to tell us stories about incidents or times when they found their work to be meaningful and, conversely, times when they asked themselves, “What’s the point of doing this job?” We expected to find that meaningfulness would be similar to other work-related attitudes, such as engagement or commitment, in that it would arise purely in response to situations within the work environment. However, we found that, unlike these other attitudes, meaningfulness tended to be intensely personal and individual; it was often revealed to employees as they reflected on their work and its wider contribution to society in ways that mattered to them as individuals. People tended to speak of their work as meaningful in relation to thoughts or memories of significant family members such as parents or children, bridging the gap between work and the personal realm. We also expected meaningfulness to be a relatively enduring state of mind experienced by individuals toward their work; instead, our interviewees talked of unplanned or unexpected moments during which they found their work deeply meaningful.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to take a closer look at the concept of meaningful work experience for individuals and organizations, and discuss the role of sensemaking in creating it. Design/methodology/approach – The main argument of the paper is that sensemaking efforts are among the fundamental tools that help create meaningful work experience for both individuals and organizations. The paper offers a conceptual framework that presents the interplay between sensemaking tools and enabling mechanisms in relation to internal and external organizational environments. Findings – It is proposed that job crafting is a sensemaking tool – enabled by empowerment – for individuals to make sense of the internal environment of the organization; and strategy crafting is a sensemaking tool – enabled by organizational learning – for organizations to make sense of the external environment of the organization. Originality/value – This paper attempts to converge micro- and macro-level concepts by bringing together individual- and organizational-level variables into a joint discussion. It places job crafting and strategy crafting in the context of sensemaking theory, and it reinforces the idea of proposing models that will consider the multi-level implications of organizational research.
The importance of meaningful work has been identified in scholarly writings across a range of disciplines. However, empirical studies remain sparse and the potential relevance of the concept of temporality, hitherto somewhat neglected even in wider sociological studies of organisations, has not been considered in terms of the light that it can shed on the experience of work as meaningful. These two disparate bodies of thought are brought together to generate new accounts of work meaningfulness through the lens of temporality. Findings from a qualitative study of workers in three occupations with ostensibly distinct temporal landscapes are reported. All jobs had the potential to be both meaningful and meaningless; meaningfulness arose episodically through work experiences that were shared, autonomous and temporally complex. Schutz’s notion of the ‘vivid present’ emerged as relevant to understanding how work is rendered meaningful within an individual’s personal and social system of relevances.
This study investigated the relation between job demands and resources, psychological conditions, religious coping and work engagement of Reformed Church ministers. A cross-sectional survey design was used. Participants were 115 Reformed Church ministers (age range = 25 to 65, Afrikaans and males = 115). They completed the Job Demands Resources Questionnaire, Psychological Conditions Questionnaire, Work Engagement Scale and Religious Coping Questionnaire. Data were analyzed using multiple regression analyses. The results of this study suggest that psychological availability and psychological meaningfulness were strong predictors of work engagement. Psychological meaningfulness was best explained by the perceived intrinsic nature of the Job. Psychological availability was best explained by low pace/amount of work, social support, autonomy, and religious coping. High emotional demands, congregational and social support, religious coping and psychological availability were statistically significant predictors of work engagement. Psychological meaningfulness mediated the relation between the intrinsic nature of the job and work engagement.
This literature review addresses the state of research concerning the concept of the meaningful work. This inquiry built on the theoretical foundation of the content motivation theorists, but focused on what the recent research informs us about meaning of work as a motivational construct. Three themes emerged - sense of self, the work itself and sense of balance - that became subsets for the concluding term of integrated wholeness.