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Moments of meaningfulness and meaninglessness: a qualitative inquiry into affective eudaimonia at work

Martikainen, Suvi Jonna, Kudrna, Laura and Dolan, Paul (2022) Moments of meaningfulness and meaninglessness: a qualitative inquiry into affective eudaimonia at work. Group and Organization Management, 47 (6). 1135 - 1180. ISSN 1059-6011

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Identification Number: 10.1177/10596011211047324


Meaningful work (MW) is an important topic in psychological and organizational research with theoretical and practical implications. Many prior studies have focused on operationalizing MW and distinguish between the attributes of a job that make it meaningful, such as task variety or significance, and the affective experience of meaning during work, such as the feeling that what one does at work is meaningful. However, most empirical research focuses on the former definition and utilizes quantitative scales with deductive questions that omit what people find important in their experiences. To address this, we conduct a qualitative investigation of psychological narratives focusing in-depth on the quality and content of feelings of meaningfulness and meaninglessness during experiences at work—crucially, without any framing around task attributes. We introduce the term affective eudaimonia to describe these experiences. Overall, our results corroborate many existing thematic findings in the MW literature, such as the importance of connecting and contributing to others and avoiding confinement. We also offer new findings: Although the way that people give language to meaningless narratives is more descriptive, vivid, and experiential in tone than meaningful narratives, meaningless narratives are also more structurally static and constrained. We use these results to inform practical suggestions to promote day-to-day experiences of meaning at work and provide a basis for further academic discussion.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2022 15:00
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2024 07:42

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