Terminology Method Findings Framing * this is where I need help!
I think meaning comes from ourselves, what level of importance we attach to something. Heres an outrageous example: on Big Project doing the door hardware was huge, it was really meaningful, somebody had to do it and I did it… Im going to make it important because I have ten thousand doors to do. So you can make it meaningful. Somebody who is doing toilet details: youve gotta assign some level of meaning to it, otherwise youre just a robot (Senior Vice President in Architecture Firm).
Meaning of Work: The degree of connection between ones self- concept and elements of the work context that can potentially provide significance, purpose and fulfilment to the employee (Baumeister & Vohs, 2002; Pratt & Ashforth, 2003; Vough, 2006). Meaningfulness: The degree to which the individual experiences the job as one which is generally meaningful, valuable, and worthwhile (Hackman & Oldham, 1976: 256) Findings here: Meaningfulness through competence and contribution
How do employees construct/reconstruct the meaning of their work? What are common obstacles that prompt the meaning-construction process?
Qualitative Case Study of an Architecture Firm (Yin, 1989) – Grounded theory- Iterative process of moving between data collection and analysis (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) Firm: ABS (Art, Business, Science): – Large firm- 5 offices internationally located – Study performed within headquarters (around 200 employees) 3 architecture practice groups (education, healthcare, hospitality) 31 Informants Informants spanned from CEO to new interns 15 were licensed, 16 were not 8 female, 23 male 6 left firm or were reassigned during study
Interviews (Spradley, 1979) – 3 rounds of one-on-one semi-structured interviews – 89 interviews in total; Questions evolved with findings Online Reports (Wheeler & Reis, 1991) – Informants were sent 6 links to online survey – Average 3.1 responses Overt, Non-Participant Observation (Marshall & Rossman, 1989; Whyte, 1979) – Organization and department wide meetings – Shadowed two informants (one senior, one junior) Organizational Documents (Jick, 1979) – Mission Statement – Marketing Documents – Organizational Survey
Boring/unchallenging work If Im given a bunch of stuff to draw or whatever, thats not too exciting, cause I already know how to do that and its just kind of like the labor of work. I liked to be challenged and offered new experience of things (Associate 25, 1) *. Inappropriate work I feel like an administrative assistant when Im trying to be an architect (Associate 20, OR1). Superficial work If youre constantly shuffling around from project to project and you cant really sink your teeth into anything, cant really get into the work and what it is youre doing, its going to be less meaningful than if its something you can take ownership of (Vice President 60, 1). Distracting work So if Im working on something and then a client calls, I pick up the phone- that distracts me from the task I was doing. And then I have to shift and then shift and making a shift four times, maybe 20 times a day, is hard (Senior Associate 99, 1). * (Informant position, identifying number, source/wave of data collection)
Maybe you like hate the design or its not a great project or you hate working on the project, you still have to find something for yourself that you enjoy doing or else you wouldnt be here. And for me, being young, a big part of that would be just the learning experience. And knowing that in the future, Ill be all the better for it. Ill be that much more experienced and hopefully that will make the design, my design, better (Associate 86, 1).
Big picture- focusing on impact of work on project or other people Theres obviously times when you know you kind of wonder- Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this? But I think the big picture is just the outcome that you see at the end. I think its just like with anything, theres obviously some joy when you see the building get built and the people come to use it for what it was intended to be (Senior Associate 11, 1). Future self focus- emphasize how work one is currently doing will help in the future Interviewer: Would you consider doing the paperwork less significant to you? Informant: No, cause I understand how important it is and how, especially at this stage of my career…Im glad Im able to do it to learn. At least thats what I tell myself. So I wouldnt say its less significant, its less fun, its less glamorous (Senior Associate, 93, 1).
Imposing-Goals- setting performance criteria in order to make work more meaningful (referring to times when he is assigned a dumb task) Meaningful work would be if someoned give me a task or job whatever and I was able to accomplish it in even faster record time than I had before (Associate 87, 2). (discussing copies he had made for a presentation) It was very important to me that, well I guess pride had to do with it. I take a lot of pride in making sure that things are done right (Senior Associate 18, 1). Reapplying- taking one source of meaningfulness in one context and applying it to another You dont always want to deal with the billing, but I know you have to do it. I guess Ive tried to make it as creative as possible in terms of when youre asked to do some sort of manpower project or billing, make a cool looking spreadsheet so at least theres a design aspect to it. At the end of the day it makes you feel like its not just grinding a bunch of numbers (Senior Vice President 22, 3).
Informant: Im bored when I feel like Im doing something really stupid and useless. That really bothers me. Interviewer: What do you tell yourself to get through it? Informant: Just theyre paying me, I gotta do it. Do what they say. I mean its true you know. You can either quit or you have to do it (Associate 25, 2)
Suppressing- distance self from aspects of work that are unavailable I dont know if you ever look at banks, but Harris banks are really cool. Id love to do that, and do that whole idea of a bank to a medical office building. But I dont think this client would do that so Im not really worried about it cause I dont think Im going to be able to go that way (Associate 87, 1) Obligating- doing work because others expect it, not because it is related to self Interviewer: Can you describe a time when you thought your work was pointless? Less significant to you? Informant: Yeah I guess when youre doing work for someone else that you know they havent really thought out any of the consequences of why theyve asked you to do a particular thing and you do it anyways because they are your boss or whatever and you just do it because you have to (Associate 86, 1).
Minimizing- decrease importance of work in general to self Interviewer: Have you ever had to struggle to figure out how your work had meaning to you? Informant: Maybe. And maybe those are the times where I just tell myself this is a job, its a job. Just like anything else is a job (Associate 86, 3).
Well, let me just start by telling you whats not meaningful. Working on a prototype police station for nine years and you build the same building and it looks the same over and over again, thats not very meaningful you know. And the client is constantly changing, people are getting dismissed, new administration is being brought it, you know. And theyre never very appreciative of anything you do, no matter how hard you work, so thats not very meaningful. (Eddie, Vice President, 3)
What I spend most of my time doing is reporting back on financial things, Im looking at acquisitions of people and firms and Im looking at opportunities for the global organization, but Im not impacting the world. You know what I mean, its just impacting the firm. So Im not, I cant point to things and say you know theres a project I did, I still talk about the stuff I did twenty years ago, and so theres a little frustration there. (51, 2)
Obviously the job I had, I mean I knew it had meaning to somebody, but it had no meaning to me. That was my frustration. And I know it was absolutely a critical piece for a bank or for a lender to get my report every month and hear what I had to say about somebody elses work but for my own edification, I dont know if thats the right word, it was kinda, I struggled with it and thats why I left. (Frank, Senior Vice President, 3)
I cant remember who I was talking to about it, and I said, Well Im not learning anything, its a bad project, and the guys a jerk. And they were like, Wow youre 0 for 3. And I was like, Im not getting anything I want out of this project. That was when I was kind of like wow, gotta move on. Either to another project or, if theyre not willing to do that, I was kind of going to start looking [for another job]. (Elizabeth, Associate, 2)
Potential Framing hooks: Meaning in mundane, everyday situations In contrast to research on meaning-making in extreme experiences (stress and coping/sensemaking), stigmatized work (dirty work) or role transitions No job is perfect Employees have to learn to cope with down times in work Everyday issues can influence turnover Not always a shock (Mitchell…)
Professions (and the socialization process into professions) do not constitute meaning Employees must construct it on their own A study of cognitive job crafting The processes employees use to change their perspectives on their work to make them seem meaningful (or meaningless) The role of self-talk People are increasingly looking for meaning in work, because traditional sources of meaning are losing their grip