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Measuring Meaningful Work: The Work and Meaning Inventory (WAMI)
Michael F. Steger1,2, Bryan J. Dik1, Ryan Duffy3

Colorado State University, USA, 2North-West University, South Africa, 3University of Florida

Correspondence to: Michael F. Steger, Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 80523-1876,

Steger, M. F., Dik, B. J., Duffy, R. D. (in press). Measuring Meaningful Work: The Work and Meaning Inventory (WAMI). Journal of Career Assessment.

Abstract Many people desire work that is meaningful. However, research in this area has attracted diverse ideas about meaningful work, accompanied by an equally disparate collection of ways of assessing meaningful work. To further advance study in this area, we 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. Meaningful work 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. We discuss ways in which this conceptual model provides advantages to scholars, counselors, and organizations interested in fostering meaningful work.



Many people want their careers and their work to be more than simply a way to earn a paycheck or pass their time; they want their work to mean something (Šverko & Vizek-Vidoviæ, 1995). If the vast array of books, websites, and seminars promising to help people find purpose and meaning in their work are any indication, people are more interested than ever in having the time they spend working matter. Organizational scholars have conducted a steady inquiry into the potential benefits of meaningful work (e.g., Pratt & Ashforth, 2003; Rosso, Dekas & Wrzesniewski, 2010). However, research on meaningful work has suffered from a lack of consensus regarding what the experience of meaningful work is like, and from an accompanying proliferation of strategies for operationalizing meaningful work. This paper presents a psychological measure of the core dimensions of the experience of meaningful work, and demonstrates the relevance of meaningful work for important work-related and well-being variables. Following Rosso et al. (2010), we define meaningful work not as simply whatever work means to people (“meaning”), but as work that is both significant and positive in valence (“meaningfulness”). Furthermore, we add that the positive valence of meaningful work has a eudaimonic (growth- and purpose-oriented) rather than hedonic (pleasure-oriented) focus. Why Should We Care About Meaningful Work? Although a case can be made that organizations may have an ethical or moral obligation to help workers experience meaningful work (Michaelson, 2005), a more tangible reason why meaningful work matters is its consistent association with benefits to workers and organizations. People who say their work is meaningful and/or serves some greater social or communal good report better psychological adjustment, and simultaneously possess qualities that are desirable to organizations. People who feel their work is meaningful report greater well-being (Arnold, Turner, Barling, Kelloway, & McKee, 2007), view their work as more central and important (Harpaz & Fu, 2002), place higher value on work (Nord, Brief, Atieh, & Doherty, 1990), 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). Perceiving one’s work to be meaningful or purposeful and to serve a higher purpose are key defining characteristics of work that is a calling (e.g., Dik & Duffy, 2009), a more specific construct that falls under the umbrella of meaningful work. It is not surprising, therefore, that similar results have been obtained when investigating perceptions of calling. People who feel their work is a calling report greater work satisfaction and spend more discretionary, unpaid hours working (e.g., Wrzesniewski, McCauley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997). In addition, having a calling is associated with more faith in management and better work team functioning (Wrzesniewski, 2003), greater career decision self-efficacy, more intrinsic motivations to work (Duffy & Sedlacek, 2007), and perceptions of greater meaning in life as a whole (Dik, Sargent, & Steger, 2008; Dik & Steger, 2008). Despite such promising results from research, there is little consensus on the meaning of meaningful work. Although several models of meaningful work have been proposed, and a number of factors that contribute to meaningful work have been suggested, it is quite common for there to be comingling between the causes or sources of meaningful work and the experience of meaningful work itself. For example, in the influential job characteristics model, meaningful work is seen as an important psychological state that mediates between the job characteristics of skill variety, task identity, and task significance and outcomes (Hackman & Oldham, 1976). Unfortunately, later research stopped assessing meaningful work per se and began using the task characteristics as proxies for meaningful work (e.g., Piccolo & Colquitt, 2006). Similarly, recent research on how meaningful work boosts morale has assessed meaningful work in a variety of

Powell.. Haslam. Spirituality (Clark et al. Dutton. work values. Wrzesniewski (2003) and Pratt and Ashforth (2003) have advanced conceptual models highlighting the importance of workplace relationships to the experience of meaning at work. there has . identifying factors that foster meaningful work is difficult when potential causes are viewed as alternative measures. and the spiritual life) and mechanisms through which work becomes meaningful (i. Jahoda. The second dimension contrasts self-directed and other-directed action. This framework is built around two psychological dimensions that differ according to their underlying motives. Shamir. Oscos-Flores. and cultural/interpersonal sensemaking). then offered an integrative theoretical framework. Pratt. intrinsic work orientation. opportunity to complete an entire task (task identity). 2001) and by task significance. and the fruits of this work enhance both self and collective. Wrzesniewski. Most recently. a sense of calling. & Turner. and reputation. & Adler. 2005. For example. work centrality. good pay. transcendence. Sutcliffe..g. 2008) also have been used to indicate meaningful work. others.. Furthermore. This conceptual model is one of the first attempts to provide a theoretical framework of meaningful work. engagement. We are not arguing for or against theories of what causes meaningful work. 1979.e. 2001. 2007). On a practical level. 2007). One could conclude from a reading of the literature that meaningful work consists of (at least) skill variety. through meaningful work. Weick. which obviously corresponds to target of one’s work efforts.. Wrzesniewski et al.. the self. task significance to other people. 1995) and workplace spirituality (Ashmos & Duchon. Other work on this topic has highlighted the importance of a desire to serve the greater good (e. making sense of one’s self (Ashforth.. meaningful work is proposed to be a dimension of psychological empowerment in the workplace (Spreitzer. and Grant (2007) proposed a model of how relational job design may facilitate the motivation for employees to make a prosocial difference. Rosso et al (2010). Dickinson. 2000. self-efficacy. Even in research in which specified measures of meaningful work have been used to conduct research. Adler. For example. rather we are identifying a need to clarify the experiential dimensions of meaningful work. spirituality. For example. & Obstfeld. For example. Weick.. and finding a sense of purpose in one’s work (e. engagement. the context. belongingness. which then creates empowerment – and use published operationalizations of meaningful work to test each node in that causal chain. challenge. reviewed four main sources of meaningful work (i. purpose. Moore. 2001). 2000. & Burge. and importance in one study (Britt. which captures whether the perceived source of impetus in the workplace is located within the individual (agency) or some kind of collective group (communion). multidimensional models of meaningful work have incorporated work centrality. Adding to this complicated picture are other constructs that are thought to include meaningful work as a component. 1995. It highlights the importance of reciprocal dynamics between individuals and groups. Clark et al. 2003. military pride. engagement. The first dimension represents a continuum that ranges from agency to communion. 2007) and good pay and reputation (OscosSanchez. self-esteem.g. 1997). the individual works to benefit the self and the collective. and challenge in a later study (Britt. authenticity. military pride. 2003). Other authors have provided suggestions along these lines. 1991) and one’s work environment (e. & Debebe. Pratt & Ashforth. work role identity.e. work values.MEANINGFUL WORK 3 ways that resemble the job characteristics tradition. & Bartone. and intrinsic work orientation (Roberson. 1990). Sparks & Schenk.. Castro. This approach is consistent with the approach of the present paper. meaningful work was indicated by identity.g. 2000. one plausibly could propose that engagement creates meaningful work.

Dik. Rosso and colleagues address this facet through their inclusion of other-directed action in meaningful work. Oishi. Dik. There seems to be a common overlap between one’s work and one’s life work (Michaelson. Rosso and colleagues (2010) also emphasize this notion through their inclusion of self-directed action in meaningful work. 1976). As Rosso and colleagues (2010) point out. Steger and Dik (2010) drew on the meaning in life literature to identify ways in which this might occur. 1975). In the Job Characteristics Model (Hackman & Oldham. In the next section. Steger & Duffy. and Steger and Dik (2010) also emphasized this dimension. 2010). a review of existing meaningful work measures demonstrates the need for a new measure. we identify key facets of meaningful work and propose a measurement approach that directly parallels these dimensions. (2) Meaning-making through work.. This facet reflects commonly-held ideas that work is most meaningful if it has a broader impact on others. 2009). This early understanding of meaningful work has dominated later meaningful work assessment strategies. 2007). Following this review. Steger. Thus.g. meaningful work is often a subjective experience that what one is doing has personal significance. Eldridge.. . items assessing this facet should be linked to specific ways in which people’s meaning in life benefits from meaningful work. 1976). This facet is a straightforward reflection of the idea of psychological meaningfulness that has been part of work psychology since the job characteristics model (Hackman & Oldham. Grant. Assessing Meaningful Work Currently.. 2005). Empirical research has shown that work frequently is an important source of meaning in life as a whole (e. In response. consistent with the emphasis on experiencing work as meaningful and serving a greater good found in research on calling (e. facilitating their personal growth.162). Meaningful work was seen as an important psychological state that mediates between the job characteristics and the outcomes (Hackman & Oldham. nor of the correspondence of measures to definitions. as almost every instrument incorporates the essence of this definition (Steger. we conceptualize meaningful work as consisting of three primary facets that need to be represented in future research on the construct: (1) Positive meaning in work. 1976). The desire to make a positive impact on the greater good is consistently related to the experience of meaningful work (e. (3) Greater good motivations. Specifically.g. 2009). Hackman and Oldham developed the Job Diagnostics Survey (JDS. Wrzesniwski et al. as well as the related construct of calling (Dik & Duffy. This facet should be included to capture the sense that people judge their work to matter and be meaningful.g.g.. and the emphasis on comprehending one’s experience and having a sense of purpose found in research on meaning in life (e. As part of this research. this facet helps capture the broader life context of people’s work. which defined the experienced meaningfulness of the work as “[t]he degree to which the employee experiences the job as one which is generally meaningful. we will describe the development of a measure that assesses these three facets of meaningful work. a set of important job qualities were proposed to lead to valued personal and work outcomes. p. 2006). the idea that work could be meaningful without also leading people to build meaning in their lives as a whole makes no sense (Steger & Dik. there are only a handful of published measures of meaningful work available. in press). To some degree. 1997). Ideally. 1975.MEANINGFUL WORK 4 been little scrutiny of the definition of meaningful work used. Steger & Dik. and worthwhile” (Hackman & Oldham. & Shim. Frazier & Kaler. valuable. They suggested that meaningful work may help people deepen their understanding of their selves and the world around them. 2012.

All of these items are slight variations on Hackman and Oldham’s (1975) original work. As is the case for most measures of meaningful work. The second study used six items taken from a subscale of Ashmos and Duchon’s (2000). Discarding these items leaves only two items remaining. The resulting measure asked for responses about work being important and meaningful. 2000. p. Although the reliability of the JDS scale has been acceptable. but rather by the insight that “employees want to be involved in work that gives meaning to their lives” (Ashmos & Duchon. p. The Present Study Previous theory related to meaningful work and related constructs point to three principal facets of the construct: positive meaning in work. energy. Yet.. These items reflect a workplace spirituality perspective that shifts the focus away from some types of work tasks as having meaning (while others presumably do not). to people’s perceptions of their work as meaningful and as connected to the common good of the community. . there has been no rigorous psychometric evaluation of meaningful work measures aside from the first version of Hackman and Oldham’s (1975) idiosyncratic 4-item JDS subscale. 2007. irrespective of the type of work in which they are engaged. Existing measurement has developed erratically and on an ad hoc basis. and meaningful. intended to assess meaningful work as an important component of workplace spirituality. work is meaningful. May and colleagues (2004) added two items from an unpublished dissertation and a modified item from the JDS (Hackman & Oldham. the workplace spirituality scale was not. the trends in meaningful work measurement are to use Hackman and Oldham’s definition of work and work tasks being worthwhile. To summarize. and work/job activities being significant. important. the remaining items include unrelated content assessing joy. rewarding. itself. Arnold and colleagues used two different measures in the two studies they conducted. their measures do not seem to apply this definition very evenly. However. Arnold and colleagues (2007) proposed a different definition of meaningful work as: “finding a purpose in work that is greater than the extrinsic outcomes of the work” (Arnold et al. the influence of these items is seen in both ad hoc measures of meaningful work. The primary purpose of the present study is to develop a theoretically-driven measure of meaningful work that captures the three key facets identified in our literature review. there has been no rigorous psychometric examination of these items. and vaguely positive feelings about work. while still demonstrating an allegiance to a rather vague definition of meaningful work. However. 195).MEANINGFUL WORK 5 The JDS uses two pairs of items to assess experienced meaningfulness of work referring to respondents’ personal feelings and perceptions of co-workers’ feelings about (a) whether job tasks seem useless or trivial and (b) whether the work is meaningful. work as a means of making meaning. In addition. worthwhile. valuable. driven by a well-articulated definition. Despite Arnold et al. supplemented by conceptually erratic ad hoc measures that have received little psychometric evaluation.’s definition. 136). and the desire to positively contribute to the greater good. job activities are meaningful). 1980) to Sprietzer’s (1995) items. and allowing someone to achieve important outcomes. such as the three items Spreitzer (1995) used to assess a meaning dimension of empowerment (work is important. Clearly. the odd nature of the items requiring judgments about other people’s attitudes introduces raises questions about what is being measured. there is a need for a well-designed and conceptually sound measure of meaningful work. and meaningful. One study used items asking about work being fulfilling.

organizations benefit from having employees who are committed to their organization’s mission and welfare. Furthermore. we used two brief measures of calling to assess convergence. and Other (3. A wide range of occupations were represented in the sample. Arnold et al. Participants (M age = 44.5%).0%). with large correlations among measures of calling and meaningful work.6. and life satisfaction. administrative professionals (n = 26).000). and the response rate was accordingly low.0%). we hypothesize positive correlations between meaningful work and intrinsic work motivation. we assessed a range of work-related and general well-being variables in a sample of people employed in heterogeneous jobs at a university to evaluate the psychometric properties of the new measure and to test the hypothesis that people experiencing meaningful work would report more positive work attitudes and well-being. we hypothesize that meaningful work accounts for incremental variance in job satisfaction.MEANINGFUL WORK 6 Secondarily. and meaningful. job satisfaction. The email advertisement was sent to approximately 3400 employees. meaning in life.548. including faculty/instructors (n = 58).g.5%). Therefore. life satisfaction. SD = 11.2 days per year (SD = 4. and the 370 respondents represent a response rate of 11%. generative contribution to one’s quality of life. both in terms of their specific organization and their chosen profession. librarians (n = 8). Procedure Participants responded to an email advertising the study. and hypothesize that the pattern of correlations would support a distinction between having and seeking meaningful work. Participants who completed the survey were entered in to a drawing for one of ten $49 gift certificates to the university bookstore. Method Participants We recruited 370 employees from a large Western research university. 2007).4%). facilities management professionals (n = 12). Finally.5. days reported absent. Being engaged in meaningful work implies that work matters for its own sake and makes an important.. According to previous research. and completed a questionnaire battery on a web-hosted survey page after indicating their informed consent. Participants reported being absent from work (not including vacation or personal days) a mean of 3. Contact with employees was restricted by the university to a single email.309 (SD = $53. and foresters (n = 7). meaningful work benefits individuals (e. The sample reported a mean of 9. accounting professionals (n = 29). and negative correlations with psychological distress. administrative assistants (n = 47). work likely is experienced as motivating.7%) and White/European-American (90. with a mean annual household income (gross) of $83. Black/African American (0. median = $72. satisfying. Therefore.0). median = 2. It also is necessary to demonstrate that meaningful work and its dimensions converge with related measures.1). Asian/Pacific Island American (1. and report lower withdrawal intentions and fewer days absent. beyond that accounted for by common predictors of these criterion variables. We hypothesize that people who experience meaningful work are highly committed to their work. extension agents (n = 10). and a rich part of one’s experience in life. followed by Hispanic American (6. We also hypothesize that people who desire to serve the greater good engage in organizational citizenship behavior. Instruments . information technology specialists (n = 15). research associates (n = 26). Indigenous American (1.4 years of education past 8th grade (SD = 3.2 years) were mostly female (69.. student affairs professionals (n = 17). Under these circumstances.4%).

g. M = 79. facet-free) job satisfaction (Chen & Spector. 2008.1... α = .0. SD = 10. Diener. α = . Blau. & Griffin.5. Withdrawal intentions for one’s organization (e. Items were rated from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree)... 1997).g. SD = 2. 1991).76) and the degree to which they are searching for a calling (Calling-Seeking. The BCS includes a description of calling followed by items. “I enjoy doing work that is so absorbing that I forget about doing anything else”.. 1985) is a 5-item measure assessing life satisfaction (e. α = ..91) was used to assess overall (i. α = . 2008) is comprised of a pair of two-item subscales that measure the degree to which people feel they have a calling (Calling. Organizational Commitment.87).7. Research has supported score reliability (Allen & Meyer. rated from 1 (not at all true of me) to 5 (totally true of me)..6. 2012. Items were rated from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). 1994).81).g. Research has supported score reliability and validity (Amabile et al. or calling orientation (M = 1.. SD = 3.1).6. Dik et al.76). Participants indicated on a 4-point scale (0 = not at all like me to 3 = very much) the extent to which each orientation was characteristic of them after being presented with three paragraphs describing an individual with a job orientation (M = 1.g.g.” M = 24.. M = 59. M = 30.g.3.7. A 3-item scale (e. “I think a lot about leaving my organization”. Hill.g. SD = 1. Research has supported score reliability and validity (Blau.” M = 6.9. SD = 7. The 30-item Work Preference Inventory (WPI..4. 2007)..g. SD = 3. Hennessey. Items were rated from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). The Brief Calling Scale (BCS. The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS. career orientation (M = 1.71) work motivation. Dik et al. 1991). “I am actively searching for an alternative to my occupation”. Research has supported the concurrent validity of this approach (Wrzesniewski et al. SD = 1. Job Satisfaction. Larsen.4. Organizational Citizenship Behaviors. item intercorrelation = . 2012. Satisfaction with Life. Emmons. Work Orientations. “I’m less concerned with what work I do than with what I get for it”..” M = 3. career.g. Withdrawal Intentions. Steger & Duffy. M = 14. or calling) were obtained using the method developed by Wrzesniewski et al.2). “I really feel as if this organization’s problems are my own”. e.0). I’m satisfied with my job”. “In most ways my life is . “I definitely want a career for myself in my current field of employment.1. “I am trying to figure out my calling in my career.90). Eldridge. SD = 3. α = . (1997). Duffy & Sedlacek. Dik. item intercorrelation = . α = . SD = 3. SD = 9... Research using has supported score reliability (e.’s (1986) three work orientations (job. “Accept added responsibility when your supervisor is absent”. α = . Research has supported score reliability and validity (Dik et al. “I have a calling to a particular kind of work.1. “All in all.g.86.4.7. Scores for each of Bellah et al.MEANINGFUL WORK 7 Sense of Calling.1.92) were each measured using 3 items rated from 1 (very unlikely) to 5 (very likely). The Career Commitment Scale (Blau.3.. Career Commitment. 1994) was used to assess intrinsic (e. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Work Motivation. Items were rated from 1 (never) to 4 (very often). α = .81) and extrinsic (e.6.. SD = 2.2.1..92. 1990).g. Research has supported score reliability and validity (Williams & Anderson. Organizational citizenship behavior was measured using 5 items regarding citizenship behaviors that benefit supervisors (e.g.. 2000). α = . Amabile. e.5. M = 6. 1985) is a 7-item measure of one’s level of commitment to one’s occupation or career field (e. 1985). α = . SD = 10. & Tighe. SD = 1.e. Items are rated from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).91) and occupation (e. M = 6.7. M = 16. Organizational commitment was assessed using by Allen and Meyer’s (1990) 7-item scale (e.1.

The Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ.MEANINGFUL WORK 8 close to the ideal”. because the scale was theoretically derived. and Hostility. in the first half of the sample.83 for Positive Meaning (PM). NNFI = . Participants rated distress over the past month from 0 (not at all) to 4 (extremely). α = . and depression (6 items. We further refined the item pool by deleting items (n = 18) with low factor loadings (< . “I have a good sense of what makes my life meaningful”. 1995). 1951.04. Depression. e.09.92). Meaning in Life. α = . To finalize the form of the WAMI. principal axis extraction with promax rotation).3. cross-validating the final model in the remaining half of the sample. “Nervousness or shakiness inside”. RMSEA 90% confidence interval = ..12).10.04.g. Mosier..97. SD = 2.e. SD = 8.7. hostility (5 items. CFI = .94). RMSEA 90% confidence interval = . using criteria of primary rotated pattern matrix loadings < . g. Yu. g. This model is shown in Figure 1. Steger et al. and presence of meaning in life (e.06 to . M = 25. α = . we eliminated poor items using exploratory factor analysis (EFA.11). Items are rated from 1 (absolutely untrue) to 7 (absolutely true). Allowing the residual of one item (“My work helps me make sense of the world around me”) to correlate with the residuals of two other items (“I understand how my work contributes to my life’s meaning” and “I know my work makes a positive difference in the world”) achieved good fit (χ2 (df = 30) = 69. RMSEA 90% confidence interval = . Greater Good Motivations (GG). RMSEA = .05.4. First.20). fit was poor. This next model provided an acceptable fit on some of the fit indices (χ2 (df = 32) = 78. RMSEA 90% confidence interval = . SRMR = . SD = 4. Next.05.5. NNFI = . e. α = . Therefore. The total Meaningful Work scale (MW) internal consistency was high (α = . M = 20.. NNFI = .. respectively. Gaderman & Zumbo. we adopted a simple cross-validation strategy (e.. injure. SRMR = .. “Having urges to beat.60 or cross-loadings >. SRMR = .33.09.4. RMSEA = .g. Work and Meaning Inventory.17 to . we attempted to replicate this structural model in the validation half of the dataset (n = 152). and greater good motivations. “Feelings of worthlessness”.96.09. M = 26.. RMSEA = .0). NNFI = . 1993).60) and high associated modification indices (> 15. Derogatis.89. Anxiety.0.96.82. 2003) in which we randomly selected roughly 50% of the sample to conduct the initial model-fitting.. Research has supported score reliability and validity (Diener et al. and . CFI = . in accordance with recommendations (see Floyd & Widaman. g.3.1. M = 9. with alpha coefficients of .73.1.95. SD = 3. CFI = . Research has supported score reliability and validity (Derogatis.88). 2006) is a 10item measure assessing search for meaning in life (e. α = . . The fit was also good (χ2 [df = 30] = 64. RMSEA = .. Greater Good Motivations) that were organized under a higher-order factor of meaningful work. we used confirmatory factor analysis (i.30 (n = 22).83).63. M = 7. 2005) to test and refine the proposed model.07 to . SD = 5. α = . or hurt someone.68. The Work and Meaning Inventory (WAMI) was designed to produce a meaningful work score that incorporates the three facets of meaningful work identified above. M = 9. Meaning-Making through Work. Initially. “I am seeking a purpose or mission for my life”. contribution to broader meaning-making. An initial item pool of 40 items was developed to assess positive meaning.”. CFI = .90).g.12). 2006).g. . Subscale scores were internally consistent in the total sample (N = 370). Subscales of the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI. 1993) were used to assess anxiety (6 items. Research has supported score reliability and validity (e. Next.0.94.. e. SRMR = . Items are rated from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).9. AMOS 6.75).95.06 to .93).18. Meaning-Making through Work (MM). we attempted to fit a model with three factors (Positive Meaning. SD = 6.5. according to Hu and Bentler’s (1999) criteria (χ2 [df = 131] = 849. 1985).19. Arbuckle.3.

).’s (1997) Job Orientation score. it may be that the MM subscale captures a uniquely motivational element of meaningful work that transcends the workplace. career commitment.8.80. organizational commitment. n.57).05). p < . smaller negative correlations with the Career Orientation score. Results As a preliminary step. and strong positive correlations with the Calling Orientation score. SD = 2. whereas the PM subscale had a negative correlation of equal magnitude. MM (M = 10. thus scores on the PM scale could range from 4 to 20. We also hypothesized that WAMI scores would be positively related to well-being (meaning in life and life satisfaction) and negatively related to psychological distress (anxiety. n.84). The GG subscale received the highest ratings per item (3. Again. The WAMI subscales and total score also were significantly related to the total number of days missed at work for all causes. One exception to this pattern was that the MM subscale had the highest correlation with intrinsic work motivation.s.27.65-.01). Table 1 shows that the subscales are highly intercorrelated (.s. extrinsic work motivations). job satisfaction. The other two subscales had smaller. Total scores on the PM (M = 15. Meaningful work. The PM subscale showed the largest correlations with these variables. Taken in light of the relation of the MM subscale with intrinsic work motivation. including very large correlations with career commitment and job satisfaction. As can be seen in Table 2.12.45. yet significant. we examined the descriptive statistics for the MAWI subscales. SD = 4.70. Thus. and scores on the other two subscales could range from 3 to 15. and there was only one significant correlation between age and the MAWI subscales. MM had a positive correlation with the MLQ-search for meaning subscale. dimensions of meaningful work are correlated in predictable ways with calling and work orientations. hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine the ability of work meaning to add unique . with the exception of anxiety symptoms. hostility. Incremental Validity To provide additional evidence of the unique contribution of WAMI scores.85-. In this case. These hypotheses were supported. In addition. the MM subscale provided a point of departure from the overall pattern of larger correlations for the PM subscale.78) and MM subscales (3. and depression). The items and their subscale loadings are found in Table 1. these hypotheses were supported.11. correlations in the expected direction.85) spanned the entire range of responses (3-15 or 4-20). There were no differences across gender (ts ≤ 1. and intrinsic work motivations) and negatively related to undesirable work variables (days reported absent.) or race/ethnicity (Fs ≤ 1.05).54 (SD = . The mean for the full MW scale Was 37. Correlations with calling and work orientations We hypothesized significant correlations between the dimensions of meaningful work and existing measures of calling. SD = 3.93) followed by the PM (3.94). Older workers were slightly more likely to find positive meaning in their work (r = . the WAMI showed clear differentiation of strong negative correlations with Wrzesniewski et al. work-related and general well-being variables We hypothesized that WAMI subscales and total score would be positively related to desirable work variables (organizational citizenship behaviors. withdrawal intentions. showing a clear pattern of differentiation from experiencing calling and seeking calling (Table 2).78) and highly correlated with the total score (. and GG (M = 11.MEANINGFUL WORK 9 Items on the WAMI are rated from 1 (absolutely untrue) to 5 (absolutely true). The subscales of the WAMI correlated as expected with the BCS.

Accordingly. and plays an important role in people’s psychological health (Blustein. and (3) life satisfaction above and beyond the variance accounted for by already established predictors. job satisfaction was regressed on withdrawal intentions (organization). and those who seek to increase their own satisfaction with their work and their contributions to their organizations and communities. and presence of calling. the “flagship” indicator of the overall construct of meaningful work. In predicting days absent from work. Representing each dimension may be particularly important in applied work with individuals. our literature review suggests that all three facets are necessary. meaningful work accounted for a similar amount of variance as withdrawal intentions and organizational commitment. and evaluated the concurrent and incremental validity of the new measure. managers.MEANINGFUL WORK 10 variance in the prediction of (1) job satisfaction. to capture the full span of meaningful work. and job satisfaction. 2008). organizational commitment. 4. meaningful work was found to add small but significant portions of variance. . To further advance this research. helping identify the satisfactions and deficits specific to an individual person’s work experience. Specifically. In predicting job satisfaction. and life satisfaction. developed a structurally sound measure to assess them. the positive meaning of work is. the Work as Meaning Inventory (WAMI). and all three subscales tracked the total score in the direction and magnitude of relations. in an initial step for each analysis. It is something more. it should not be surprising that the Positive Meaning subscale showed consistently stronger bivariate correlations with work and well-being variables. Correlations with these variables were similar for each of the three subscales. dimensions of meaningful work accounted for significant variance in important work-related and general wellbeing variables in both bivariate and multivariate analyses. Nor was it related to how committed they were to their organization. and life satisfaction was regressed on the meaning in life. Yet. days absent was regressed on these same three predictors plus job satisfaction. meaningful work was added as a predictor in the second step. Although none of the work-related variables had relations with life satisfaction as large as meaning in life did. there was only one exception to this pattern. As we outlined in our literature review. Previous research on meaningful work is limited. but demonstrated that further investigation of the construct is warranted. Investigating the influence of perceptions that work is meaningful may have on workrelated variables and well-being is an exciting area of growing relevance to researchers. In fact. beyond the first step predictors. This result is particularly notable because it suggests the need to re-evaluate our understanding of why people miss work. our analyses suggest that people absent themselves from work that holds no meaning for them. That is. we identified important facets of meaningful work. absenteeism was not related to whether or not people were satisfied with their jobs. (2) days reported absent. meaningful work was the only significant predictor. It was not even related to intentions to leave their employer. Discussion Work matters. Importantly. In our data. As seen in Table 3. the WAMI accounted for significant variance. meaningful work is not simply some combination of meaning in life and job satisfaction. in many ways. the fact that meaningful work was related to a broad well-being indicator like life satisfaction above and beyond both meaning in life and job satisfaction strongly suggests the conceptual independence of meaningful work. Instead. Both the Meaning-Making Through Work and the Greater good Motivations subscale showed stronger relations with intrinsic work motivation. and 5. calling. coaches. organizations. The usefulness of assessing meaningful work was demonstrated by a set of regression analyses. days absent from work. Above and beyond known predictors of job satisfaction. For all three analyses.

publically accessible tool that can assist counselors in understanding the meaning a client has in their work life. At the same time. Indeed.. Such a bias could result in higher mean scores on the meaningful work scales. Wrzesniewski et al. For example. suggesting that any potential sampling bias did not fundamentally alter the pattern of relations observed. research should pursue the question of whether meaningful work arises because meaningful workers are attracted to some organizations. it will be important to investigate how meaningful work interacts with leadership. we used a novel measure of meaningful work in a sample drawn from one organization. who are in job transitions. 1997). Continued scholarly research is needed to ascertain the full range of organizational benefits of employing individuals who perceive their work as meaningful. do leaders who have a sense of meaning in their work inspire better followership (Sparks & Schenk. response rate. results from this study and the associated instrument may be of use to career counselors. A client’s felt meaning at work is likely an important predictor of how satisfied they will be with their current or future job. Judge & Piccolo. Additionally.g. people engaged in meaningful work appear to be more satisfied and committed to their work. the present study used a sample from only one work environment.. and these workers may not represent workers at all types of organizations. . For organizations interested in a meaningful workforce. 2001)? Do people engaged in meaningful work respond more effectively to leadership? One clear avenue of investigation entails examining the relationship between meaningful work and transformational or charismatic leadership (e.. but lower-than-desired. 2007. Efforts also should be made to establish validity evidence for the WAMI in samples of people seeking work. limitations in our recruitment procedures resulted in a predictable. the WAMI may be a simple. If this was the case. Although a wide range of occupations were represented in the sample we used. 1978. However.g.MEANINGFUL WORK Implications for Research and Practice 11 The present findings suggest some obvious lines of inquiry for organizational and scholarly research. or whether organizations can foster meaningful work among their employees. We recommended that counselors assess a client’s work meaning based on the stage of employment they are in. and who are contemplating entering the workforce for the first time (e. highlighting the current work environment for employed clients and conceptualizing what a future meaningful work environment might look like for those unemployed or looking to change jobs. students. Future research is necessary to continue establishing the validity of the WAMI in client samples and samples drawn from diverse organizational contexts.g. It is possible that those who chose to participate were more interested than others in meaningful work . We suspect engaging in this process will help client’s make a more clear decision on what types of work would offer them the greater level of meaning. then inflated correlations among meaningful work and work-related and well-being variables could occur. First. resulting in selection bias.. Second. Limitations and Conclusion In this study. stay-at-home parents). 2004). it is not clear that people more interested in meaningful work would necessarily be happier or more committed to their work. Arnold et al. We hypothesize that the goals of transformational leaders would gain particular traction among people who feel their work is meaningful and those who place high importance on meaningful work. Burns. previous research strongly converges with many of the findings presented here (e. Furthermore..

job satisfaction. Further. counselors. namely less risk of turnover. and contentment with their organizations. People engaged in meaningful work also seem to have characteristics that are desirable within organizations. A multidimensional approach to meaningful work holds promise for providing workers. . and identify the potential individual and organizational benefits experienced when people are oriented to experiencing meaningfulness at work. and greater involvement in organizational citizenship behaviors. greater commitment to the organization. counselors.MEANINGFUL WORK 12 The present study adds to the growing body of research showing that meaningful work appears important to workers’ well-being. organizations and researchers may be better able to understand how to cultivate meaningful work experiences for clients and employees. and organizations with a way of understanding who has meaningful work and who wants it.

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Greater Good Motivations .82 8. I view my work as contributing to my personal growth 7. I understand how my work contributes to my life’s meaning . Subscale Item Loading on Subscale Positive Meaning 1. 10. .87 Meaning-Making through Work 2. I have a good sense of what makes my job meaningful.60 5. My work helps me make sense of the world around me. I know my work makes a positive difference in the world. I have found a meaningful career.88 3. My work really makes no difference to the world.92 4. My work helps me better understand myself.MEANINGFUL WORK 33 Table 1 Items from the Work as Meaning Inventory (WAMI) and factor loadings. . The work I do serves a greater purpose. Notes. .82 . 9.80 .70 .60 . I have discovered work that has a satisfying purpose. (R) 6. All factor loadings taken from first random half of the sample. .86 .

N= 370 * p < .11** Hostility -.68*** .17*** -.22*** -.49*** .85*** .14** -.24*** -.47*** -.35*** .18*** .04 -.60*** Search for Meaning -.19*** -.12* -.29*** -.51*** -.16** .94*** . .49*** Anxiety -.16*** Life Satisfaction .48*** .23*** .38*** . Meaningful Work Total Score Related Measures Calling Calling-Seeking Job Orientation Career Orientation Calling Orientation Work-Related Variables Days Reported Absent Withdrawal Intentions-Organization Withdrawal Intentions-Occupation Career Commitment Organizational Commitment Organizational Citizenship Behaviors Job Satisfaction Intrinsic Work Motivation Extrinsic Work Motivation 2.29*** -.27*** -.39*** -.12* -.30*** -.28*** .05.42*** .12* .09 Well-Being Variables Presence of Meaning . *** p < .65*** .35*** -.40*** .16** . Meaning-Making through Work 3. Meaningful Work 1.06 .50*** .52*** .60*** -.61*** -.52*** -.19** -.20*** .20*** -.47*** .67*** .56*** .29*** .33*** Notes. ** p < .60*** .01.14** -.17*** .001. 34 . and concurrent validity of the WAMI subscales.57*** -.17** .10 -.22*** -.03 . discriminant.62*** .86*** .51*** -.35*** .70*** .07 -.07 . convergent.47*** . 3. 1.40*** -.23*** Depression -.MEANINGFUL WORK Table 2 Intercorrelations.16** -.31*** .51*** .00 -.54*** -.40*** .49*** . 4.11* -. Greater Good Motivations 4.42*** -.59*** .41*** .15** -.78*** .59*** -.05 -.47*** -. Positive Meaning 2.22*** .

02 .22 -. .02 .02 -.13 .09* .04 -.21.20 -.-.22.08 .03 -.30.01 -.03 .18.10 -. .35** .14 .06 .03.01 Table 4 Hierarchical Regression Analysis Predicting Days Absent B Step 1 Withdrawal Intentions Organizational Commitment Calling Job Satisfaction Step 2 Withdrawal Intentions Organizational Commitment Calling Job Satisfaction Meaningful Work * SE B 95% CI β R R² R²Δ -.20.14.76*** .79*** .05 .12 Meaningful Work .05.10 .12 .12 .10 .36** -.15 -.12 * 35 SE B 95% CI β -.01.02 -. -.30*** .-.40. .14 -. ** p < . .46** .05 -.05 -.38** .05.09. .20.17 Calling .17 .04 .04 -.11 . .22** .28 .-. ** p < .18 -.03** p < .04.04 -.05 Step 2 Withdrawal Intentions -.04 .07 .08 -.04.33 Organizational Commitment .05 .11 -.15 .11 -.-. *** p < .28.04** .MEANINGFUL WORK Table 3 Hierarchical Regression Analysis Predicting Job Satisfaction B Step 1 Withdrawal Intentions -. .10 . .04 R R² R²Δ .21** .01 . .13* -.45.02 .13 Calling -.04 .04 -.28 . 16 -.01 .25 -.04 .14 .01.58*** -.62*** .02 -.10.04 -.41. *** p < .05** p < . .37 Organizational Commitment .

01 .42 .09 .04.61 .18** . *** p < .09 .60*** .13 .24 . .01.05 .28 Meaningful Work . .38** .45** -.14** .06 .10 .62*** .05.03 -.51*** -. .48.08 .02** p < . .36*** SE B 95% CI β R R² R²Δ Step 2 Meaning in Life .48 . .14 * . .38.21*** .03 .24.22 Job Satisfaction . .MEANINGFUL WORK 36 Table 5 Hierarchical Regression Analysis Predicting Life Satisfaction B Step 1 Meaning in Life Calling Job Satisfaction .56 -.06 .45.60 -.50 Calling -. ** p < .16 .12 .67 -.08.31.

MEANINGFUL WORK 37 Figure 1: Model of Meaningful Work .