Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Meaningful Work, Work Engagement and Organisational Commitment

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Meaningful Work, Work Engagement and Organisational Commitment

Article excerpt



Employees consider jobs that are more interesting, emit feelings of accomplishment, promote helpfulness and contribute to people's lives to be critical in achieving meaningful work (Bibby, 2001). More recently, fulfilment, autonomy, satisfaction, engagement, working relations and learning have been identified as important in a meaningful job (cf. Cartwright & Holmes, 2006; Chalofsky, 2003; Rosso, Dekas & Wrzesniewski, 2010; Seligman, 2008; Steger & Dik, 2010). The interest in meaningful work is teamed with positive individual and organisational consequences with regard to work (Rosso et al., 2010). The above highlights a necessity for an investigation into meaningful work and the role it plays in contributing towards positive work outcomes. If employees yearn for meaningful work, organisations would benefit in accommodating for this. This study investigated the positive effect that meaningful work has on promoting work engagement and organisational commitment.

There has been a steady increase in research into meaningfulness, engagement and commitment at work (cf. Dik & Duffy, 2008; Hult, 2005; Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004). This increased interest may be due to employees being better educated (Kompier, 2005) and increasingly questioning the nature and meaning of their work (Cartwright & Holmes, 2006). Since people spend many hours at work (Meyers, 2007; Van Zyl, Deacon & Rothmann, 2010), it becomes the environment in which they engage in goal-orientated activities, and aim to find meaning (Cameron, Dutton & Quinn, 2003). In addition, evidence has been brought forward to suggest that money is losing its power as a central motivator, partially due to the general population realising that above a minimum level necessary for survival, money adds little to their subjective well-being (Seligman, 2002). People have come to define themselves and be socially defined by their work (Casey, 1995); hence, understanding alternate sources of meaning in work becomes a natural outgrowth for organisational systems valuing human thriving and a contribution to the greater good (Wrzesniewski, 2003).

The above alludes to a dynamic in which both the individual and organisation act together to determine the experience of meaning. Frankl (1984) proclaims that a man's search for meaning is a primary force in his life; it's unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled only by himself alone. The underlying premise is that the individual is fully aware of his own responsibility 'and therefore it must leave to him the option for what, to what or to whom, he understands himself to be responsible' (Frankl, 1984, p. 111). This selfdetermined behaviour has important consequences for the quality of experience in all domains of behaviour (Brown & Ryan, 2004). Positive outcomes for individuals within the work domain specifically include greater persistence in and effectiveness of behaviour and enhanced well-being (Deci et al., 2001).

The self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000) presupposes that the motivational orientations that guide behaviour have important consequences for healthy behavioural regulation and psychological well-being. It distinguishes between the various types of motivation (intrinsic or extrinsic) based on the reasons or goals that drive the behaviour. Autonomous individuals are self-endorsed, volitional and self-determined, whereas behaviour lacking autonomy is motivated by perceived controls, restriction and pressures arising from the social context or internal forces (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2000). Searching for meaning is a self-determined behaviour and not only is it important to the individual, but it is also seen as a primary need that promotes positive outcomes in varied cultural contexts (Chirkov, Ryan, Kim & Kaplan, 2003).

Positive work outcomes, such as work engagement and organisational commitment, have long-term benefits for organisations who attempt to foster initiatives that promote meaningfulness at work. …

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