Bruce Barkis


Multiple studies have shown meaning as a driver of employee engagement. The literature indicates that the primary focus of employee engagement research has been on engagement’s performance outcomes rather than on the conditions such as meaning that influence that performance. Along with contributing to the body of engagement research, this study will benefit employees’ and managers’ work experience. The purpose of this study is to understand how highly engaged managers and employees discover meaning in their work. The phenomenological qualitative research method was chosen to explore and describe the individual managers’ and employees’ lived experiences of finding meaning in work. The company chosen as the setting for the study invited 10 highly engaged employees and managers to participate in the study. Qualitative data was collected from 10 forty-five minute interviews. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) enabled in-depth exploration of the participants’ descriptions of the research phenomenon. In this study, participants described a progressive discovery of meaning in work. Participant comments focused on the conditions favorable to finding, discovering, and experiencing meaning. Four major themes emerged: (a) leadership, (b) culture, (c) impact and (d) the work. The employees and managers most often mentioned appreciation for their leadership, especially about how leadership lives the core values. When describing the culture, most comments were about how leadership, managers, and employees contribute to the culture. The culture is intentionally created rather than merely received. Impact is the third major component of a meaningful work experience. This impact includes others, the business, and the greater good. For most, making a difference in other employees’ lives was most meaningful. Almost as important as impact, is the work itself: serving other employees while doing what they do best and like doing most. The experience of meaning in work not only benefits the employees, it benefits the company. Interview participants expressed a desire to work harder, deliver better quality, continuously improve, grow, develop, increase responsibility and to continue making a difference. Participants also described how they feel experiencing meaning in work: fulfilled, happy, enjoy their work, secure, have fun, celebrate and feel better about themselves.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (MA) -- Organization Development; Employee motivation; Management; Organizational effectiveness -- Case studies

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