To Work or Not to Work: Construction of Meaning of Work and Making Work Choices

Anuradha, M V and Srinivas, E S and Singhal, M and Ramnarayan, S (2014) To Work or Not to Work: Construction of Meaning of Work and Making Work Choices. Vikalpa, 39 (2). pp. 7-20.

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Abstract

Meaning of work as explored in this study refers to the function that organizational paid employment serves for people. Is work a means of fulfilling social and economic expectations? Is it a means through which an individual can learn and grow personally? Is it a means of earning a living? Or is it an opportunity for people to express and apply their talents and expertise? In the real world, work could mean all of these together. However, when participants were asked about the meaning of work, their responses indicated the predominance of one meaning at any given time.The intent of this research was to explore how the predominant meaning of work got constructed before people started working and how that affected their work choices. The research was based on the assumption that meaning of work is a dynamic concept, i.e. the same individual can hold different meanings of work at two different points in time. This assumption in effect also suggests that meaning is not determined by fixed personality characteristics of an individual, but gets constructed through the interaction of the social structures and the personal preferences of people. In order to understand how the meaning of work evolves even before one starts working, a process theory of the construction of meaning of work was developed inductively using the work narratives of 44 public sector bank employees in India.It was found that work means different things to different people, but for ease of comprehension and for the purpose of analysis, the meaning of work has been categorized under two broad headings — social meaning of work and personal meaning of work. When the main function of work is to fulfill social and economic expectations, the person can be said to hold a social meaning of work. If work is predominantly a means to satisfy personal aspirations and interests, then it holds a personal meaning.The narratives suggest that when individuals have multiple career or job alternatives to choose from and also possess a clear knowledge of their interests, then their work choices are driven by personal inclinations and work takes on a personal meaning. On the other hand, when the number of job alternatives is limited and an individual does not have insight into one's own interests then social expectations and metaphors related to work influence the meaning of work and work choices. The theoretical and managerial implications of the findings and limitations are also discussed.

Affiliation: Indian School of Business
ISB Creators:
ISB CreatorsORCiD
Ramnarayan, SUNSPECIFIED
Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Meaning of work, Grounded theory, Work choices, Awareness of interests, Social metaphors of work, White collared jobs
Subjects: Organization Behavior
Depositing User: Ilayaraja M
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2019 11:34
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2019 11:34
URI: http://eprints.exchange.isb.edu/id/eprint/1105
Publisher URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/0256090920140203
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