Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 121, Issue 1, pp 77–90 | Cite as

Meaningful Work: Connecting Business Ethics and Organization Studies

  • Christopher Michaelson
  • Michael G. Pratt
  • Adam M. Grant
  • Craig P. Dunn


In the human quest for meaning, work occupies a central position. Most adults spend the majority of their waking hours at work, which often serves as a primary source of purpose, belongingness, and identity. In light of these benefits to employees and their organizations, organizational scholars are increasingly interested in understanding the factors that contribute to meaningful work, such as the design of jobs, interpersonal relationships, and organizational missions and cultures. In a separate line of inquiry, scholars of business ethics have examined meaningful work as a moral issue concerning the management of others and ourselves, exploring whether there are definable characteristics of meaningful work to which we have moral rights, and whether there are moral duties to ourselves and others to fulfill those rights. In this article, we examine contemporary developments in both disciplines about the nature, causes, and consequences of meaningful work; we explore linkages between these disciplines; and we offer conclusions and research opportunities regarding the interface of ethical and organizational perspectives on performing and providing meaningful work.


Business ethics Human rights Meaning of work Meaningful work Organization studies Positive organizational studies Prosocial behavior 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Michaelson
    • 1
  • Michael G. Pratt
    • 2
  • Adam M. Grant
    • 3
  • Craig P. Dunn
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Ethics & Business Law, Opus College of BusinessUniversity of St. ThomasMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Carroll School of ManagementBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA
  3. 3.The Wharton School of the University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Management, College of Business and EconomicsWestern Washington UniversityBellinghamUSA

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