The Meaning of Work

  • Sharlene G. BuszkaEmail author
  • Timothy Ewest
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Workplace Spirituality and Fulfillment book series (PSTWSP)


As America faces growing ethnic diversity, political division, economic hyper-segregation, isolating technologies and moral plurality, Americans have less in common to connect them (Putnam, 2000). However, regardless of the level of compensation, whether mental or physical effort is required, or if it is aligned with personal strengths, work is ubiquitous, and common to all of us, “as common as mud” (Percey, 1973, p. 38). But definitions regarding the essence of work vary widely depending on culture, historic conditions, station in life, or religious perspective. This chapter will explore the meaning of work and consider the various sources from which meaningful work is derived. And, while work is a common experience to all of us, it is actually rather difficult to describe because of the personal, social, value-laden, and contextual elements associated with the meaning of work. At the end of this chapter, it is hoped that readers will possess a broad and correspondingly better understanding of the meanings associated with the word work. Although it is also quite possible that, after reviewing all the possible meanings for work, there might be agreement with the statement: “so work is whatever one thinks work is” (Volf, 2001, p. 7).


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Daemen CollegeAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Houston Baptist UniversityHoustonUSA

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