Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Ib Ravn

Meaning in Work Life: Definition and Conceptualization

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterResearch


  • Department of Learning
  • Research Programme in Organisation and Learning
    An important aspect of modern work is the meaning that people find in it. Research on this topic has typically asked respondents to name the elements of their work they see as meaningful (e.g., Meaning of Working International Research Team, 1987).
    However, a theory of what makes work meaningful is still lacking (Harpaz & Fu, 2002), as are definitions of key terms. Here, I define meaning as the experience that something fits into a wider context or coheres within a larger whole.
    I conceptualize meaning in work life as deriving from four factors, each of which helps us contribute to something larger than ourselves (Seligman, 2002) through our work. Thus, a person experiences meaning in work life when she...
A. is able to use her signature strengths at work (Peterson and Seligman, 2004),
B. makes an important contribution to the workplace (Drucker, 1999),
C. participates in a productive community of fellow workers, and
D. creates something of value to the organization's stakeholders or in society at large (Ghoshal et al., 1999).

This conceptualization may be expressed as survey or interview items and thus inform empirical research. Also, it may guide action for change through its identification of four loci of intervention, that is, the four factors listed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2009
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventThe First World Congress on Positive Psychology - Philadelphia, United States
Duration: 18 Jun 200921 Jun 2009


ConferenceThe First World Congress on Positive Psychology
CountryUnited States

    Research areas

  • Meaning, Work life, Human flourishing, Value creation

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 195832