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Making Sense Of Work: Finding Meaning In Work Narratives

Kimberly S. Scott

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AbstractThis study examined how individuals make sense of their work narratives – autobiographical stories about their work lives – and the implications for individual well-being. A mixed methods approach was used to investigate relationships between meaning making, pathways to meaningfulness, job characteristics, job involvement, and psychological well-being. Survey responses and narrative themes from life story interviews were collected from 119 adults. A narrative coding scheme was developed to identify pathways to meaningful work. Results show that people made sense of their work lives most often by constructing themes about personal agency. The findings support prior research suggesting that socioeconomic factors, access to resources, and working conditions increase the likelihood of finding and benefiting from meaningful work. For individuals wishing to find meaning in their work, job design characteristics (e.g., decision authority, skill discretion), and developing a sense of agency can be levers for fostering meaning and well-being.