Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Work meaningfulness is fundamental to how employees approach, enact, and experience tasks and interpersonal relationships, and to maintain mental well-being in the workplace. However, research on the antecedents of work meaningfulness is unbalanced, i.e., the heavy emphasis on the supplies (or sources) of work meaningfulness and the insufficient attention on the individuals’ survival and psychological needs. This paper aims to address this research gap of work meaningfulness by incorporating the person-environment fit framework with a special focus on needs-supplies fit type. Drawing on research concerning needs for survival and three basic psychological needs from self-determination theory, a set of needs-based antecedents of work meaningfulness were examined, viz., needs-supplies fit for survival, autonomy, belongingness, and competence (S-ABC needs-supplies fit). Additionally, the interaction effects of S-ABC needs-supplies fit and work orientation (work as jobs, careers, or callings) on work meaningfulness were investigated. The current study applied the two-phased explanatory sequential mixed methods research design (QUAN --> qual = Explain). Results from the phase 1 quantitative survey (N = 363) suggest that work meaningfulness increased as autonomy supplies approached the needed levels and decreased when supplies exceeded the needed levels. Meanwhile, work meaningfulness increased as survival, belongingness, and competence supplies approached the needed levels and remained high or continued increasing (as opposed to an expected decrease) when supplies exceeded the needed levels. Further, the study found interaction effects between work orientation and autonomy and belongingness needs-supplies fit on work meaningfulness, while no interaction was found between work orientation and survival and competence needs-supplies fit on work meaningfulness. Contrary to expectations, the results suggest that individuals who view work as jobs were more susceptible to autonomy and belongingness needs-supplies fit/misfit; while work as callings or careers acted as a buffer and mitigated the otherwise negative effects of autonomy and belongingness needs-supplies fit/misfit on work meaningfulness. Specifically, for people who viewed work as jobs, work meaningfulness increased as autonomy supplies approached the needed levels but decreased when supplies exceeded the needed levels; and work meaningfulness increased as belongingness supplies approached the needed levels and continued increasing as belongingness exceeded the needed levels. When people viewed work as careers or callings, autonomy and belongingness needs-supplies fit/misfit did not significantly influence work meaningfulness. The phase 2 qualitative interview (N = 23) results generally corroborated with the quantitative results and provided empirical evidences that were explanatory to the quantitative results. Implications, limitations, and future research directions are discussed.
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