Work and the good life: How work contributes to meaning in life

Sarah J. Ward, Laura A. King

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Many people expect their work to provide meaning to their lives, yet the specific organizational factors that can promote meaning in life are not clearly delineated. Drawing on the basic science of meaning in life, in this paper we propose that work entails a host of experiences that foster meaning in life. We begin by defining meaning in life, noting its placement within the broader well-being literature and dispelling common myths about its rarity in people's lives. After highlighting the myriad benefits of meaning for individuals and organizations, we describe several established sources of meaning in life and their relevance to work. We then examine how work orientations and social demographic factors influence the propensity to seek meaning through work. We conclude with a discussion of future research directions that can better illuminate the predictors and functions of meaningfulness at work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-82
Number of pages24
JournalResearch in Organizational Behavior
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Meaning in life
  • Organizational behavior
  • Well-being
  • Work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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