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Job Design, Personality Traits, and the Pursuit of Meaningful Work: A Configural Approach
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Job design scholars have shown that the strongest link between job characteristics and several attitudinal and behavioral outcomes is a person’s experienced meaningfulness at work. However, there has been very little research that has described how each unique job characteristic impacts meaningfulness, or considered the influence that a person’s dispositional characteristics have on this critical psychological state. Drawing upon job characteristics and the meaning of work literature streams and integrating it with the Theory of Purposeful Work Behavior, I propose that there are four fundamental “meaning of work” goals that serve as the mediating mechanisms linking one’s job characteristics and personality traits with their eventual experienced meaningfulness at work. These goals can be separated into two broad types, those that are self-focused (i.e. developing role mastery and gaining clarity of accomplishments) and those that are others-focused (i.e. acquiring social impact and attaining power). I propose a differential pattern of relationships whereby the two self-focused goals are more strongly impacted by one’s task-focused job characteristics, while the others-focused goals are more strongly impacted by one’s social-focused job characteristics. In addition, I adopt a person-centered approach with respect to the dispositional characteristics by considering an individual’s profile across all Big Five personality traits. I propose that individuals can be described as being represented by one of three broad personality profile types, and that some personality profile types tend to experience a higher level of meaning of work goal fulfillment as compared to other types, apart from the influence of one’s job characteristics. Finally, I propose that when predicting the fulfillment of these four meaning of work goals, the relationship between job characteristics and personality trait profiles is compensatory in nature in that goal fulfillment is more strongly impacted by one’s dispositional characteristics for individuals with a more desirable personality profile. In contrast, goal fulfillment is more strongly impacted by the characteristics of one’s work environment for those with a less-desirable personality profile. I test my hypotheses with a sample of 184 individuals using multiple regression and latent profile analysis, and find overall support for these fundamental theoretical propositions.
meaning of work
latent profile analysis
Thurgood, Gary Roy (2016). Job Design, Personality Traits, and the Pursuit of Meaningful Work: A Configural Approach. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from