Date of Conferral







Bernadette Dorr


Despite research connecting the meaningfulness of work with positive organizational outcomes, such as increased employee well-being, job satisfaction, engagement, and retention, there remains a lack of adequate, inclusive research explaining differences in women's perceptions of the meaningfulness of work. The purpose of this qualitative grounded theory study was to address this gap in the literature by developing a theory about the formation of perceptions of the meaningfulness of work and about the impact of those perceptions. Research questions explored perceptions that women from diverse social classes have of the meaningfulness of work, what influenced those perceptions, the impact of those perceptions on their career choices, and the influence of those perceptions on workplace experiences and behaviors. Data for this study were collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 25 women from different social classes. Transcribed interviews, results from a demographic screening survey, and researcher memos were analyzed using constant comparison in open, axial, and selective coding phases. Results indicated that perceptions of the meaningfulness of work are primarily defined by the potential impact of meaningful work and that the type, scope, and target of that impact are influenced by contextual and experiential factors, filtered through personal identity. The analogy of a stream was used to demonstrate the theory that blockages caused by negative workplace experiences and behaviors may prevent work from having a meaningful impact, but that channels can be created to bypass these blockages. Positive social change occurs when these channels allow employees' goals for impact to be realized, leading them to experience their work as meaningful and to engage in organizational citizenship behavior.