The meaning of work literature is the product of a long tradition of rich inquiry spanning many disciplines. Yet, the field lacks overarching structures that would facilitate greater integration, consistency, and understanding of this body of research. Current research has developed in ways that have created relatively independent domains of study that exist in silos organized around various sources of meaning and meaningfulness. In this paper, we review the meaning of work literature in order to propose new frameworks within which to classify existing work and to seed new work. Our review is organized by the major sources of the meaning of work on which extant research has focused, and by the mechanisms through which work is proposed to become meaningful. We analyze the evolution and current state of meaning of work research, identifying core patterns and assumptions that have defined research in this area to date, and offer a theoretical framework based on this body of research that illuminates the main pathways to meaningful work. Throughout, we outline several promising directions for future research that we hope will stimulate further generative inquiry in this rich area of study.
Rosso, B. D., Dekas, K. H., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2010). On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review. Research in organizational behavior, 30, 91-127.