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Title:Banking on Meaningful Work: How Organizations and Recipients Shape the Meaning of Helping Others Through Work
Author(s):Cardador, Maria Teresa
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Pratt, Michael
Department / Program:Business Administration
Discipline:Business Adminstration
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Business Administration, Management
Psychology, Industrial
Sociology, Organizational
Abstract:Despite a growing interest in meaningful work, current models have largely ignored the role of helping others in the construction of meaningful work, tending to focus instead on the role of personal dispositions, relationships, and the characteristics of job tasks. This is an important oversight given research that suggests that work is a major avenue through which people can improve the lives of others, and that individuals value the opportunity to help others though work. The purpose of this research, therefore, is to build and elaborate theory concerning the relationships between meaningful work and helping others.
I employ an inductive approach, examining two largely unexplored areas: (1) how and why helping different types of recipients may trigger very different meaning processes; and (2) how organizational mission might play a role in influencing whether and why different types of helping are perceived as meaningful. In pursuing these areas of interest, I compare two contexts in the banking industry: a credit union characterized by a social mission, and a retail bank characterized by a commercial mission.
The findings make clear that, despite doing similar tasks and having the common goal of providing financial services, the bankers at the two organizations in this study experienced important differences in the ways that they considered helping others to be meaningful. Furthermore, there were several factors that contributed to these differences, including the characteristics those being helped, the characteristics of leaders, the degree to which features of the organization placed emphasis on the value of helping others, and the degree of internal alignment between these features of the organization.
This research offers a number of scholarly contributions. Most notably, its shows how each of several bodies of research (e.g., organizational identity, organizational practices, leadership) shed light on an "structural theory" of meaningful work, which considers the role of the organization in enabling helping, and aiding employees in constructing the meaning of helping others through work. The findings also elaborate on previous work suggesting that identity is the mechanism by which meaning is shaped. Specifically, the data show that organizations play a role in activating different levels of employees' identities, and thus shaping how employees experience meaningfulness through helping others. The models of "meaningful work through helping others" presented here establish helping others as an important source of meaningfulness, and highlight that helping different types of recipients is related to meaningfulness for unique sets of reasons. Further, these models showcase that the meaning of helping the same groups of recipients can differ widely in different organizations, thus illustrating how organizations and specific characteristics of recipients can influence the different paths that employees take to meaningful work.
Issue Date:2009
Description:215 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2009.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI3362744
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:2009

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