The Effect of Fairness, Responsible Leadership and Worthy Work on Multiple Dimensions of Meaningful Work

Journal of Business Ethics 161 (1):35-52 (2020)
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Abstract

The present study extends the meaningful work and ethics literature by comparing three ethics-related antecedents. The second contribution of this paper is that in using a multi-dimensional MFW construct we offer a more fine-tuned understanding of the impact of ethical antecedents on different dimensions of MFW, such as expressing full potential and integrity with self. Using an international data set from 879 employees and structural equation modelling, we confirmed an updated seven-dimension Comprehensive Meaningful Work Scale. The structural model found that fairness, responsible leadership and worthy work are all significant and positively related to the majority of meaningfulness dimensions. However, different antecedents are related to different dimensions of MFW, showing that a complex and multi-level combination of ethics-related practices are required to cultivate MFW. All relationships were in the expected positive direction except responsible leadership, which was negatively related to the MFW dimension of integrity with self. Across the seven dimensions of MFW, only the dimension ‘Service to Others’ was uniformly not predicted by any antecedent. However, all three antecedents significantly related to important dimensions of MFW not usually measured in the ethics literature, such as ‘Unity with Others’ and ‘Expressing Full Potential’. In addition, we conducted dominance analysis to test the relative importance of the three antecedent across the MFW dimensions, and found that worthy work is the most dominant antecedent, although all three antecedents are the most dominant for at least one MFW dimension—further highlighting the importance of exploring MFW as a multi-dimensional construct. We discuss the implications for MFW theory and practice.

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