Do you know of methods/tools/criteria used (in sociology, social psychology or occupational science) in order to evaluate how meaningful some particular work can be for a particular person?

I am not asking what (in general) could make work meaningful, but whether some models/tools/lists of questions exist that can be used to measure someone's perception of his own work's meaningfulness.

I've come across a few tools such as the "Meaningful Activity Wants and Needs Assessment" (regarding life balance, more than occupational meaningfulness), "WAMI Work and Meaning Inventory", and a few other tools aimed at assessing job satisfaction, work motivation, etc.

I wonder if other formal models/tools could be suggested.

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    Are you looking for a theory/method that refers to meaningfulness of work from an objective/workplace driven view (e.g. attributes of a workplace to have in order to be meaningful) or from a subjective view (e.g. how meaningful is work for someone depending on the attributes of a person; like a personality trait)? – bucky Nov 3 at 20:24
  • @bucky I am indeed looking for ways of assessing the subjective aspects of work meaningfulness. For instance, questionnaires or lists of items which can be asked about (at least within a qualitative approach) : "perceived performance", "self-concordance", and so on... I've read about the "Meaningful Activity Wants and Needs Assessment" (regarding life balance, more than occupational meaningfulness), "Work and Meaning Inventory", and a few other tools aimed at assessing job satisfaction, work motivation, etc. I wonder if other formal models or tools could be suggested by the S.E. community... – tpiazzapw Nov 4 at 13:56
  • @ChrisRogers I know meaningfulness is subjective, and (from what I understand) psychology and social psychology have methods and tools to assess subjective matters... I am not asking what makes work meaningful (the answer would, indeed, be different in each and every situation), but whether some models / tools / lists of questions exist, which can, in any situation, be used to measure someone's perception of his own work meaningfulness... The result of such a measure is of course opinion-based, but the existence of measurement tools (which I am asking about) is not... – tpiazzapw Nov 4 at 14:03
up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are a bunch of them! For a great review of many definitions and measures of meaningfulness, see if you can get a copy of A Narrative Evidence Synthesis of Meaningful Work: Progress and Research Agenda. The authors are pretty responsive in my experience and will send you a copy.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that there are a bunch of different definitions of work meaningfulness. Everybody has their own approach, some are better than others (i.e., more likely to actually measure meaningfulness and not something related like engagement or intrinsic motivation), and there isn't really a consensus yet. The WAMI you mentioned is built by highly-regarded meaningfulness researchers, is very commonly used in studies of meaningfulness, and I think it's a great "safe bet" measure for getting overall work meaningfulness.

However, if you're looking to zoom-in a little and look at sources of meaning (is it the challenge of your work that you find meaningful, or bonding with coworkers?) like those described in On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review, then you might want to check out the Comprehensive Meaningful Work Scale.

Hope that helps!

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