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date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter articulates the link between employee engagement and meaningful work, acknowledging the complexity of this task against a backdrop of confusion over the precise meaning of engagement, which remains a contested and potentially exploitative construct. The chapter highlights the limitations of the predominant conceptualization of engagement as a positive, active, work-related psychological state, arguing that this encourages a focus on performance-related outcomes at the expense of a deeper understanding of the individual experience, context, and processes of engagement. Reverting to William Kahn’s original theory of personal role engagement as being fostered by the experience of meaningfulness, it is argued that individual engagement is associated with the fluctuating interpretation of whether or not a situation can be construed as meaningful. Thus, engagement and meaningfulness, while not synonymous, are symbiotically linked.

Keywords: meaningful work, employee engagement, Kahn, exploitation, performance, personal role

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