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Meaningful work at a distance: A case study in a hospital

Müller, Monika LU ; Huber, Christian and Messner, Martin (2019) In European Management Journal p.719-729
Abstract
Having a positive impact on other people's lives typically increases the likelihood of regarding one's work as meaningful. In some settings, however, employees have little or no contact to those who experience the impact of their work. Our paper examines how such distance affects these employees' construction of their work as meaningful. We present the findings of an in-depth case study of medical laboratory workers who do not typically interact with their patients. Drawing on interviews and observational data, we identify three sensemaking practices through which employees overcome the physical and perceived psychological distance to patients: assembling various pieces of information about the patient, sharing patient-related stories with... (More)
Having a positive impact on other people's lives typically increases the likelihood of regarding one's work as meaningful. In some settings, however, employees have little or no contact to those who experience the impact of their work. Our paper examines how such distance affects these employees' construction of their work as meaningful. We present the findings of an in-depth case study of medical laboratory workers who do not typically interact with their patients. Drawing on interviews and observational data, we identify three sensemaking practices through which employees overcome the physical and perceived psychological distance to patients: assembling various pieces of information about the patient, sharing patient-related stories with colleagues, and relating themselves to patients and their medical problems. We also find that overcoming distance to patients can result in emotional stress, which is why some employees prefer staying at a ‘safe’ psychological distance. Our paper contributes to the meaningful work literature by examining how actors make work meaningful when they are physically distant from their object of work. We also contribute to a critical understanding of meaningful work by showing how efforts to render one's work more meaningful can intensify stress and emotional tension. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Meaningful work, Distance, Sensemaking, Emotions, Case Study
in
European Management Journal
pages
719 - 729
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • scopus:85075263684
ISSN
1873-5681
DOI
10.1016/j.emj.2019.03.008
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
7c940c44-406f-4213-b95a-6db9da91c61e
date added to LUP
2019-04-12 09:32:17
date last changed
2020-01-13 01:39:12
@article{7c940c44-406f-4213-b95a-6db9da91c61e,
  abstract     = {Having a positive impact on other people's lives typically increases the likelihood of regarding one's work as meaningful. In some settings, however, employees have little or no contact to those who experience the impact of their work. Our paper examines how such distance affects these employees' construction of their work as meaningful. We present the findings of an in-depth case study of medical laboratory workers who do not typically interact with their patients. Drawing on interviews and observational data, we identify three sensemaking practices through which employees overcome the physical and perceived psychological distance to patients: assembling various pieces of information about the patient, sharing patient-related stories with colleagues, and relating themselves to patients and their medical problems. We also find that overcoming distance to patients can result in emotional stress, which is why some employees prefer staying at a ‘safe’ psychological distance. Our paper contributes to the meaningful work literature by examining how actors make work meaningful when they are physically distant from their object of work. We also contribute to a critical understanding of meaningful work by showing how efforts to render one's work more meaningful can intensify stress and emotional tension.},
  author       = {Müller, Monika and Huber, Christian and Messner, Martin},
  issn         = {1873-5681},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {719--729},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {European Management Journal},
  title        = {Meaningful work at a distance: A case study in a hospital},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.emj.2019.03.008},
  doi          = {10.1016/j.emj.2019.03.008},
  year         = {2019},
}