How can managers better engage Millennials at work?

Dr. Eve Tracy Coker

Fellow since Apr 2017

The experience of meaning in work for millennials


Research was performed to study the experience of meaning in work for millennials.  Meaning in work pertains to the sense of why people apply themselves to what they do for work.  Millennials have become a growing part of the modern workforce. Both topics have been identified as valuable areas of study in the field of Industrial-Organizational Psychology, with multiple authors calling for more study on both topics.  However, no study had been found specifically addressing how these two topics intersect. Qualitative heuristic phenomenology was used to explore the question: What is the experience of meaning in work for millennials? The author used personal experience to elicit the essence of the shared phenomenon.  For this study, the millennial population was identified as persons born between 1980 and 1996. Millennial co-researchers (participants in the study) had 3 or more years of work experience and a variety of job functions. Data collection was completed by interviewing each co-researcher with a semi-structured question list pertaining to patterns found in the current scholarly literature on meaning in work and on millennials.   The discovered themes were: autonomy, structure and expectations, value as a person, working relationships, altruism, frustration and stress, and personal care. The findings revealed that co-researchers found positive meaning when these themes and patterns manifested in positive ways, whereas they found meaninglessness and negative meaning when these themes and patterns occurred in negative ways. Additionally, it was found that personal responsibility could impact co-researchers’ interpretations of meaning as applied to their lives and sense of purpose.  Further research could explore the relationship between these patterns and workplace engagement/withdrawal, as well as the role of personal responsibility in organizational behavior.