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The Dark Side of Deeply Meaningful Work: Work‐Relationship Turmoil and the Moderating Role of Occupational Value Homophily

Carrie R. Oelberger

Journal of Management Studies, 2019, vol. 56, issue 3, 558-588

Abstract: How are close personal relationships experienced by people in deeply meaningful work? Drawing upon in‐depth interview data with 82 international aid workers, I offer three distinct contributions. First, I find that people who experience their work as deeply meaningful have high work devotion. I identify boundary inhibition as a mechanism to explain why they participate more willingly in overwork and erratic work, despite giving rise to time‐ and trust‐based conflict in their relationships. Second, I find that people with high work devotion often also experience emotional distance in their personal relationships when their close others don’t value their work – a context I call occupational value heterophily. This disconnection‐based conflict compounds the time‐ and trust‐based conflict and engenders an emotionally agonizing situation, which I call work‐relationship turmoil. Third, when close others do value their partner’s work – a context I call occupational value homophily – it fosters an emotional connection and offers an avenue for work‐relationship enrichment. These findings draw upon deeply meaningful work to detail the multi‐faceted work‐relationship experience among those with high work devotion.

Date: 2019
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