“I only tell them the good parts:” How relational others influence paid careworkers’ descriptions of their work as meaningful
Keywords: 
Meaningful work
Meaningfulness
Care work
Careworkers
Relational others
Issue Date: 
23-Jul-2023
Publisher: 
Sage
ISSN: 
1552-6798
Note: 
CC BY
Citation: 
McAllum, K. (Kirstie); Elvira, M.M. (Marta María); Villamor-Martin, M. (Marta). "“I only tell them the good parts:” How relational others influence paid careworkers’ descriptions of their work as meaningful". Management communication quarterly. 38 (1), 2023-07-23, 171 - 202
Abstract
The occupational images associated with paid care work for older adults range from a job carried out by earthly angels to a form of stigmatized dirty work: This ambiguity makes maintaining a committed long-term care workforce challenging. Encouraging careworkers to view their work as meaningful has been touted as a potential solution. Moving beyond a purely subjective approach to meaningfulness, we explore how careworkers construe their work as meaningful and how relational others influence careworkers’ ability to speak about meaningfulness. Others’ messages matter, although their importance depends on relational others’ knowledge of care tasks and involvement in the care relationship. By documenting how others’ accounts both enhance and compromise careworkers’ ability to speak about meaningfulness and moments of meaninglessness, our study identifies sources of meaningfulness for careworkers, a socially essential workforce under-examined by meaningful work research, and extends meaningful work research in contexts where relationships are central to occupational identity.
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