Call for Papers - Ethics and the Future of Meaningful Work

Ethics and the Future of Meaningful Work

Submission deadline: October 31, 2020

Special Issue Guest Editors:
Evgenia I. Lysova (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Jennifer Tosti-Kharas (Babson College, USA)
Catherine Bailey (King’s College London, UK)
Luke Fletcher (Aston Business School, UK)
Peter McGhee (Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand)
Christopher Michaelson (University of St. Thomas, USA)

Recent years have seen a growing attention to the topic of meaningful work. In 2018-2019 alone, there appeared “in press” two literature reviews (Bailey, Yeoman, Madden, Thompson, & Kerridge, 2019; Lysova, Allan, Dik, Duffy, & Steger, 2019), a meta-analysis (Allan, Batz-Barbarich, Sterling, & Tray, 2019), an edited handbook (Yeoman, Bailey, Madden, & Thompson, 2019), and two journal special issues (one on meaningful work by Bailey et al., 2019; the other on the related concept of calling by Lysova, Dik, Duffy, Khapova, & Arthur, 2019). These developments signal not only rising interest in the concept but also raise a number of significant and, as yet, unanswered ethical questions that would benefit from interdisciplinary attention from business ethics and other disciplines. The value of business ethics for understanding meaningful work has been articulated in a paper published by Michaelson and colleagues (2014) in Journal of Business Ethics. The authors point to several research opportunities that require this interdisciplinary approach, including the extent to which ethics is integral or incidental to meaningful work, the question of the moral obligations of organizations to individuals, and the potential moral obligations of individuals themselves. More recent work concerned with the ethical antecedents to meaningful work has also called for more research at the ethics-meaningful work intersection (Lips-Wiersma, Haar, & Wright, In press).

In the Journal of Business Ethics Special Issue on “Ethics and the Future of Meaningful Work,” we are concerned with at least three perspectives: that of the worker (i.e., how meaningful or meaningless work can influence human flourishing), that of the employer (i.e., moral obligation and duty to create conditions that enable individuals to find meaningful work), and that of the market (i.e., how the market values meaning in relation to money) – as well as the interaction between these three levels of analysis. We are also interested in changes in the influence of technological conditions of work (e.g., automation of manufacturing, artificial intelligence), workplace environment (e.g., worker mobility; co-working arrangements; new ways of working; efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion; increasing insecurity and work intensity), and generational (e.g., Millennial and Generation Z preferences) and geographical shifts in ethical issues related to and the priority of meaningful work. We invite scholars from various disciplines to submit their conceptual and empirical papers that would address any of these perspectives and phenomena. Potential research questions for consideration include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • What does it mean to understand meaningful work as an ethical phenomenon?
  • How do individuals in diverse cultures and societies negotiate the worthiness of their work?
  • Do organizations have a moral obligation to provide meaningful work, and do people have a moral duty to perform meaningful work?
  • What are the ethical implications when people seek meaningful work for which there is an insufficient market?
  • When does meaningful work lead to or coincide with either ethical or unethical behavior? 
  • Do employers take advantage of employees who feel their work is meaningful?
  • How will changes in the conditions of work (e.g., technology, workplace environment, and generational shifts) influence the ethical issues and priority of meaningful work?
  • What is the responsibility of an individual and/or organization for sustaining a meaningful career?
  • What moral obligations do organizations have towards helping individuals to develop and sustain a meaningful career trajectory?

Conferences Linked to the Special IssueThe guest editing team invites scholars interested in submitting their work to this Special Issue to send their work in progress to one or both of the two conferences to which this Special Issue is linked. Please note that participation in these conferences is a way to receive feedback on the paper prior to submission, but is not a requirement for submitting to the Special Issue.

The first conference is the 4th International Symposium on Meaningful Work that will take place on 22 June 2020 at King’s College London, UK. If you are interested in participating, you are invited to submit an extended abstract of no more than 1,000 words to Professor Catherine Bailey ( by 27 March 2020. Any questions about this conference can be addressed to her as well.The second conference is 7th World Congress of the International Society of Business Economics and Ethics (ISBEE) that will take place on 15-18 July 2020 in Bilbao, Spain. Track 7, entitled “Future of Meaningful Work,” is hosted by one of the Special Issue guest editors, Professor Christopher Michaelson ( Please address any questions about this conference to him.

Submission Instructions
Interested authors should submit their manuscripts online to the Journal of Business Ethics (JBE), preparing the manuscript according to the JBE guidelines provided on the journal website. Please note that all manuscripts need to be submitted through the Editorial Manager ( by 31 October 2020, whilst indicating that it is a submission to this Special Issue. Please note that a paper submitted to this special issue cannot be resubmitted to a regular issue at the JBE. All manuscripts will go through a double-blind peer-reviewed process according to JBE’s guidelines.
Any questions with regard to this Special Issue, please address to Dr. Jennifer Tosti-Kharas ( or Dr. Evgenia Lysova (

Allan, B. A., Batz-Barbarich, C., Sterling, H. M., & Tay, L. (2019). Outcomes of meaningful work: A meta-analysis. Journal of Management Studies, 56(3), 500-528.

Bailey, C., Lips‐Wiersma, M., Madden, A., Yeoman, R., Thompson, M., &
Chalofsky, N. (2019). The five paradoxes of meaningful work: Introduction to the special issue ‘meaningful work: Prospects for the 21st century’. Journal of Management Studies, 56(3), 481-499.

Bailey, C., Yeoman, R., Madden, A., Thompson, M., & Kerridge, G. (2019). A review of the empirical literature on meaningful work: Progress and research agenda. Human Resource Development Review, 18(1), 83-113.

Lysova, E. I., Allan, B. A., Dik, B. J., Duffy, R. D., & Steger, M. F. (2019). Fostering meaningful work in organizations: A multi-level review and integration. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 110(B), 374-389.

Lysova, E. I., Dik, B. J., Duffy, R. D., Khapova, S. N., & Arthur, M. B. (2019). Calling and careers: New insights and future directions. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 114, 1-6.

Lips-Wiersma, M., Haar, J., & Wright, S. (In press). The effect of fairness, responsible leadership and worthy work on multiple dimensions of meaningful work. Forthcoming in Journal of Business Ethics.

Michaelson, C., Pratt, M. G., Grant, A. M., & Dunn, C. P. (2014). Meaningful work: Connecting business ethics and organization studies. Journal of Business Ethics, 121(1), 77-90.

Yeoman, R., Bailey, C., Madden, A., & Thompson, M. (Eds.) (2019). The Oxford Handbook of Meaningful Work. (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press).