Call for Papers - Ethics and the Future of Meaningful Work

Ethics and the Future of Meaningful Work

Submission deadline: January 31, 2021

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 (University of Bath, 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 the last year 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, 2020).

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, specifically the intersection of meaningful work with business, ethics, and the “future of work.” We note that we particularly welcome papers that address one or more of the intersections noted in the diagram below.

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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?

Guest Editor Q&A The guest editorial team, listed above, invites authors interested in submitting to, or learning more about, the special issue to attend an online information session on Thursday, November 5, 2020 at 4pm EST/9pm GMT/10am NZDT. The editors will share more about the aim and scope of the special issue and answer questions. If you would like to register to attend this session, please fill out this Google form by Tuesday, November 3.

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 have to be submitted through the Editorial Manager ( by January 31, 2021, 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. (2020). The effect of fairness, responsible leadership and worthy work on multiple dimensions of meaningful work. Journal of Business Ethics, 161, 35-52

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)