As the 2012 Opus College of Business graduates get ready to enter or re-enter the workforce or re-energize their workplace, we wanted to share a Q&A with Christopher Michaelson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the ethics and business law department, about his research on meaningful work.
Q. What do you mean by “meaningful work”?
A. Meaningful work refers not only to work that is meaningful to the worker but that also contributes meaningfully to general well-being. Most people intuitively have an idea of what meaningful work is and whether they consider their own work to be meaningful. There is a lot of excellent research on why people do the kinds of work they do and what they think about it. However, comparatively few people consider why they ought to do the work they do in a moral sense. My research examines the morality of meaningful work, including whether we have a moral obligation to perform and/or provide it.
Q. Why is this topic of interest to you?
A. Some of the influential people in my life had relatively clear ideas about what kinds of work were morally acceptable for me to pursue. Sometimes, I joke that I became the wrong kind of doctor. My mother, a teacher, would really have liked me to have been a medical doctor for a meaningful reason: Doctors help others, and in doing so make the world better. There are good reasons why doctors are generally held in high esteem. The fact that the market often compensates them well seems an appropriate reward for their efforts. Similarly, teachers help others improve our world, but they are often not as well-compensated. In my career as a teacher of business students and as a business person, I have tried to encourage my students and business organizations to consider ways in which business can and does enhance well-being. I promote exploration of how the market can or should reward such efforts. (more…)