College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Pratt quoted in Time article about making work meaningful


1/20/2005

Michael Pratt.TGIM. Thank goodness it's Monday.

Not a common refrain, to be sure.

The January 17th issue of Time magazine devotes several pages to an article about employee engagement and level of contentment with their jobs. Among those quoted is Michael Pratt, associate professor of business administration, who researches organizational behavior and "organizational sensemaking." Pratt says organizational sensemaking involves ascribing meaning to something.

"Jobs become meaningful when either the work itself, or the some aspect of the workplace, such as co-workers, are seen as purposeful and significant."

Pratt's research with surgical residents shows extreme dissatisfaction during their first year when the more menial tasks included in their day-to-day work appeared particularly pointless. In later years, however, Pratt discovered that the residents put the paperwork into the larger context of becoming a surgeon, an elite group. "They're able to reconstruct and make sense of their work and what they do," he is quoted as saying. "By the end of year one, they've started to create some meanings."

The Time article by Jyoti Thottam notes that a recent poll (Sept. 2004) shows that only 29% of workers in the US are engaged in their jobs, a percentage that is twice as large as Germany's and three times greater than in Singapore. A Gallup poll cited in the article indicates that strong relationships with co-workers and a supportive boss help make people happy at work.

Pratt argues that making work meaningful can give organizations a competitive advantage. Organzations that just depend on money to retain key personnel can be outbid by another organization for those employees.

Pratt has a PhD and an MA in psychology from the University of Michigan and a BA from the University of Dayton. He has been on the faculty of the College of Business since 1994.

The Time article is available online by subscription only.

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