The Dark Side of Deeply Meaningful Work: Work-Relationship Turmoil and the Moderating Role of Occupational Value Homophily

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3 Scopus citations


How are close personal relationships experienced by people in deeply meaningful work? Drawing upon in-depth interview data with 82 international aid workers, I offer three distinct contributions. First, I find that people who experience their work as deeply meaningful have high work devotion. I identify boundary inhibition as a mechanism to explain why they participate more willingly in overwork and erratic work, despite giving rise to time- and trust-based conflict in their relationships. Second, I find that people with high work devotion often also experience emotional distance in their personal relationships when their close others don’t value their work – a context I call occupational value heterophily. This disconnection-based conflict compounds the time- and trust-based conflict and engenders an emotionally agonizing situation, which I call work-relationship turmoil. Third, when close others do value their partner’s work – a context I call occupational value homophily – it fosters an emotional connection and offers an avenue for work-relationship enrichment. These findings draw upon deeply meaningful work to detail the multi-faceted work-relationship experience among those with high work devotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)558-588
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2019



  • boundary inhibition
  • deeply meaningful work
  • occupational value homophily
  • work devotion
  • work-relationship conflict
  • work-relationship turmoil

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