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Is meaningful work the silver bullet? Perspectives of the social workers

Kim-Lim Tan (Curtin University Malaysia, Miri, Malaysia and Human Capital Leadership Institute, Singapore, Singapore)
Tek-Yew Lew (Curtin University Malaysia, Miri, Malaysia)
Adriel K.S. Sim (Curtin University Malaysia, Miri, Malaysia)

Journal of Asia Business Studies

ISSN: 1558-7894

Article publication date: 7 October 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of meaningful work against dimensions of job burnout, with psychological capital (PsyCap) as the mediator.


Data from 223 social workers were analyzed using the partial least squares–structural equation modeling.


As expected, meaningful work displayed a positive, direct and significant relationship with PsyCap. Contrary to expectations, meaningful work did not establish a negative direct relationship with all, but one dimension of job burnout. However, the results showed that it had indirect relationships with all job burnout dimensions through PsyCap where it displayed a mediating influence over the relationship.

Practical implications

Given the malleable attributes of PsyCap and the results showing meaningful work being a strong predictor of PsyCap, this study suggests that organizations should focus on imbuing greater meaningfulness in work to improve social workers’ PsyCap, which is essential in reducing their propensity for experiencing job burnout.


This is one of the first studies to explore in detail the effects of meaningful work on the dimensions of job burnout, with PsyCap being the mediator. This study has advanced the body of knowledge on meaningful work by contesting the claim that meaningful work was an effective predictor in reducing job burnout. In addition, this study has extended the understanding of the upward-spiral concept and the resource caravan concept.



Tan, K.-L., Lew, T.-Y. and Sim, A.K.S. (2019), "Is meaningful work the silver bullet? Perspectives of the social workers", Journal of Asia Business Studies, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 612-632.



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