Paper Session: Positive Organizations & Meaningful Work

Saturday, July 30, 11:15 AM – 1:00 PM


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  1. Florence HuangMeaningful Work Between Finance Industry and Helping Field in Hong Kong
  2. Saleena KhanPERMA Model and Psycap (Relevance in Developing Positive Organizations)
  3. Myeong KoAntecedents and Consequences of Public Managers’ Micro-Boundary Spanning Behaviors
  4. Shizuka ModicaNew Paradigm in the Workplace “Purpose” as a Variable for “Meaning”
  5. Ross RainsMeaning in Marketplace Transactions
  6. Karen TerryPersonal Development and Coaching

Paper Presentations


Florence Huang, Ph.D.

Meaningful Work Between Finance Industry and Helping Field in Hong Kong

Job satisfaction can affect the overall life happiness. It can be hedonic, which associates with pleasure, happiness, and balance, or eudaimonic, which associates with individual’s strivings or motivations to reach their potentials and create meaning and purpose in life. Job satisfaction takes into consideration individual’s overall feelings about the job, the working condition, the rewards, the context, the people involved, and the job itself. The fit between the nature of the self and the nature of work contribute greatly to the meaningfulness that the career brings. The meaning of work has evolved over time in Hong Kong, particularly under the influence of cultural transition in the last few decades. Working long hours such as nine to 10 hours a day is not uncommon in Hong Kong. Work once functioned as the monetary return in simple exchange for labor has changed. As the population evolves, along with increase in literacy and access to education, people also start to strive towards meaning and purpose in work. The effect on job satisfaction has a direct correlation towards one’s overall subjective well-being due to the fact that people spend a large amount of time on the job. Careers play an important role in a working person’s life. The type of work and the industry of choice help foster self-completion, personal fulfillment, personal recognition, meaning, enrichment, satisfaction, and happiness. This research aims to discover the elements that contribute towards the meaningful work in two microcultures in Hong Kong: the finance sector and the helping field. This study was organized using a qualitative research design. A grounded theory method was carried out using in-depth interviews with 30 participants who were ethnic Chinese between the ages of 30 to 50 when career choices had already been made. This study also explores to what extent people belong to the same microculture share similar values and perceptions towards meaningful work.


Saleena Khan, Associate Professor, Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Nagpur, Maharashtra, India

PERMA Model and Psycap: Relevance in Developing Positive Organizations

Positive psychology has roots in the humanistic psychology of the 20th century, which focused heavily on happiness and fulfillment. Several humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Erich Fromm developed theories and practices pertaining to human happiness and flourishing. Positive psychology began as a new area of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association, though the term originates with Maslow, in his 1954 book, “Motivation and Personality”. For obtaining happiness which is often considered as unattainable, Positive Psychology suggests that it is the natural result of building up our well-being and satisfaction with life. In the process of building blocks of well-being, Prof. Seligman identified a 5 sided model of well-being called the PERMA model comprising of Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments. Simultaneously, using positive psychology, Positive Organizational behavior (POB), and the 4 criteria psychological resources of efficacy, optimism, hope, and resiliency as the foundation, Luthans and his colleagues (2002), developed a high order core construct called PsyCap or Psychological capital. The PsyCap goes beyond economic (what you have, physical and financial assets), social (who you know, network of friends) and human capital (knowledge, skills, abilities, experience). To explore the feasibility and applicability of these concepts, this article has focused on studying the relevance of PERMA and Psycap in developing positive organizations. An attempt is made to verify hypotheses of developing positive organizations in context with PERMA model and PsyCap through qualitative research.


Myeong Ko, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Public Policy, Hanbat National University, Daejeon, South Korea

Antecedents and Consequences of Public Managers’ Micro-Boundary Spanning Behaviors: Focused on the Central Government officers in South Korea

Based on a conceptual model of government officers’ micro-boundary spanning (i.e., non-designated persons’ voluntary communication behaviors to disseminate positive information for one’s organization, collect pertinent organization-related information from internal and external stakeholders and share obtained strategic information with internally relevant persons of the organization), this study will attempt to test the effects of three organizational traits – climate for creativity, transparency in organization, and communication symmetry on quality of relationship and micro-boundary spanning. In this study, transformational leadership will be posited as an antecedent variable moderating the effects of micro-boundary spanning among government officers. A survey data from central government officers in South Korea will be used to test six hypotheses. This study expects that the quality of government officers’ relationships leads to a greater likelihood of performing micro-boundary spanning in and around the organization as the three organizational factors become well-established. In a similar vein, managers’ transformational leadership can also be a meaningful driver of promoting micro-boundary spanning as the organizational climate is innovative and adaptive to creativity. The results will provide important theoretical and managerial implications regarding the role of government officers’ internal communication and organization-public relationship in building and sustaining socio-cultural assets and individual capacity in government organizations.


Shizuka Modica, Ph.D., is a learning facilitator who helps individuals and organizations perform optimally and grow sustainably. She is Professor of Organizational Behavior and Leadership at the Kyoto College of Graduate Studies for Informatics. She earned her master’s in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Virginia. She is also an ICF-certified coach. Previously, Shizuka was an international higher education administrator and publicist in Japan. In the US, she managed a cardiology research center; researched and wrote business cases on leadership, organic growth, and entrepreneurship; and taught organizational behavior.

Separation of Conjoined Twins “Meaning” and “Purpose”: New Paradigm in the Workplace – “Purpose” as a Variable for “Meaning”

In this paper, the author examines the relationship between “meaning” and “purpose” in the workplace and proposes the Meaning-of-Work (MOW) Theory for High Performance. This theory is built on Deci and Ryan’s well-established Self-Determination Theory, and positions “higher purpose” as one of the subordinate variables for meaning-making. In many areas of literature (e.g., existential psychology, positive psychology, philosophy, and management), “meaning” and “purpose” are often used together as if they were conjoined twins. Unfortunately, there is no definitive clarity on the relationship between “meaning” and “purpose.” Are these constructs inseparable? Are they interchangeable? Are they equal counterparts? Is there a subordinate-superordinate hierarchical relationship between the two?

A literature review overwhelmingly indicates that these two concepts are historically either equal counterparts or “meaning” is a construct somewhat subordinate to “purpose.” However, the author’s initial theoretical and qualitative research indicated that “purpose” – specifically “higher purpose” is one of the fundamental variables in constructing “meaning” in our work. Interestingly, some of the recent psychometric instruments and frameworks on “meaningful work” assume that “purpose” or “greater good” is one of the variables that help construct a sense of “meaningful work” – e.g., Steger, et al’s Work and Meaning Inventory (WAMI), Pattakos and Dundon’s OPA! Way, etc. In a sense, these conjoined twins, “meaning” and “purpose,” have been finally separated in the processes of operationalizing “meaning.”

The time is right to re-assess the relationship between “meaning” and “purpose” because the accurate assessment of this particular relationship will significantly influence: 1) the development of future research on “meaningful work”; 2) how we will organize work at individual, organizational, and societal levels; 3) and how we will develop future leaders so that individuals, organizations, and societies can sustainably grow and flourish.


Ross Rains, M.Div., is a frontline executive coach and commercial office landlord, as well as founder of a house church network which seeks deeper meaning through simple, organic church patterns versus traditional church.  He served 26 years in full-time ministry prior to that. Ross and wife Sandy, parents of four adult children, make their home in London, Canada. He writes, “My driving purpose is to orchestrate breakthrough personal performance, with our clients, through coaching systems which accelerate their experiential assets and business growth. I help people connect to their calling, think bigger about who they are and what they offer the market and the world.”

Meaning in Marketplace Transactions

The marketplace is often viewed and experienced as a hotbed of self-interest, self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. At the same time, it is an essential context in which exchanges take place that enable life necessities and enrichment in many ways for all people. And, with so much time spent in the marketplace for most people, it becomes self-evident that exploring meaning in this context is a necessary frontier for further exploration.

How one initially engages others in the marketplace is the starting point for much meaning. Meeting a true or authentic need brings meaning. The penultimate step has to do with assessment. One begins with determining a real need with a client candidate who may or may not know how to express their need. Jaded marketplace practices sell without consideration of felt needs and real needs and lead to disillusionment and suspicion about marketplace practices. Assessment is the beginning of ethical marketplace engagement and meaning.

You will learn how an assessment-based approach to coaching, counseling and selling provides an opportunity to accelerate meaning and value exchange, whether in the consultation dynamic with a client or a marketplace engagement with some product or service with a customer prospect. In an age when many deliver value primarily through content dissemination, emotional manipulation or intimidation, there is a fresh need to rediscover the place of establishing context first, before the delivery of one’s goods or services. This provides a basis for meaning in marketplace transactions, in a world that is typically suspicious of business culture.


Karen Terry, Ed.D., is an adjunct faculty member at Wright Graduate University and a human emergence coach with the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential. She has a master’s degree and doctorate from Wright Graduate University in Transformational Leadership & Coaching, as well as a master’s degree from Northwestern University in Speech. Trained in a unique, cross-disciplinary approach to fostering human potential, she has more than 15 years of experience in helping people become their best. She is also an award-winning writer and the published author of more than 150 articles in magazines, newspapers, and corporate journals.

Personal Development and Coaching

People come to coaching because they want something in their life to be different. Research has shown (J. Wright, 2008) that there is a profound human yearning to develop and grow into our potential that fuels a search to become more. The different “helping professions” (such as coaching, therapy, counseling, and mentoring) approach this longing for development differently. Therapeutic interventions are based on a medical model of disease that views the human psyche as one might view the human body—that is, subject to phases of illness and health. By contrast, coaching theory is grounded in optimizing potential, not reducing symptoms. Therefore, the coaching model emphasizes “development rather than disease” (Adson, 2004). The core assumption is that the individual—even the individual who is struggling—is fundamentally sound. If he is not performing at the desired level, it is considered likely he is simply lacking primarily in skills, knowledge, or a workable perspective for dealing with his concerns.

Yet even within the coaching profession there are further philosophical distinctions that influence coaching practice, rooted in differing interpretations of the word “potential.” Many forms of coaching tend to concentrate on goal achievement. However, the concept of human potential as applied at Wright orients to life-long development. Coaches at Wright are trained in a cross-disciplinary approach that blends developmental, Adlerian, humanistic, and positive psychology with existential thought and neuroscience. This sets the context for a particular kind of relationship that is distinct from the cognitive and/or goals orientation of mainstream coaching. This relationship emphasizes being present in the here-and-now with each other while working through the client’s mistaken beliefs about herself and her world and in which the client feels trusting enough in her coach that she is willing to regress to those points in her psychological development when she stopped trusting in order to have a corrective re-parenting experience.

The singular nature of this coaching practice has created certain challenges for the organization. Historically, it has taken years to produce skilled high-quality coaches at Wright. The intent of this research project was to investigate the coaching practice called “More Intimacy Training” (MIT) with an eye toward discovering ways to enhance and expedite the training of the coaches. Methodologies informed by Grounded Theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) were used to explore the subject. What emerged was a theory of a developmental process—called “Selfening”—that takes place through the vehicle of relationship between coach and client. Six phases in the process were noted: Yearning, Engaging, Attaching, Deepening, Integrating, and Owning. It is hoped that what the theory describes as a process for fostering adult development will not only benefit coach training at Wright, but could have ramifications as well for the workplace, parenting, relationships, and other forms of coaching.


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