2023 Funded Research

Emergences and Consequences of an Anti-Work Orientation at Work

Millions of workers are pushing back on the notion that “work is worth” in the ever-growing anti-work movement. Despite the prevalence of anti-work sentiments among real workers, little extant research has investigated if “anti-work” is just a pop culture label applied to workers who are dissatisfied with present economic and working conditions, or if it is a new, meaningful construct. This work addresses this problem by conceptualizing anti-work orientation as a new construct with strong normative traditions, defined as a contentious rejection of the belief that work is foundational to one’s self-worth or worth to society. This project differentiates anti-work orientation from related concepts (e.g., alienation, work centrality) and builds on theories of meaningful work and organizational justice to hypothesize anti-work orientation’s unique relationships with antecedents (low status, work beliefs, and repeated justice violations) and outcomes (counterproductive and organizational citizenship behavior, via emotional exhaustion and organizational cynicism). An initial study uses latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) topic modeling to code a massive qualitative dataset of posts from the Reddit anti-work community and reveals themes of low status, organizational injustice, and rejecting worth through work. Further quantitative studies validate a new scale of anti-work orientation, finding that this orientation is increasingly common in full-time working US adults, distinct from related constructs, and holds unique relationships. Finally, a series of cross-lagged, field and experimental studies examine these unique relationships within organizations. In later experiments, this work even explores whether relieving signals that “work is worth” via managerial intervention can attenuate the connections between anti-work orientation, emotional exhaustion and organizational cynicism – without influencing individuals who are already low in anti-work orientation.

Research conducted by Jared Scruggs , Doctoral Candidate in  Management, the Wharton School, the University of Pennsylvania