Barista Meaning of Work

When managing baristas, one of the most important things to consider is what frames their meaning of working for the cafe, because this meaning shapes their perception, which helps to moderate the amount of emotional labor they must commit to their shift. Meaning is constructed within the experience an individual has from interacting in a culture and society; it is generally shared among individuals within common sociohistorical contexts (Tolfo cited in Santos & Fontenelle, 2019). In the workplace, the company occupies the place of society, and the individuals together construct and deconstruct meaning that emerges a culture based on their interpretation and experience of working for that company (Schein, 2010; Boas, Davel, Bispo, 2018). Overtime, the company develops a sociohistorical context of its own that becomes embedded in the culture to guide future meaning-making processes within that company (Putnam & Fairhurst, 2015).

Meaning of Work (MOW) scholars have reported that work becomes meaningful with the interactions between self, others, work context, and spiritual life through the mechanisms of authenticity, self-efficacy, self-esteem, purpose, belongingness, transcendence, and cultural/interpersonal sensemaking (Rosso, Dekas, & Wrzesniewski, 2010). Meaningful work has been described as a fundamental human need that impacts job satisfaction, turnover intention, and organizational commitment (Wang & Xu, 2017). Human needs are non-negotiable, and Galtung (2000) considers the desire to satisfy them as a force of nature.

The meaning and significance of the work to the worker has been shown to negatively correlate with the amount of emotional labor required to do the job well (Santos & Fontenelle, 2019). The more meaningful the work, the easier it will be for the barista to manage their emotions when they do not align with the situation. If cafe managers are to reduce the emotional labor of their baristas, they must put effort toward influencing the emergence of a company culture that allows all the stakeholders to feel effective and authentic members of an organization they can be proud of belonging to. With this effort, evidence suggests that the baristas will become more motivated to excel at their jobs, and cafe profits will increase beyond what is possible otherwise.


Boas, O. T., Davel, E. P. B., Bispo, M. D. (2018). Leadership as cultural practice. Revista de Administracao Mackenzie, 19(1). doi: 10.1590/1678-6971/eRAMG180076.

Galtung, J. (2000). Conflict transformation by peaceful means: The transcend method. United Nations Disaster Management Training Program: TRANSCEND.

Putnam, L. L. & Fairhurst, G. T. (2015). Revisiting “organizations as discursive constructions”: 10 years later. Communication Theory, 25. 375-392.

Rosso, B. D., Dekas, K. H., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2010). On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review. Research in Organizational Behavior, 30, 91–127. doi: 10.1016/j.riob.2010.09.001

Santos, E. F. & Fontenelle, I. A. (2019). The construction of meaning for the emotional labor. Revista de Administracao Mackenzie, 20(1). doi: 10.1590/1678-6971/eRAMG190089

Schein, E. H. 2010. Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wang, Z. & Xu, H. (2017). When and for who ethical leadership is more effective in eliciting work meaningfulness and positive attitudes: The moderating roles of core self-evaluation and perceived organizational support. Journal of Business Ethics, 156. 919-940.


Any Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.