Interpersonal sensemaking and the meaning of work

By: Amy Wrzesniewski, Jane Dutton, Gelaye Debebe

Wrzesniewski, A., Dutton, J.E., & Debebe, G. (2003). Interpersonal sensemaking and the meaning of work. In R. Kramer & B. Staw (Eds.). Research in organizational behavior, Volume 25 (pp.93-135). Oxford, England: Elsevier.


In this paper, we present a model of interpersonal sensemaking and describe how this process contributes to the meaning that employees make of their work. The cues employees receive from others in the course of their jobs speak directly to the value ascribed by others to the job, role, and employee. We assert that these cues are crucial inputs in a dynamic process through which employees make meaning of their own jobs, roles, and selves at work. We describe the process through which interpersonal cues and the acts of others inform the meaning of work, and present examples from organizational research to illustrate this process. Interpersonal sensemaking at work as a route to work meaning contributes to theories of job attitudes and meaning of work by elaborating the role of relational cues and interpretive processes in the creation of job, role and self-meaning.