Living a calling, life satisfaction, and workplace climate among a lesbian, gay, and bisexual population.

Author:Allan, Blake A.

Previous research on calling has resulted in a model that relates living a calling to life satisfaction through job satisfaction and life meaning. However, no research has examined this model in a lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) population. With a sample of 171 sexual minority adults, the current study aimed to (a) test the fit of an established model of living a calling and life satisfaction and (b) examine how having a supportive LGB workplace climate functioned within this model. Results revealed an excellent fit of the model and that a supportive LGB workplace climate predicted both living a calling and job satisfaction. In addition, the relation of living a calling to life satisfaction was fully mediated by life meaning and job satisfaction, and the relation of climate to life satisfaction was mediated by job satisfaction. These results suggest an expansion of the potential utility of the calling construct to an LGB population.

Keywords: calling, life satisfaction, job satisfaction, life meaning, LGB workplace climate


Over the past decade, research has blossomed on what it means to have and live out a calling to a particular career. Across dozens of studies, calling has been positively linked to career maturity and well-being among college students (Hirshci & Herrmann, 2013) as well as to work meaning, career commitment, and job satisfaction among adults (Duffy, Bott, Allan, Torrey, & Dik, 2012). These links are most robust when individuals are able to live out the career to which they feel called (Duffy, Allan, Autin, & Bott, 2013; Duffy, Allan, & Bott, 2012). These findings have laid the foundation for investigating how calling functions among specific populations, such as medical students (Duffy, Manuel, Borges, & Bott, 2011), parents (Coulson, Oades, & Stoyles, 2012), and people who are unemployed (Torrey & Duffy, 2012). In the current study, we sought to add to this literature by investigating how the construct of living a calling functions among a population of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) working adults.

Calling Background

Although definitions of calling tend to vary across the literature (Dik & Duffy, 2009; Dobrow, 2012; Hagmaier & Abele, 2012), most scholars agree that calling can be considered an approach to work that is tied to one's overall purpose or meaning in life and is explicitly used to help others. These two components of calling are the most common elements present in qualitative studies completed with diverse groups of students and adults who feel as though they have a calling (Duffy, Bott, et al, 2012).

Perceiving a calling to a particular line of work has been linked to a host of vocational and well-being outcomes. More specifically, perceiving a calling has been directly tied to various aspects of career maturity, including vocational self-clarity, career decidedness, (Duffy & Sedlacek, 2007), sense of vocational identity (Hirschi & Herrmann, 2013), and career decision self-efficacy (Hirschi & Herrmann, 2013), in studies of undergraduate students. With samples of working adults, perceiving a calling has been related to higher career commitment (Duffy et al., 2013), work meaning (Duffy et al, 2013), occupational identity, occupational self-efficacy, person-job fit (Hirschi, 2012), and job satisfaction (Hagmaier & Abele, 2012). For both students and working adults, viewing one's career as a calling has also been consistently linked with greater life meaning (Duffy, Allan, & Dik, 2011) and life satisfaction (Duffy, Allan, & Bott, 2012).

Several studies have examined more complex models in an attempt to understand what explains the relation between perceiving a calling on the one hand and domain and life satisfaction on the other. For college students, the relation of perceiving a calling to academic satisfaction has been found to be fully mediated by work hope and career decision self-efficacy (Duffy, Allan, & Dik, 2011), and the relation of perceiving a calling to life satisfaction has been found to be partially or fully mediated by life meaning and academic satisfaction (Duffy, Allan, & Bott, 2012). In addition, for working adults, the relation of perceiving a calling to job satisfaction has been shown to be fully mediated by career commitment and work meaning (Duffy, Dik, & Steger, 2011).

A missing component in the studies reviewed above concerns the ability of individuals to actively live out their calling. For example, studies have shown that individuals with varying levels of income, education, and employment perceive a calling to similar degrees. However, individuals who make more money, have higher levels of education, and are employed report a greater ability to live out their calling (Duffy & Autin, 2013; Duffy et al, 2013). Studies have also shown that living a calling is a much stronger correlate of work and well-being outcomes than perceiving a calling (Duffy et al, 2013). In addition, living a calling has been found to act both as a moderator and a mediator between perceiving a calling and various proximal outcomes. For example, Duffy, Bott, et al. (2012) showed that the link of perceiving a calling to career commitment and work meaning was only significant for individuals with medium or high levels of living a calling, whereas Duffy et al. (2013) found that living a calling fully mediated the link between perceiving a calling and life satisfaction.

These findings point to an important conclusion: Perceiving a calling may be important only inasmuch as an individual is actually living out that calling. As a result, Duffy et al. (2013) incorporated this finding and expanded previous models to test a comprehensive model relating living a calling to life satisfaction by way of life meaning and job satisfaction (via career commitment and work meaning). In their study, the model was a good fit with the data and suggested that one reason why living a calling links to higher satisfaction with life may be due to higher life meaning and job satisfaction (due to greater work meaning and career commitment). In summary, it appears that for working adults, calling is connected to higher life satisfaction through the ability to live out that calling, which leads to a greater sense of meaning in life and satisfaction within one's job.

Although no previous studies have explicitly explored living a calling in LGB populations, it may be especially important to examine calling within this specific population. Like other minority groups, LGB individuals experience barriers related to discrimination and marginalization that may affect their ability to be fulfilled at work. For example, individuals identifying as LGB who are living their calling may report different relations to outcomes, such as job satisfaction, life meaning, and life satisfaction, when compared with heterosexual groups. As Blustein (2006) pointed out, too often researchers have assumed that models of career behavior established with majority groups will extend to minority groups, thus limiting the intricacies that may exist in the career experience of specific populations.

Prince (2013) noted that over the past 20 years, scholars have attempted to examine the applicability of vocational theories with sexual minority populations, including person-environment fit theories, developmental theories, and social learning theories. Findings suggest that the theories are most often applicable, but that experience of discrimination may act as a greater barrier whereas experiences of support may act as a greater resource. In addition, several studies have examined constructs analogous to calling among LGB populations. For example, Schneider and Dimito (2010) examined the career choices of LGBT people and found that a large proportion of their sample felt that their LGBT identity positively affected their academic and career choices. They suggested that through identity development and coming out processes, LGB people may feel less constrained to traditional career expectations and instead pursue careers to which they feel more drawn and are of greater intrinsic interest. Also, one qualitative study examining the positive aspects of having an LGB identity found themes of positive meaning making and prosocial behavior, two variables that are both relevant to living a calling (Riggle, Whitman, Olson, Rostosky, & Strong, 2008).

Workplace Climate

Initial studies that have examined the link of living a calling to work and well-being outcomes have surveyed convenience samples of working adults and have not attended to the potential nuance that may...

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