Elaf Basri Headshot

Research Topic

The Meaningful Currency: How the Relationship Between Work Orientations and Psychological Contracts Shapes the Emergence and Experience of Meaningful Work in Modern Careers

Research Summary

It is estimated that around half of employees would give up to 25% of their total lifetime earnings in exchange for more meaning in their work. At the broadest level, Elaf is driven by such phenomena and deeply interested in understanding how people answer the question "Why am I here?"

This existential question infuses Elaf's current overarching research objectives, which focus on understanding the emergence, experience, and maintenance of meaningful work in modern careers. Specifically, he integrates work orientations and psychological contracts to create a framework that can help us better understand the why and the how of such an elusive phenomenon.

Elaf's research straddles two primary literatures (meaningful work and psychological contracts) and two auxiliary ones (work motivation and career development). Philosophically, he tries to take a critical realist approach which is simply a middle ground between the excesses of positivism (universal laws govern everything) and interpretivism (depth at the cost of causation), and he is interested in leveraging rigorous mixed methods to answer his questions.

He also has a secondary interest in spirituality and faith and their impact on shaping people's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.


Research Area

Research Taxonomy


Elaf is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Edinburgh Business School in the Organisational Studies Group, and a Lecturer in Management at King Fahad University of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM), where he is also the recipient of the University's full scholarship program.

After close to nine years of experience in industry, Elaf shifted his career to academia and moved from sunny Arabia to rainy Edinburgh (ask me which weather is best!). Throughout his career, he has worked to bridge the science-practice divide and bring evidence-based tools that can help people lead more meaningful and impactful lives, unlocking individual and organisational potential.

Elaf’s career trajectory includes working in the IT, Oil & Gas, and Petrochemicals industries across the US, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. He has been honoured to work with world-class, multidisciplinary teams on transformational projects, including integrating PetroRabigh, creating an organisational career counselling center, and establishing Aramco Chemicals Company.

Before shifting to academia, his latest adventure was leading the Culture and Change Management for Saudi Aramco's acquisition of SABIC, considered the world's largest chemicals acquisition to date at $69 billion.

He holds multiple degrees in technology, social sciences, and humanities, including an MBA from KFUPM (Saudi) with first honors and a BS from Northeastern University (Boston) with honors. He is a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Senior Certified Professional and holds various professional certifications in HR and psychology.

Elaf’s diverse academic and professional background allows him to leverage unique mindsets and skill sets in addressing complex and critical challenges with curiosity and rigour. Elaf also is the representative of the OS Group at the Business School's Doctoral Society.

Above all, Elaf is a proud husband, and a father of a young daughter who appreciates the value the smallest things in life can bring us. He also enjoys self-experiments and once spent around six months living almost entirely on canned tuna and now has a curious weak spot for all things cheesecake (not sure if the two are somehow connected!).

Education and Qualifications

Institute Award Dates
King Fahad University of Petroleum & Minerals, School of Business Master of Business Administration with Research Project 2018–2021
Saybrook University, School of Social Sciences Master of Arts in Psychology with Thesis (subspecialisation: Humanistic & Existential Psychology) 2016–2017
Al-Azhar University Licentiate (Bachelor of Arts) in Arabic and Islamic Studies 2012–2017
Northeastern University, D'Amore-McKim School of Business Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (specialisation in MIS and Finance; minors in psychology, anthropology, international affairs) 2009–2012

Professional & Voluntary Experience

  • Culture and Change Management Lead, Saudi Aramco Acquisition and Integration of SABIC (2018–2021)
  • HR Lead and Organisational Consultant, Aramco Chemicals Company (2016–2018)
  • Career Counselor, Aramco's Career Development (2015–2016)
  • Logistics and HR Lead, PetroRabigh (2013–2015)