Job crafting

Drs. S.G. Rickli

January 2010

Copyright ©2010 Q.O.L.D.

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job satisfaction and dimensions of commitment. managers. and management is informed about the proper ways of dealing with these states of mind. and thriving. resilience. for example. One has to note that this is a rather passive view on employees.D. It is reasonable to assume that employees working in the same line of work within the same organization may differ in their work orientation. Wrzesniewski (1997) provides evidence for this idea by showing that most people see their work as either a job (focus on financial rewards and necessity rather than pleasure or fulfillment). employability and work stress. or a calling (focus on enjoyment of fulfilling. A dominant perspective today is the idea of a worker who evaluates the situation she/he is in. Job crafting can bring numerous positive outcomes. including engagement. Copyright ©2010 Q. including self-management. -2- . Wrzesniewski.O. a career (focus on advancement). and represents a paradigm shift in management theory from a passive attitude-bearing worker to an (en)active worker who. describing why it is important. correlates and consequences of these perceptions. and organizations. 2003). as the passive evaluation of the work has several attitudinal outcomes. role and self in organizational contexts. job satisfaction. an overview is given of a concept regarding the relation between organization members and their working environment. This paper introduces the core ideas of job crafting theory by defining it.Abstract In this paper. which may be measured. Dutton & Debebe. having all kinds of opinions and feelings. summarizing key research findings. and exploring what it means for employees. through operationalizations of organizational support. self-directed learning. job crafting will be related to other concepts. Finally. antecedents. 2001. who are assumed to have their reactive thoughts about the situation they find themselves in. Surveys are used to audit the state. crafts the images of his or her job.L. The concept is job crafting (Wrzesniewski & Dutton. through reflection and interaction.

they will leave for a more suitable place. Zimmerman & Johnson. 2005). grievances. Copyright ©2010 Q. Wrzesniewski and his colleagues (2001. Wrzesniewski and her colleagues (2001. 2003) proposed three ways how individuals “locally adapt their jobs in ways that create and sustain a viable definition of the work they do and who they are at work”. and decision to retire. The first way refers to changing the task boundaries of a job in number. because here the worker is perceived as an active individual who can and may change the task or relational boundaries of their work. scope or type of tasks. -3- . or changing the type of work. taking more or less tasks. if people are dissatisfied with their jobs and perceive a low fit with their organization (e.D. Individuals adjust to their work roles through either personal development or role development. including lateness.L. Hulin and his colleagues (1985) have argued that these individual withdrawal behaviors are all manifestations of job adaptation. 2003) propose that there is another way of dealing with this situation apart from leaving the environment: one can enact it actively and change the tasks or the relationships in their work by crafting a job. Job dissatisfaction also appears to be related to other withdrawal behaviors. Nicholson (1984) identified the process of role innovation.socially useful work).O. instead of just taking the tasks they are assigned to and having certain feelings about it. The second way to craft a job is by changing the amount and/or the quality of social interaction with other people encountered in the job. The work tasks and interaction that compose the daily lives of employees are then only the raw materials that are the input for the crafting activities of employees. drug abuse. One can choose a pattern of relationship and priority for certain meetings may shape the job and the outcome of the job.g. unionization. As research on turnover has shown. Different personal interests lead to different focuses towards work and someone can shape the work accordingly. By changing the scope of tasks. Kristof-Brown. through which job-holders introduce new behaviors into pre-existing roles. This is thought provoking. one can shape a job towards the ideal one has about a job.

The importance of job crafting is that “job crafting essentially changes the direction of the relationship between jobs and motivation: instead of the design of the job eliciting attitudes and motivation. Luthans (1988) showed that different patterns of relationships at work lead to different results in effectiveness and success. This idea is in line with the trend. but it seems that even the most rigid or constrained job designs allow for some crafting. Third. job crafting can happen whether formally sanctioned by managers or not. The degrees of freedom that employees have in their jobs to actually craft it are determined by the level of task interdependence and the closeness of monitoring and supervision by management. Knowing how the practical deeds of a specific job fit in the whole process helps to commit an employee to the job. the more open space is available for crafting and enacting of a job. the opportunity and motivation to craft elicit job crafting” (Wrzesniewski & Dutton. that employees are increasingly being treated as ‘free agents’ left to shape their own work experiences and career trajectories (Wrzesniewski & Dutton. job crafters can cognitively change their jobs by altering how they perceive tasks or thinking about the tasks involved in their job as a collective whole as opposed to a set of separate tasks. 1995).L. 2001).Furthermore.D.O. Job design that include a high degree of autonomy and discretion afford greater opportunity to craft (Black & Ashford. The premise of this idea is that every single employee has latitude to define and enact his or her job. 2001). This idea is explored further in the importance of interactions at work and how these interactions shape the meaning of work through sense making and job crafting (Wrzesniewski et al. In other words. Copyright ©2010 Q. 2003). The lower the level of interdependence and the more freedom management gives to an employee. -4- .. which is seen by these authors as a new development. This is a sense making process and has to do with an awareness of the broader context in which they work.

these crafting techniques are associated with outcomes for the job crafter. most models involve three general stages. -5- . Second. Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001) call attention to the efforts employees make to craft their jobs and the importance of recognizing these actions when considering employees’ job designs. but instead. actively shape and utilize their jobs to fit to their needs. values. In this paragraph. their work identities.D. Copyright ©2010 Q. So according to this theory. five different lines of research from the emerging literature on job crafting will be summarized. Grant and his colleagues (2007a) described four main techniques that employees use to accomplish this: employees expand their roles beyond the basis functions of their jobs. the primary outcomes of job crafting are altered perceptions of the meaning of work and one’s identity at work. Third.L. Wrzesniewski and Dutton’s theory states that employees craft their jobs when they are motivated to change their views of the meaning of their work. they can provide feedback about the impact and value of their jobs.Research findings Although researchers’ theories of this process differ slightly from one another. Other research by Grant (2007a) demonstrates that employees positively interacting with the people who benefit from their efforts. Furthermore. First employees are motivated to craft their jobs by one or more factors. or both. Grant and his colleagues (2007b) revealed that employees in a variety of service occupations actively craft their interactions with clients in order to feel like their work is making a greater and more meaningful impact. and preferences. employees tailor their services to fit clients’ specific preferences. employees identify the crafting oppurtunities available to them and enact one or more ways of crafting their jobs. employees reprimand or avoid unpleasant clients and employees select meaningful contexts in which to conduct their work.O. The first theory by Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001) suggests that employees do not always enact the job descriptions that are formally assigned to them.

Accordingly. Wrzesniewski & Dutton. These techniques are often associated with enjoyable and meaningful experiences but occasionally have the unintended side effects of additional stress and intermittent regret. -6- . They examined how people respond when they have a continued passion for an occupation other than the one they are actually working in. and readiness to change correlated positively and significantly with amount and characteristics of job crafting behavior.D. job crafting may be a means of creating and sustaining useful and energizing relationships with the clients and other individuals who are connected to the work in some way. 2009) suggests that job crafting is more complex than previously suggested by the job crafting literature.L.O. and Johnson (2008). Their findings suggest that employees’ perceptions of the freedom they have. perceived control. Grant. Copyright ©2010 Q. Rather. time. do not necessarily reflect their level of formally endowed autonomy and power. taking on additional tasks that are related to one’s passion and reframing the social purpose of one’s work to align with one’s passion. their results suggest that employees at lower ranks occupy positions in which they find it relatively easier to adapt their work environments to create more opportunities to job craft. while higher-rank employees feel more constrained despite being in positions of greater formal autonomy and power. to adapt job crafting. Findings reveal three ways in which individuals craft their actual jobs create opportunities for fulfilling their passion for a different occupation: giving more attention. and energy to tasks related to one’s passion. The third contribution is from a study by Berg.significantly enhancing their motivation and performance. The fourth contribution by Lyons (2006) showed that self-image. The fifth study (Berg.

-7- . managers should create and sustain a work context that fosters beneficial job crafting. This means building a shared understanding that job crafting is acceptable and even encouraged as long as it aligns with Copyright ©2010 Q. A job crafting perspective implies that the tasks and interpersonal relationships that make up a job are a flexible set of building blocks that can be reorganized. because it transpires in the mind of the crafter. as well as make valuable contributions to the workplace...O. and give rise to one another. raw materials. So in addition to designing jobs that allow an employee’s crafting. However. restructured. It has the potential to cause harm if the crafting goes against organizational goals or produces negative side effects. or viewing their jobs in a different way. while at the same time meeting relevant organizational goals. the different crafting forms are not mutually exclusive and often operate in conjunction with. This starts with designing jobs that leave room for crafting. 2009). taking on additional tasks. job crafting is a way for employees to improve their lives at work in several important ways. and passions. The success of a job crafter may depend largely on his or her ability to take advantage of the resources at hand (Berg et al.Practical implications In enacted properly. 2009). job crafting is about resourcefulness. altering their interactions with others. strengths. Job crafting is not always positive. may be less limited by prescribed job design than behavioral crafting (Berg et al. A highly restrictive job design may limit employees from positively changing the way they perform tasks. etc. Fundamentally. and reframed to construct a customized job. that can be utilized when job crafting. These buildings blocks expose employees to a variety of resources-people. Cognitive crafting. so employees can tailor their jobs to fit their motives. Since job crafting has the capacity to positively influence individual and organizational performance. technology. it still may be harmful to the overall organization. Even when the crafting is beneficial for the individual job crafter.L. reinforce.D. managers may want to create a context that fosters resourceful job crafting..

which argues that individuals adjust to their work roles through either personal development (in which individuals change themselves by altering their frame of reference. or identity to fit the role demands). job crafting can in some instances occur outside of managers’ awareness.D.. which may be especially likely and costly if the crafting is harmful to the organization. trusting relationships between employees and managers may help unlock and even stimulate positive job crafting. but also destructive. To help establish such a norm. as trust may help employees feel more comfortable taking risks that could potentially lead to beneficial outcomes (Berg et al. Conversely. Thus. individuals who role innovate Copyright ©2010 Q. scheduling.organizational goals. and skills). However. trust can play a major role in fostering or restricting job crafting. and in the interpersonal relationships integral to role performance”. through which job-holders introduce new behaviors into pre-existing roles. 2009). Maintaining open lines of communication with employees about how they would like to craft their jobs and whether it would be beneficial for the organization may help managers avoid detrimental crafting and promote favorable crafting.L. Related concepts The first concept that van be related to job crafting is the process of role innovation. managers can model positive job crafting. Nicholson (1984) proposed the theory of work role transitions.O. Nicholson (1984) went further and suggested that role development may include individual-initiated “changes in task objectives. materials. values. Employees may be less resourceful job crafters if they do not feel trusted to change the status quo. Since the resourcefulness involved in job crafting is derived from the job crafters themselves rather than given to them by some outside source. or role development (in which individuals proactively try to change the role requirements so that they better match their needs. and noted that the changes can be positive. methods. abilities. -8- .

and change). namely: strategic choice of mobility opportunity. role innovation theory restricts individuals’ actions on the job to reactive. in job crafting theory there is an emphasis on the proactive changes employees make in the boundaries of their work to alter their identity or meaning of the work.D. problem-solving behaviors and fails to develop the individual focus. strategic investment in human capital and active network development.“personalize or individualize the way a role is enacted to suit one’s judgment and idiosyncrasies” and this process is not necessarily limited to the initial phase when individuals take a new role. feedback. because people having jobs characterized by high levels of freedom over work (Nicholson. influence and boundary management. skills and experiences to achieve desired outcomes. changing the task boundaries of a job in number. In addition. as a lens on employee behavior. The second way of job crafting. correspondents with the different types of positioning.L. Positioning describes that an employee makes sure that he or she has the contacts. Rather than an emphasis on problem solving. -9- . Job crafting theory resembles role innovation theory in that there is an assumption that employees can act upon the job to create a better fit. The first way of job crafting. Nicholson (1984) noted that role development has the potential to increase individual satisfaction (derived from a sense of one’s own capacity for innovation and reform) and learning on the job (through experimentation. changing the amount and/or the quality of social interaction with other people encountered in the job. The second concept that can be related to job crafting is career self-management provided by King (2004). However. 2001). discretion in work determines the scope of role innovation. She showed three types of career self-managing behaviour as adaptive responses to career or job development tasks: positioning. 1984). scope Copyright ©2010 Q. which offers more degrees of freedom in how individuals go about performing their jobs.O. Nevertheless. job crafting should be fostered by a sense of discretion that employees have in what they do in their jobs and how they do their jobs (Wrzesniewski & Dutton.

or type of tasks. the motivation and ability to close this gap and opportunities and support for application of new knowledge and skills. crafts the images of his or her job. Focus on ascertaining the personal and situational variables that determine participation in development activity. are selfefficacy.D. if workers make an effective response (perceptions of control over the job or career) to their job demands he or she will experience job satisfaction and job success. Copyright ©2010 Q. The third concept that can be associated with job crafting is an approach provided by McCauley and Hezlett (2001) and is called self-directed learning. role and self in organizational contexts. sustained pursuit of formal and informal learning activities with the goal of increasing job-relevant knowledge and skills. deliberate.O. In conclusion. Determinants of behaviour for self-management employees. job crafters use self-management. Londen en Smither (1999) provided necessary components of individual development: changes in the environment which create a gap between the employee’s capabilities and current or future job requirements. This involves self-initiated. the individual’s ability to recognize this gap.10 . This is comparable to the job crafting process. whereas they are likely to us use one of these workadjustment self-management mechanisms: control or manipulation (changing the environment) and compromise (changing self and the environment). Furthermore.or job performance. This concept is in line with job crafting. the first way of job crafting is in line with boundary management. as well as job crafters. where an employee balances the demands of work and non work domains. Furthermore. by eliminating thwarting conditions or career/job barriers (vocational adjustment). desire for control and career anchors. - . Furthermore. to increase their career. is in line with the last type of positioning: job convent innovation (development of substantive changes in methods or procedures). because an employee is seen as an (en)active worker who. through reflection and interaction.L.

personal adaptability (willingness and opportunity to change personal factors) and social and human capital (the goodwill inherent in social networks and the factors that influence a person’s career advancement variables). health and well-being. personal circumstances (household circumstances. role and self in the organizational context. personal circumstances and adaptability. 2004. career identity correspondents with the third way of job crafting. comparable to job crafting. work culture and access to resources) and external factors (demand factors and enabling support factors) to enhance employability. McQuaid and Lindsay (2005) showed that employee should increase individual factors (employability skills and attributes. and affect. - . whereas changing the amount and/or quality of social interaction is in line with increasing external factors and social and human capital. Employability is a psycho-social construct that embodies individual characteristics that foster adaptive cognition. In conclusion. The fourth concept that can be related to job crafting is employability (Fugate. Finally. namely: altering how an employee perceives and thinks about his job.D. which makes them very employable. Kinicki & Ashfort. because changing the task boundaries is in line with increasing individual factors. Copyright ©2010 Q. job crafters use these concepts of employability in their process to actively craft the images of their job. These concepts of employability relates to job crafting. job seeking and adaptability and mobility). is conceptualized as a form of work specific active adaptability that enables workers to identify and realize career opportunities. Fugate and his colleagues (2004) showed that employability is the sum of career identity (representation of often diverse and diffuse career experiences and aspirations). behavior.11 . Employability. McQuaid & Lindsay.O.L. and enhance the individual-work interface.because a job crafter actively changes the task boundaries of a job and changes the amount and/or the quality of social interaction to fit the job better (closing the gap). demographic characteristics. 2005).

Job dissatisfaction also appears to be related to other withdrawal behaviors. Job crafting is a concept that can prevent job adaptation.O. Job withdrawal refers to a ‘set of behaviors that dissatisfied individuals enact to avoid the work situations. 1985). Hulin and his colleagues (1985) have argued that these individual withdrawal behaviors are all manifestations of job adaptation and have proposed that these individual behaviors be grouped together. Variables such as desire to retire or resign.D. scope or type of tasks. they are behaviors designed to allow avoidance of participation in dissatisfying work situations (Hulin. lateness and absenteeism define work withdrawal behaviours. 1991). Because job crafting will enhance job fit and satisfaction is it likely that job crafters experience low job adaptation. but actively changes the task or relational boundaries of their work. - . whereas job crafter use these techniques already. drug abuse. and decision to retire. because a job crafter does not avoid work situations or aspects of their work-roles. ease of quitting and turnover intentions define job withdrawal behaviors. Finally. whereas job satisfaction shows correlations with turnover and absenteeism as well. Hulin. Hanisch and Hulin (1990) empirically identified two types of organizational withdrawal behaviors: job and work withdrawal. Variables such as unfavorable job behaviors. by Copyright ©2010 Q. including lateness. 1991). job crafting can be associated with work stress. grievances.12 . Work withdrawal refers to ‘behaviors dissatisfied individuals use to avoid aspects of their specific work-role or minimizing the time spent on their specific work tasks while maintaining their current organizational and workrole memberships’ (Hanisch & Hulin.The fifth concept that can be related to job crafting is job adaption (Hulin. and Hachiya (1985) showed that dissatisfaction employees are more likely to quit their jobs or be absent that satisfied employees. Roznowski.L. Sulsky and Smith (2005) provided information to cope with stress (remove/modify the stressor. perceive the situation differently or manage the consequences of stress). unionization. By changing the task boundaries of a job in number.

From a traditional stress perspective the third approach may be viewed as somehow blaming individuals or holding them responsible for their own stressful experiences (Briner. The first model tries to explain the correspondence between the environmental demands and the person’s ability to cope with it.D. Additionally. In addition. Thus. However. job crafting could increase or reduce the stressful characteristics of that work. Barker Caza (2007) did a study on how midwives cope with adversity at work. In this sense. this suggests that stressful job characteristics that arise from dealing with people are to some extent shaped by the way we craft our jobs. A lack of fit or correspondence between characteristics of the person (individual needs and abilities) and characteristics of the environment (demands and supplies) can be seen as stress.L. The supplies-needs fit is the fit between needs and values of the person Copyright ©2010 Q. This model shows two types of fit: supplies-needs and demands-abilities fit.13 . What this means in relation to stress and coping is that the number. Harris & Daniels.O. job stressors will be eliminated. the key point here is that those characteristics are to some extent shaped by the employee and that traditional views of work stress and coping fail to acknowledge people’s pro-activity and agency in crafting the characteristics of their jobs. - . Furthermore.changing the amount and/or the quality of social interaction with other people encountered in the job and by altering how they perceive tasks or thinking about the tasks involved in their job as a collective whole as opposed to a set of separate tasks. scope and type of job tasks and hence the potential ‘stressors’ we are exposed to may be influenced to a little or a large extent by the way in which we craft our job. Sulsky and Smith (2005) showed two models that can be linked to job crafting: Person-Environment Fit Model and Job demands-Job decision latitude model. She found that job crafting was an effective coping technique for overcoming difficulties and even helped midwives emerge from their work challenges more resilient than before. stressful job characteristics are not just ‘out there’ but are rather crafted to some extent by our own activities. 2004).

- . In the Job demands-Job decision latitude model are job demands and job decision latitude implemented. The second model hypothesizes that psychological strain develops from the joint effects of job demands and the decision latitude available to the worker.L. In this model there is an importance of personal control. joy and thriving. Berg and his colleagues (2009) showed that outcomes of good job crafting are engagement. Conclusion Taken together. Furthermore. and what their crafting Copyright ©2010 Q. Job demands are psychological stressors in the work environment (overload) and decision latitude is a measure of discretion in decision making or job control (worker’s authority to make job related decision and the variety of skills workers use on the job). motivation. An employee can reduce strain by increasing the amount of control. how they actually go about crafting their jobs. it can lead to health related outcomes and when it is negative.14 . When the personal control is positive. In concluding. Keyes and his colleagues (2002) showed that satisfaction and happiness contribute to the subjective well-being. resilience. whereas the demands-abilities fit is the fit of the demands of the environment and the abilities of the person to meet those (job crafting outcome). job satisfaction. job crafters are likely to experience an optimal well-being. job crafting leads to a personenvironment fit and therefore decrease the probability of stress. when there is a combination of high demands and high job decision latitude it would be an active job.and the environmental supplies and opportunities to meet them (job crafting outcome). In addition. passion. where there is growth and development (job crafting).D. it can lead to health related decrements. whereas the thriving and engagement with existential challenges (meaningful job) contribute to psychological well-being. findings from research provide several reasons why employees are compelled to job crafting. which is the case in job crafting.O.

meaningful or enjoyable experiences. which can happen for a variety of reasons. negative experiences of stress or regret.15 . or increased resilience. managers should build trusting relationships and maintain open lines of communication with employees about how they would like to craft their jobs and whether it would be beneficial for the organization. The process begins when employees are motivated to craft their jobs. The job crafting process may continue to cycle in this fashion as the job crafter and his or her work context evolve over time.ultimately means for them. these changes are linked with outcomes that can be beneficial or costly to the job crafter. These motivations then compel employees to actively change their job designs by altering the set of tasks formally assigned to them. to enhance job crafting.O. their relationships with others. - .L. Finally. or their thoughts about work. such as altered beliefs about the meaning of work. or coping with adversity. Furthermore. fulfilling passion. Lastly. including a desire for a different meaning of work or work identity.D. human connection. Copyright ©2010 Q. enhanced interactions with the beneficiaries of one’s work. a different identity at work. organizations should design jobs that allow an employee’s crafting and managers should create and sustain a work context that fosters beneficial job crafting.

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