How to Reshape the Job Your In For Everyone’s Benefit

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Sep 10, 2019

We go through days when we are dissatisfied with our jobs, don’t feel challenged anymore by the work we are doing, question if we are adding any value to our organizations, and ponder if the work we are doing is answering our calling. We wake up every morning disenchanted, no longer driven by what we are doing. We stop seeing the meaning, we feel unhappy and more often quitting our job seems to be the solution.

Luc Dorenbosch, a researcher, says people quite often fall out of love with their jobs when actually it’s just a few small things that are making them unhappy. In his research he found that people might be satisfied with 80% of a job, “but it’s the ‘bothersome’ 20 percent of the job that is making them want to leave.” In many cases, he says, it would be better to experiment with the current job to try to make it more satisfying.

What he is referring to is the discipline of “job crafting” – reshaping our jobs in such a way that it makes us happy again.

What is job crafting?

Coined in 2001 and detailed in a 2007 briefing paper from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, job crafting is the “active changes employees make to their own job designs in ways that can bring about numerous positive outcomes, including engagement, job satisfaction, resilience, and thriving.”

The U of M paper includes real stories of employees who have succeeded in taking advantage of opportunities to customize their job by actively changing tasks and interactions with others resulting in them becoming happier and attaining higher levels of self-fulfillment.

How did they do that? By contributing to an important project, creating new ways of doing things so the job became less repetitive, helping colleagues as a way to increase social interaction, and sharing knowledge.

In a presentation for Google’s re:Work – “Job Crafting- On Creating Meaning In Your Own Work” — Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, discusses the art and science of job crafting.

Wrzesniewski, one of the authors of the Michigan paper,  studied hospital maintenance workers to look at how job crafting affected their work experience and morale. According to the YouTube description:

“She set-up two groups – one simply followed the job description while the second was asked to take on other, related tasks of their own choosing. Differences between the two groups were significant – the second group found meaning in their work and saw themselves and their purpose as radically different from their counterparts.”

She found that “allowing an employee to influence work scope changes the meaning of that work, and allows them to take ownership of their job. Wrzesniewski’s work shows that job crafting can foster engagement, job satisfaction, and resilience.”

Josh Bersin describes how job crafting enables employees to create “meaningful work”, one of 5 core drivers of employee success in the “Simply Irresistible” model for employee engagement. According to this model, autonomy is at the heart of job crafting.

Craft your own job

How do you craft your job in a way that is fulfilling to you and valuable to the organization. Here are 5 steps:

  1. Start by keeping track of your feelings during the day. Pay attention to what makes you feel good, what energizes you and what helps you be at your best; what things drain your energy and make you feel dissatisfied.
  2. List your daily tasks for a full week with notes next to those that bring you up and those that push you down and why you feel about them the way they do And note how long you spend on each. How much time do you devote to the positive and the negative?
  3. See if and how you can increase the time spent on tasks that energize you. Can you shift the focus from the negative to the positive activities? What other elements make your job more enjoyable? Who are the people you enjoy interacting with most?
  4. Explore what other aspects of your job are fun and make you feel happy. Perhaps it’s interacting with colleagues and customers.
  5. Talk about it with your manager and colleagues and discuss changes you can make together to make your job more fulfilling for each other.

HR’s role in developing a strategy

For organizations keen on creating workplace environments where employees thrive and perform at their best, job crafting is a powerful tool for employee engagement and wellness if implemented and managed effectively. As the Michigan paper points out,

“Job crafting is not always positive. It has the potential to cause harm if the crafting goes against organizational goals or produces negative side effects. Even when the crafting is beneficial for the individual job crafter, it still may be harmful to the overall organization.”

Job crafting requires a strategy which aligns with both the employee’s and company’s goals. It needs to be embraced and supported by senior management. This is where HR can play a role by explaining the value and benefits of enabling employees to job craft, and working with managers and employees to develop rules to guide the process.