How to find more meaning in your job through Job Crafting
Job satisfaction is a term that is bandied about quite liberally, much like “work-life-balance” or “culture fit”. It is also a deeply subjective experience that it can be tricky to define in concrete terms: what may be perceived as a “great job” to one person, may provide little fulfilment to another. We do know, however, that “people who see their work as a calling are significantly more satisfied with their jobs, their lives [and] are more engaged and better performers, regardless of what the work is (Amy Wrzesniewski, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Yale School of Management). They are also known to work more hours, and miss fewer days of work.
So, how do you find a job that feels like a calling? Is it just luck of the draw? Do you simply need to find the right organization or fit and keep changing and looking until you get it right? Well, that can happen, but is not necessarily the only, or indeed, most practical way. What if you can craft the boundaries of an existing job – might you be able to experience it as more meaningful, or even as a calling, regardless of where you landed up?
Creating a Calling
Being able to see one’s work as a calling is not related to the level of skill, or complexity of the role. A Yale study asked hospital cleaning staff how meaningful, skilled and difficult they considered their job to be. One group of respondents described their work as not particularly satisfying, easy to do and reported that they did the job because they needed to. A second group, however, viewed their job as a highly skilled, difficult one and also showed more job satisfaction and engagement. It is important to note that there was no difference in their actual official duties or job descriptions between the two groups. So what gives?
The key difference of the more satisfied group was that they considered additional activities that went beyond their official requirements as part of their job, without being asked to do so. This included, for example, noticing which patients appeared sad or had no visitors for some days, and then returning to them at the end of the completion of duties to spend additional time with them. Fully aware that this was not in the job description, it was still considered an important personal aspect of the work: “That’s not part of my job. But that’s part of me”.
These staff members had, perhaps unconsciously, practised what is now commonly referred to as “Job Crafting”.
Job Crafting in a Nutshell
Job Crafting refers to shifting or adjusting the boundaries of your job in ways that make the work more meaningful for you. It can focus on the type or nature of tasks done (Task Crafting), relationships or style of interactions at work (Relationship Crafting), or on altering how tasks are perceived tasks (Cognitive Crafting). For example, some of the job crafting hospital cleaning staff saw themselves as healers or facilitators, rather than citing their official job title when asked. By seeing their work through this lens, they experienced significantly more pride and job satisfaction.
How to make Job Crafting work for you and your organisation
Whether it is expected in an organization, or expressly prohibited – job crafting spontaneously occurs everywhere and at every level. Rather than being purely an exercise in feeling better about oneself through reframing, it has been found to increase employee engagement, performance and mobility to new roles. Since it directly influences what, how, when and with whom work is done – as a leader, how can you apply Job Crafting to your team right now?
- Build development plans – encourage your team members to reflect on how they can start to seed changes they would like to make in the job over the next months and year that are aligned to the organisation’s goals and missions but also change their relationship to the work they do in a meaningful way.
- Host Job Crafting swap meets – Bring together the team of people, perhaps working on a project, to share and think creatively about what comprises their jobs, what would they like more of, what would they like to offload. One person may treasure a certain task, while another may dread it.
Author: Amaechi Nduka-Agwu
- Wrzesniewski, LuBuglio, Dutton, Berg (2013): Job Crafting and Cultivating Positive Meaning and Identity in Work