A few weeks ago I wrote about career skeptics and the changing way we are interacting with our jobs during the pandemic. Today I want to talk about job crafting and how it can be used to improve your working conditions and perhaps move your job in the right direction and help your career.
The term conjures up glue guns and glitter, which isn’t a bad metaphor for what is really behind the term. In a 2007 paper written by academics, the authors talk about how employees should redesign their jobs to improve work satisfaction and engagement. If HGTV or DIY had shows about job crafting, they would show the before and after shots of tedium transformed into an exciting, vibrant workplace. Or something like that. (But please, no shiplap. I can’t stand shiplap.)
There are three components of job crafting: tasks, cognition and people relationships. Let’s take them in turn. The task crafting is perhaps the easiest to get your head around: you want to change the type and scope of the particular tasks of your job to make the job more interesting, more useful or other reasons. This often involves changing your job responsibilities. My wife says you should be doing the job that you want to have when you get a promotion. A companion piece is changing your cognition or mindset of these tasks, such as how you interpret your job responsibilities or the specific work that you have been hired to do.
Here is an example: if you take orders from your customers, your job could be defined as just pure input, and making sure the orders are entered correctly. But if you alter your mindset a bit, you could be providing your customers with the best possible experience and making sure that they are ordering what they need and have the right expectations. It is a subtle shift, but an important one.
Finally, crafting your relationships is a lot harder: are you aiming to get more mentorship from a particular person in your organization? Or find a particular collaborator? Or are you looking to build particular connections to an important customer or partner? The authors of the 2007 paper wrote a 2020 piece for Harvard’s Business Review that provides some case studies to illustrate these three points.
These three elements interact with each other, so the lines are somewhat blurry among them. But what is important is that crafting your job is only possible when you have cooperation from your manager. If your boss is a bad one and can’t delegate responsibility and authority (just to pick something at random that frequently happened to me), they aren’t going to be able to help and will use their job glue gun to gum up the works, rather than build something wonderful.
Hi David, this resonates with an article I wrote in 2007 on the same topic from a different angle: https://brookwoods.com/stay-put-and-transform-your-job/
My point was that if you are so unsatisfied in your job that you are willing to quit, you may as well just stay put and transform the job you have. At best, you will be a greater asset to your company; at worst, they will fire you. But you were already willing to separate from the company, and at least you tried to make your job great!
David, very thoughtful and interesting, as always. I like the distinction you make between tasks, cognition and people relationships.