You Don’t Have To Change Your Job

...You Can Simply Craft it...

“Why does one person hate a particular job and another enjoys it?”
“How can a job be altered to an individual’s preferences so as to allow him/her to be more productive at it?”

First theorised by Amy Wrzesniewski, an associate professor of organisational behaviour at the Yale School of Managment, job crafting, as a technique, gives employees the relative freedom to adjust their job scope and at the same time, meet the organisation’s goals.

While being interested in people who love their jobs, those who didn’t and the reasons behind them, Wrzesniewski devoted much of her initial research on hospital workers. In fact, more specifically, she interviewed hospital janitors, who are mainly responsible for the cleaniness of the wards, floors, toilets, offices, pantries and corridors. They are the ones who visit the rubbish dump more than anyone else in the hospital. They are the “dirty workers” whom a visitor wouldn’t even bat an eyelid for while waiting in line at a clinic. They are the...ok...you get the point...these are the folks that are right at the bottom rung of the organisational ladder.

And if you are that hospital janitor, or cleaner, as we tend to call it in this part of the world, how happy would you be in your job?

What part of this job would appeal to you? The occasional challenge of unclogging a toilet bowl? Or perhaps mopping up fresh vomit that an unwell young patient just threw up on the floor?

Rather surprisingly, as Wrzesniewski dug deeper, although there were the expected responses from janitors who actually hated their jobs, a considerable number of them gave the opposite reply. With the exact same job descriptions and responsibilities as all their peers, one group of janitors described their work in completely different terms. Many of these happy crew members reported going out of their way to learn as much as possible about the patients whose rooms they cleaned, down to which cleaning chemicals were likely to irritate them less.

One particular janitor described forming such a strong bond with patients that she continued to write letters to some of them after they were discharged. In Wrzesniewski’s words, “It was not just that they were taking the same job and feeling better about it, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and whistling. It was that they were doing a different job.” Yes. A different job. A job that gave these employees more than what a dollar of salary could give them intrinsically.

From the study of this unique group of hospital cleaners, Wrzesniewski and her colleagues have suggested three ways in which jobs can be recrafted for better engagement and improved productivity.

1. Task Crafting

Task crafting involves the changing of the physical or temporal boundaries around tasks that make up a person’s job. With this approach, a job crafter can add or drop various tasks, reduce or add time spent on certain tasks, as well as redesign various aspects of their tasks. A marketing manager might take on additional event planning duties because he likes the challenge of organising people and logistics for product roadshows. A teacher might seek her superior’s permission to take on fewer classes and devote a similar amount of effort in creating a new science curriculum based on field trips.

2. Relational Crafting

Relational crafting refers to redefining relational boundaries. This process defines the interpersonal interactions involved when performing one’s job. In essence, you can alter the nature or extent of your interactions with other people in your organisation, be they clients, visitors, peers or bosses. A CEO, for instance, might create mentoring relationships with young, new hires, as a way to connect with and teach those who represent the future of the corporation.

3. Cognitive Crafting

Lastly, job crafters can change their cognitive boundaries that define or give purpose to their tasks and relationships in their jobs. You can change how you perceive the purpose of certain aspects of your job, or simply reframe the meaning of your job as a whole. For example, if you are a busy, stressed-out doctor running a clinic, it would be better to think of your job as two separate parts, one that is not particularly enjoyable (dealing with medical salesmen, administration matters) and one that is very meaningful (giving health talks, seeing a sick child recover from your treatment).

Then perceptually, remind yourself constantly of the meaningful activities that could happen only when the not-so-enjoyable job responsibilities are done and dusted. All of a sudden, ‘dull’ duties become an important cause to drive the meaningful ones into effect.

Nevertheless, for job crafting to be beneficial to both the employee and the organisation, managers would also need to ensure that the job designs they create for employees are in line with the goals of the organisation. If an employee is allowed to tailor his job in a way that contradicts organisational goals, then this conflict will surely lead to disastrous results for the company. But if job crafting is done in line with organisational goals, then both the employee and the organisation would stand to gain from it.

With an evolution of our job nature and the emergence of the Millennial workforce, perhaps job crafting can allow organisations to attract talent and retain them without a never-ending pay increment. Besides, as an employee, wouldn’t work be a tad more engaging, meaningful or even enjoyable?


Article by Andy Pan, the Director of Training at Right Impact Training and the author of Happy Companies, Healthy Profits. Know more about our WORKPLACE HAPPINESS programmes that can improve your team’s PRODUCTIVITY by ANOTHER 12% HERE!

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