Job crafting could help employees break out of slumps and bring greater work satisfaction — here's what to know about it

Job crafting could help employees break out of slumps and bring greater work satisfaction — here's what to know about it
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  • If you're feeling stuck at work, you might benefit from job crafting.
  • Make changes to aspects of your job, like responsibilities, interactions, and outlook.

The next time you find yourself in a slump at work, you might consider "job crafting" to get yourself out of it.

"Job crafting is about actively changing your own job to better suit your values, your strengths, and your passions," said Justin Berg, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and co-author of several papers on job crafting.

Where traditional job redesign usually involves employers and consultants making changes, job crafting lets workers take the lead.

There are three forms of job crafting: task, relational, and cognitive.

The first involves modifying your tasks and responsibilities. Think of the percent of your workday devoted to each task and the order in which you do them.


"It's like taking a picture of how you're currently doing your work," said Jane Dutton, who has also co-authored several papers on job crafting and is the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Business Administration and Psychology at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

Ask yourself if there are tasks you'd like to do more of to explore a new interest or build new skills. Conversely, consider if there are responsibilities you'd like to scale back.

Dutton advises thinking about your core values and strengths. From there, she says, "How are these strengths and values being expressed in the way that you're currently doing your job? If there's misalignment, you can imagine different ways that you might change things. That gives you some directions that you can go in."

Relational job crafting entails altering the web of people you have contact with at work. Take stock of the people you interact with at work. Can you increase, reduce, or otherwise shape interactions that leave you particularly energized or exhausted?

Lastly, cognitive job crafting requires shifting your outlook. Pay attention to how you talk about your job to other people, and see if there's a better way to think about your job.


Rob Baker, founder of UK-based HR consultancy Tailored Thinking and author of a book about job crafting called "Personalization at Work," suggests people start small by making a tweak that takes 10 to 15 minutes a day. He asks his clients, "How can you make your job 1% better?"

He also advises they make a list of three categories: things you'd like to amplify, things you'd like to reduce, and things you'd like to change or improve. Consider using a tool like The Job Crafting Exercise, for which Berg and Dutton were research consultants, to help lay out your plan.

It's important to keep in mind job crafting does have its limits, though.

It can be much more accessible to white-collar workers, who might have more freedom in their jobs, than blue-collar workers. Similarly, women and people of color often have less leeway to make tweaks to their jobs.

And because job crafting requires that the employee reshape their work, it takes some of the onus off of the employer to make a job sustainable.


Another potential issue is that job crafting could lead to employees doing more work for the same pay, so employees should strive for balance to avoid overworking themselves. Similarly, bear in mind that despite your changes, you'll likely still be expected to meet the job's initial requirements.

Perhaps most importantly, you can't job craft your way out of a work situation that's ill-fitting or plain bad to begin with.

"It should not be a tool that ends up making people complacent in jobs that are either a poor fit for them, or perhaps even more importantly, in jobs where they're underpaid or undervalued," said Berg. "Job crafting isn't a silver bullet."

It may take many tries to get it just right. Monitor what adjustments do and don't work for you over time, and then readjust as needed, Baker says.

"Often, organizations think we just do our jobs in a fixed way, but that's not what people want and that's not how we perform best in our jobs," he said. "We should see our jobs as something that's continually changing and evolving."