Job crafting: is it about fitting in and getting on?

A couple of weeks ago I was in a meeting where we were talking about job crafting.  An excellent article, by Catherine Moore, drawing initially from Berg et al 2007, explains that ‘Job crafting is about taking proactive steps and actions to redesign what we do at work, essentially changing tasks, relationships, and perceptions of our jobs. …   . The main premise is that we can stay in the same role, getting more meaning out of our jobs simply by changing what we do and the ‘whole point’ behind it. ‘

Part of our discussion was on the nature of job descriptions and whether all jobs are, in fact, crafted by the job holder to a greater or lesser degree.  We wondered whether we, as job holders are consciously or unconsciously crafting our jobs, to make them ones where, in Moore’s words, ‘we still can satisfy and excel in our functions, but which are simultaneously more aligned with our strengths, motives, and passions.’   She says that, ‘Unsurprisingly, it [job crafting] has been linked to better performance, intrinsic motivation, and employee engagement’.

As we were talking, I was reminded of my PhD thesis ‘Fitting in and getting on: a study of the organisational socialisation of senior managers joining an organisation’.  The research was sponsored by British Airways who, as the abstract says ‘had noted a number of business costs associated with senior managers who joined the organisation from outside. The aim was to find a way of reducing the costs and improving the joining experience for these individuals in a way which got them to high performance quickly.’

The outcome of the study, summarised in a leaflet I produced (see cover above) to explain it, ‘provided evidence that the relationship between fitting in (socially) and getting on (high-performance) was strong, confirming results of previous studies. However, this study extended previous academic research by finding that the relationship is not straightforward. It is complex, contingent on a range of factors, and continuous throughout a person’s membership of an organisation.’

My PhD came to mind, I think, because it was about how people successfully shape their roles and how the roles shape them in order for them to fit in and get on.  Essentially, how they job craft.

Out of the research I produced a series of twenty checklists, all addressed at senior new joiners to an organisation (not those promoted from within).   Here’s an example of one – ‘New Joiner: fitting in and getting on’ that I found by Googling.   Other titles included ‘Developing your network’, ‘Handling the politics’, Making an impact’, ‘Handling workplace relationships’ and ‘Adjusting your style’.  Ten were published by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), who I see in 2013 updated them.  I’m not sure if they’re still available from – I’m finding out.  In today’s language the checklists were designed to help them job craft.

However, when I was researching, the term ‘job crafting’ was not around.  It seems to have originated in 2001 in a paper by Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton,  Crafting a Job: Revisioning Employees as Active Crafters of Their Work, published when I was already writing up.   Wrzesniewski and Dutton discuss three aspects of job crafting: task – shaping what you do, relationship – shaping your interactions, cognitive – shaping your attitudes.

Going back to the job-crafting discussion.  It triggered three thoughts for me:

  • Job crafting – all three aspects – is part and parcel of today’s work world, it’s not just for new joiners.
  • It’s not only the job holder doing the crafting in response to things, but also things crafting the job for the job holder.
  • Job crafting would bring more all-round benefits if it was integral to performance management discussions.

Job crafting is part and parcel of today’s work world.  New joiners are almost by default crafting their roles, as my research found.   But I don’t think it is just new joiners who are job crafting.  Particularly around the task aspect of jobs, almost everyone is crafting – new technologies, new products and services and new ways of doing things all require people to re-think the ways they do their jobs.

Or maybe not, read the story of one Amazon warehouse operative and see how little ability he has to craft the task or the interactions. Even the possibility he could craft his attitudes to the job is sharply limited by the apparent lack of choice to be doing it in the first instance.  The story illustrates the effects of an inability to job craft on someone’s motivation and mental/physical health.  (See a related story of Phil, a train cleaner).

It’s not only the job holder doing the crafting in response to things, but also things crafting the job for the job holder.  In a report, on new CEOs BCG notes that ‘In today’s turbulent, globalized, and high-tech business world, large organizations have acquired complexities unimaginable to earlier generations.’  The report offers 5 things CEOs should be doing, in effect to craft effective jobs.  The thing is that this turbulence is not just affecting senior executives, new or otherwise, but almost everyone.

Take an example from this week  ‘JCB, the British digger maker, has cut working hours and suspended overtime for 4,000 UK employees after the coronavirus outbreak prompted a shortage in parts coming from China.’  The external context is having a significant impact on the JCBs jobs – they are being crafted by default.

Technology changes also act to craft jobs differently, but read the case of a journalist who took a proactive approach of asking the question of some technology companies ‘What could their technologies do to automate me?’ She ends the article saying, ‘It’s not that workers have nothing to fear from automation, but rather that companies will have a fair amount of choice over what they want to do with the extra efficiencies that technology will bring. …  You have to use technology to do what you want to do.  … The more you know how to use the technologies and the more you understand what you want, the better the world will end up being.”   I read the article as being a case study in thinking through how technologies can to help craft meaningful jobs.

Job crafting would bring more all-round benefits if it was integral to performance management discussions.  An article from QZ this week  – The Performance Review of gets its annual performance review’ is scathing on the once a year approach that many companies still take to performance reviews.   It says, ‘Arguably, the most daring and effective reinventions make so many changes that the original tradition is unrecognizable. … I would advocate to retrain the Performance Review for the role of Weekly Check-In, [which has] lower stakes and [is] strategically more appropriate for today’s fast-changing business environment, the Weekly Check-in is five times more likely to produce meaningful feedback for employees, says Gallup. Its subjects are also three times more likely to feel engaged at work.’ Enabling an employee to discuss their job in a weekly check-ins, allows for a discussion of crafting it in a way that makes individual and context sense.

How is your job being crafted?  What room do you have to craft it?  Is job crafting part and parcel of today’s work world enabling you to fit in and get on while feeling engaged and productive?  Let me know.

One thought on “Job crafting: is it about fitting in and getting on?”

  1. In my experience most job descriptions if written bear little resemblance to the post holders’ duties for all the reasons you state -except those organisations who still adhere to Taylorism! I wonder though what the links are to the new Org design trend (fad?) of self-organising? as far as I can see in most of these models job descriptions are moot , however self-described roles and value add statement shave replaced them ,as has a huge governance machinery too it seems

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