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Why Job Crafting Is the Secret to Job Satisfaction

Job crafting is the key to job satisfaction. But how does it work?

Who is ultimately in charge of your job satisfaction? Your options are your supervisor, human resources, or top management. Got your answer?

It's actually a trick question. The answer is "you." The days of assuming that top management will push down a directive to human resources, who will then push down a system to be executed by a manager, is not only idealistic, it's outdated.

Organization-level, one-size-fits-all solutions don't work. You are in charge of ensuring that you are fulfilled, challenged, and happy, and the key to doing so is job crafting—proactive, employee-driven customization of tasks and relationships with others.

The idea of job crafting is as old as the idea of work itself. Only recently have scholars and practitioners alike begun to realize that it increases job satisfaction and work engagement while reducing boredom and burnout.

But job crafting is not for the faint of heart. It takes self- and other-awareness and a willingness to stimulate change, which in some cases creates conflict. Read on to ensure that you're thinking through the possibilities and potential implications.

But first, consider taking my free, validated, and theoretically grounded assessment, "Do You Know How to Job Craft?" This 12-question assessment will automatically generate your scores and a comparison to your peers.

The Four Types of Job Crafting

Increasing Structural Resources

If you're feeling like you're unable to get as much done as you'd like, consider evaluating opportunities to increase your structural resources, which entails finding opportunities for more autonomy or more avenues for getting work done efficiently and effectively.

The most popular way of doing this is by seeking out opportunities for increased discretion in how your work is conducted. Another important element of increasing structural resources is ensuring that you have the time to complete the work that you think is necessary to accomplish strategic, long-term goals, and not just short-term deliverables.

Increasing Social Resources

Increasing social resources entails constructing opportunities for feedback, advice, or mentorship. To fully realize your potential, it will be necessary to get ideas and suggestions from others.

If you feel like you're not getting new, thought-provoking insight, it might be time to proactively seek out alternative contacts. Further, if you feel that you aren't being challenged to think differently or think bigger, it might be time to find better social resources.

Keep in mind that social resources aren't always internal. Look outside your team, department, division, and company, to find your ideal support system.

Increasing Challenging Demands

Increasing challenging demands consists of pursuing projects and assignments that allow one to develop new skills. If you are feeling bored or uninterested in your work assignments, it might be time to increase your challenging demands.

Seeking out new challenges not only helps you stay engaged, but it can also be a necessary strategy for ensuring that you stay relevant. Although it might feel comfortable to have a handle on your work tasks, it's important to spend a small percentage of your time on challenging assignments that help you round out your skillset.

The best way to get started is by talking to your direct manager. If there aren't opportunities readily available, the next step is branching out into new areas of your organization. Start by sitting in on new projects. Eventually, you'll be asked to join in.

Decreasing Hindrance Demands

Decreasing hindrance demands entails shedding stressful tasks or relationships. Consider keeping track of your tasks and communications for the next two weeks. For each task and relationship, evaluate the degree to which it is energy-depleting. These are your opportunities for decreasing hindrance demands.

In many cases, it's as simple as discontinuing the task altogether. In some cases, it's about declining to work on initiatives that are not fulfilling or entail working with draining colleagues.

There are also situations where you need to be strategic and begin having conversations with colleagues or managers about re-negotiating your role. If it's stressful enough, even this more drastic option is worth considering.

The Future of Job Crafting

The nature of job crafting is quickly evolving. Below are three trends to look out for to ensure you’re staying on top of your opportunities to enhance your job satisfaction.

Collaborative Crafting

Job crafting is no longer just an individual phenomenon. Employees are also engaging in collaborative crafting, whereby individuals within dyads or teams trade-off and negotiate responsibilities.

The challenge is that it's difficult to monitor and manage the revised responsibilities stemming from these informal arrangements. It also assumes that everyone is willing and able to make mutually beneficial changes.

Optimizing Demands

A fifth job crafting dimension is on the rise. It's called optimizing demands, which entails simplifying the job and making work processes more efficient. This is a hybrid approach that simultaneously reduces stress and increases productivity.

Optimizing demands, by definition, is beneficial for the individual and the organization. While this win-win might not always be possible, it's the ideal approach.

Idiosyncratic Deals

A related but unique concept, idiosyncratic deals (I-deals), is also becoming popular. I-deals entail formally negotiating for customized flexible work arrangements. Instead of waiting for organizations to create options, employees are proactively asking for what they want, explaining why they want it, and offering something in exchange (e.g., less pay, less responsibility, etc.).

Organizations need to be clear on I-deal policies. On the one hand, it has promise for increasing employee satisfaction and retention, but on the other hand, it has the potential to create inefficiencies and intra-team competition.

Cautions and Caveats of Job Crafting

It's important to understand the limitations of job crafting. In a recent blog post, I wrote about the different types of work fit, including person-job fit, person-organization fit, and person-vocation fit.

Keep in mind that job crafting can fix person-job misfit, but it can't overcome systemic issues such as misalignment with organizational values (i.e., person-organization misfit) or a lack of identification with your profession (i.e., person-vocation misfit). You must be in-tune with the problem you are trying to solve.

It's also critical to keep in mind that job crafting might not always be well-received by others. For example, job crafting might force colleagues to change in ways that they don't want to change. Relatedly, uninformed superiors might rate job crafters as low performers because they are spending time on unassigned responsibilities.

When it's all said and done, you, not your organization, are responsible for your job satisfaction. It's important to take stock of your options and approach strategically. Further, to ensure that job crafting doesn't lead to a backlash, it's important to consider the rationale for your potential job adjustments and your surrounding organizational circumstances.

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