How Job Crafting Can Get You Closer to Authentic Work

by cv harquail on December 8, 2009

One of my favorite “authenticity tools”,  Job Crafting, has been featured in a Time Magazine article. I’m excited to see some popular discussion of Job Crafting, because it is one of the easiest and most direct ways of making your work fit who you are.

Job crafting is the practice of (re-)shaping the job that you are expected to do so that you can enlarge the parts that are important to you.

Through job crafting, an employee can take on new activities, new responsibilities, and new relationships, making the job so bigger (or smaller), more interesting, more useful, and overall more closely linked to their strengths and interests.

The Time Magazine article explains the basics of job crafting, and introduces the Job Crafting Exercise, developed by scholars Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton. (Disclosure: Amy and Jane are friends of mine). There is a lot more information on the website of the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship at The University of Michigan. There, you can can read in more detail about job crafting and– even better — download a booklet that contains instructions for doing the job crafting exercise yourself.

Revolutionary. Really.


Job crafting may initially look similar to some other employee engagement, ‘job redesign’ and or/ or ‘job enrichment initiatives. But, in both its inspiration and its perspective, job crafting can be revolutionary.

Potentially (that is, used well and used for good),  job crafting is a revolutionary technique, because job crafting invites the employee herself to reshape not only what she does and how she does it, but also “who she is” when at work.

Here’s how Job Crafting is Revolutionary:

1. Job crafting starts with the person, the worker, herself. It is a process about determining what is good for the individual (not the organization) and building that into the job. It’s a “people first” technology.

2. Job crafting is a “positive” strategy— it emphasizes what is and what could be, not what’s wrong.

3. Job crafting is not just about making the job more challenging, or more fun. At its core, job crafting is about making your job more meaningful to you, based on what matters to you.

4. Job crafting is a process for connecting your job tasks with your personal identity, so that being “who you are” actually matters when you are at work. This is the big authenticity win for job crafting.

5. And, probably the revolutionary feature of job crafting is that it can be done by anyone, in any job, to make even a small change. Even a small change that makes a job more meaningful personally can allow you to be more authentic at work.

3 Steps of Job Crafting: Reorienting, Analyzing, and Acting

Reorienting. Job Crafting starts with taking a different, more positive attitude towards work. Job crafters have to reorient themselves and their approach to work. They have to allow themselves to imagine that work can, indeed, be “more”.

Job crafting begins by inviting you to be proactive, creative, and optimistic about what you might accomplish by re-thinking what your job is and what it is about.

Acting. Job crafting doesn’t actually “end”, since it can and should be an ongoing process. Instead, the ‘last’ step of job crafting is taking action. You’re not finished with the job crafting exercise until you have taken some action to implement your ideas.

Analyzing. The step in-between reorienting and acting is analyzing. Job crafters need to break down their jobs into tasks and figure out how much time is spent on what. But analyzing your job requires knowing yourself, too. As you analyze your job and rethink what it could become, you need to get clear about what you’re good at, what motivates you and what you’re passionate about.

This step alone can help you feel and be more authentic in your job, because as you make your strengths, motives and passions explicit, you’ll begin unconsciously to orient yourself towards enacting them. But, it’s even better to enact them as you reshape your job.


Job crafting works even in the worst case scenario

You’d think that job crafting works best in organizational situations where you (the worker) and your colleagues have a lot of flexibility, and that’s probably right. But what’s great about job crafting is that, even in the worst of situations, where the potential job crafter has very little control over the actions they must perform, job crafting can still make a difference. This is because even a small outlet for self-expression can allow us to experience our individual authenticity.

Try Job Crafting Yourself

As a worker yourself, you can try crafting your job, to shape what you do so that you can express a little bit more of who you are. Go on over to the Job Crafting Exercise page and watch the video about the tool. Read What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter?, a review of the research behind job crafting. And, consider buying a copy of the tool itself (for $15) and really challenging yourself to consider how to put more of “you” into what you do. [I’m not intending to “shill the product” but there is no free version. The tool is worth it, though.]

As a manager, you should think more about job crafting as a way to help your employees find more personal meaning in what they do. Helping people you work with find personal meaning in what they do and become more authentic at work is good for them. Even better, it’s good for you, since connecting what we do to what matters to us is an important leadership responsibility.

I’d love to hear what you think about job crafting, and about its revolutionary potential!

See Also: A Job Crafting Example: The Pink Glove Dance

Citation: Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001) Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review; 26 (2): 179-201.

And speaking of “crafting”, Circles in Progress and Stacks of Felt images from Lupin’s Etsy shop. Go Etsy Shopping! Lupin’s crafts are so pretty…Do you get the concept behind the images?


David Zinger December 9, 2009 at 8:34 pm

I was just talking about job crafting today with a large group and how it could be a tool used to foster engagement and to co-create our work with our organizations. I appreciate the work of Jane and others on this. It was nice to have your post and the TIME piece too. Thank you.
.-= David Zinger´s last blog ..Change Management Poem: Out of the Trenches =-.

cv December 10, 2009 at 8:19 am

Hi David,

Of course I was thinking of you and the Employee Engagement network when I was writing this post–

Although job crafting per se is about job engagement, which is one of several layers of employee engagement, I think it is especially powerful because each individual (each of us) can actually DO it. We don’t have to wait for a work group, a manager, or an executive team to change things, because we can change them.

And, I think that once the concept is introduced as revolutionary (and once we work through any dismissive reactions) the empowering nature of crafting hooks people.

I’d love to hear more about how you’ve used job enrichment iwht your clients, so when you write about it be sure to give me a heads up– I wouldn’t want to miss your insights.

Wally Bock December 9, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

Wally Bock
.-= Wally Bock´s last blog ..12/9/09: Midweek Look at the Independent Business Blogs =-.

cv December 10, 2009 at 8:24 am

Wally, Thanks so much! I’m honored that you think this post will be valuable to your readers. cv

essay help December 12, 2009 at 8:38 am

Yes, this whole idea of finding ways to do what matters to us is really very important.
.-= essay help´s last blog ..The Relevance of Referencing in an Essay =-.

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