worker wearing safety vest and hat and driving the cart

How to make your job more satisfying: Lessons from job crafting

By Madison Hanscom, PhD

Sometimes work isn’t motivating. Many individuals feel dispassionate toward their job — finding it monotonous, boring, frustrating, or exhausting. Common suggestions for individuals who are unhappy with their job are to “find happiness outside of work” or “go get a new job” … but are these recommendations realistic? We spend a large portion of our lives working, so shouldn’t we at least enjoy it?

Almost 20 years ago, two researchers proposed there must be a better solution (1). Wrzesniewski and Dutton proposed that workers can take matters into their own hands by shaping the tasks, relationships, and their own thinking at work. This is called job crafting, and it is exactly what it sounds like. You’re crafting your job with purpose of increasing fit between your work and your interests. Job crafting is the process by which an employee customizes their job by making changes in their environment, actions, or thinking. See below for more specific insights and examples of job crafting:

Changing tasks and structural components

Within any given workday there are tasks to be completed. This type of crafting involves altering the number of tasks, scope of tasks, or type of tasks. This could be as simple as taking on extra responsibilities you enjoy and reducing the number of activities you do not like.

Another way to approach this could be seeking out different resources or structural components of your work. Let’s say you want personal development, but there are not explicit opportunities to do so. You can job craft by seeking this out. Perhaps you construct your own informal “360 feedback system” by asking for feedback from different people you work with. Alternatively, you could seek out new knowledge to learn. When things are not stimulating enough at work, you might need to create some challenges for yourself that are related to your work in some way. Perhaps it is picking up a new skill (like a new programming language) or setting a new personal record. A chef might decide to enhance plating presentation to enjoy artistic expression while upgrading the dining experience.

Increase social and relational resources

Relationships are resources too. Consider how can you build and strengthen social ties that are beneficial for your career. Perhaps you start having lunch with your coworkers to know them better outside of work, you ask to be mentored, or you join networking groups. Another way to shape your social resources might be to avoid toxic people who raise your stress levels or hinder career success. By controlling who you interact with, you are changing your work experience.

Cognitively crafting

This is all about how you frame your thoughts surrounding the job you’re doing. This might involve thinking about your job in a different way than previously before. For example, Wrzesniewski and Dutton have studied cleaners in a hospital. They explain how some custodians might view their jobs as just cleaning, and others might cognitively frame it in a different way – they might see themselves as healers who make the environment safe for people to recover and get well. Thus, they might pay special attention to cleaning door handles and other areas that could spread harmful bacteria in order to keep people safe. These individuals who see themselves as healers are connecting the purpose of their jobs to the bigger picture and giving their tasks important meaning.

If you’re a leader reading this blog, please do not hesitate from sharing this wisdom with your employees! There is no reason why you can’t have conversations about job crafting with your people to help them create more satisfying, meaningful work.

At Propulo Consulting, we care about the health and wellbeing of all workers. We partner with you to improve the world of work using the latest insights from research. Our team has the expertise to help your business build a safer and healthier culture.

(1) Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2001). Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of management review, 26(2), 179-201.


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