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Turn The Job You Have Into the Job You Love




In the early 2000s, Professor Jane Dutton of the University of Michigan and Amy Wrzesniewski, a research scholar, had a simple idea to interview the cleaning staff at a hospital to understand the nature of their work. Through a series of personal interviews and baseline parameters, they divided the 28 members of the cleaning staff into two groups. They wanted to understand the skill level of the workers and the kind of tasks that were required of them.


Immediately, Dutton and Wrzesniewski’s study found there was a stark contrast between the groups. In interviews with the first group, it became apparent that they not only disliked their job but had a general lack of fulfillment or purpose; they felt the job they were doing was menial. They clocked in, day in and day out, because they felt that they had no other choice, whether it was for income or some other reason, not because they wanted to work in that position.


In contrast, the second group had the same roles and responsibilities, but their outlook was much more optimistic. They enjoyed the tasks assigned to them and considered their employment to be an important role in the hospital’s ability to run smoothly. They all seemed to like their jobs immensely.


With all else equal, from role, title, responsibility, hours, pay, how did these groups form such different outlooks on their positions? What was the root of this extraordinary difference? With further exploration, Dutton and Wrzensniewski came to definitive conclusions that have since been branded as a concept called Job Crafting.


The researchers found irrefutable evidence that an intentional mindset was the root of both group's outlook about their jobs. For the more satisfied workers, they found that the employees went above and beyond their job description to include additional tasks, like interacting with patients and visitors. They communicated with the nurses on their unit, which resulted in a more transparent and open environment for sharing information. They saw the larger picture; how their role was a critical part of the health care system. They saw themselves as part of the healing supply chain that worked to help patients recover and heal, rather than just as cleaners in meaningless jobs. This broad and optimistic mindset, in turn, made their work automatically feel very meaningful and gave them a strong sense of purpose.


Dutton and Wrzesniewski’s research was published in 2001. The simplicity of their findings laid bare the necessity for intentionality in mindset, outlook, and goal planning in any position. Their groundbreaking findings laid down the very foundation of Job Crafting. Today, in the wake of the global pandemic, this simple concept has found new meaning and relevance.


What is Job Crafting?

"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. " -CV Harquail, previously a Darden Business School professor.


We see examples of job crafting in real life every day. They are the viral videos that make people smile or the extra support a team member offers to a colleague.

One example of job crafting is "The Pink Glove Dance" that took the internet by storm. The video featured employees of a hospital—doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and janitors—wearing pink gloves and dancing to a song in order to raise breast cancer awareness. This simple act of doing something much larger than just doing their job gave them a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.


Types of Job Crafting:

Job crafting as a concept can take various forms, such as:

Task Crafting: This particular type of job crafting includes re-shuffling of job roles & responsibilities. Task crafting is all about mixing it up. It encourages you to change aspects of your job roles & responsibilities by adding, subtracting, or reorganizing tasks at hand.

Audrey, a full stack developer of an Instant Messaging App company, who has been a diligent employee for 5 years now, started feeling uninspired and unable to maintain work-life balance. Her disengagement at work started to affect her deadlines. She knew she had a problem and at first considered looking for other jobs. The prospect didn’t feel quite right, so she looked at other options. First, to break the monotony of the day to day, she started spending some time with the marketing team to get a better understanding of the social interactions of the app. This helped her to get the customer perspective, and also made her understand the end-user ecosystem in a better way. It worked. She started to see how her work was a part of a larger landscape that needed her contribution. Simply put, she looked out for a purpose and found validation. She applied the concept of task crafting, and it resulted in her feeling recharged about her work.


Relationship Crafting: This includes re-shuffling the type and nature of your interdepartmental interactions. Relationship Crafting is all about forging new ways to interact with co-workers within and beyond your team on different tasks.

Nathan had just joined a creative company as a design intern. As a new recruit, he still hadn’t learned all the ropes. There was a lot to learn in a very fast paced environment. So, after completion of his assigned tasks in the design team, he decided to spend his time with a different department, every day. This helped Nathan to understand the co-working practices of various other departments while infusing these practices into his design learning. Here, he applied the concept of Relationship Crafting to also connect with his co-workers, making it easier for him to learn the ways of the company and to unlock his creative perspective.

Cognitive Crafting: This type of crafting includes re-shuffling the mindset by changing the way you perceive the tasks at hand. Cognitive Crafting is all about rediscovering yourself by changing the way you interpret your work and that of your team.


Samantha’s job as an Administrative Assistant had started to make her feel quite stressed and demotivated about her work performance. She was starting to question why she had taken this position in the first place. Her boss shared his concerns with her while also explaining how she was a valuable asset to their company. This made all the difference. The validation of her work made her actively concentrate on changes that would increase her engagement at work. She tackled disengagement head on and reminded herself that the smooth functioning of the office depended on her. This cognitive crafting of her job gave her the much-needed enthusiasm and a sense of fulfillment.


Why Focus on Job Crafting Now?

The need for job crafting has become imperative in the wake of the global pandemic and its impact on the job market.

The abrupt transition to remote working drastically changed the work landscape. While some have embraced the new reality, many are struggling to stay motivated.

A survey by SellCell shows that 80% of remote workers in the US don’t feel engaged at work. Similar research by Gallup states that over 65% of workers find themselves slacking off and disengaged at work, resulting in productivity loss that costs employers an estimated $500 million annually. These revelations are alarming and call for urgent attention.

Additionally, with the job market changing so dramatically, there is an influx of job openings and options that employees could consider if they want to leave their employer. Job crafting is still relevant in this case because talent will find that the same problems may exist in a new environment in a different role. They will need the tools to attack the problem and make an appropriate decision on whether to stay with their employer or move on to a role that will be a better fit for their needs.


While looking for another opportunity may seem like a solution, it comes with its own set of hurdles, from job seeking to becoming acquainted with the new company culture, team, and set of responsibilities, all the while working remotely.

Instead, a more productive way to attack disengagement is to investigate why and then look for solutions. How can you turn the job you have into the job you love? The answer is job crafting.


Conclusion

Since the time Dutton and Wrzesniewski’s, now a professor at Yale, the study was published, there’s been an explosion of research on job crafting. Standford Professor Justin M. Berg wrote his thesis on how teachers who incorporated their calling into their teaching were, in essence, crafting their own jobs. He went on to team up with the duo to create a workbook to guide people through the job crafting process.


Making job crafting a regular practice can make all the difference. However, it is important to remember that job crafting is intentional and requires a continuous presence of mind. It is something you decide to do to shape your habits and behaviors in a more positive and life-affirming way. It takes patience and perseverance, but the results have been empirically proven. For success, happiness, and a rewarding work life, it’s definitely worth the investment.


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About the Company:

Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has been Chicago's premier Information Technology (IT) staffing, consulting, and recruiting firm for over 22+ years. Named after Chicago's historic Peterson Avenue, PTP has built its reputation by developing lasting relationships, leading digital transformation, and inspiring technical innovation throughout Chicagoland.

Based in Park Ridge, IL, PTP's 250+ employees have a narrow focus on a single market (Chicago) and expertise in 4 innovative technical areas;

  • Cybersecurity

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  • Data Science

  • Cloud & DevOps

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