Job crafting refers to a set of behaviors undertaken by employees to change elements of their jobs. Three forms of job crafting comprise the practice: task crafting, relational crafting, and cognitive crafting. Task crafting involves changing the number, type, or way in which tasks are performed in the course of doing the job. Relational crafting refers to changing the number, type, or way in which relationships or interactions are engaged in while doing the job. Cognitive crafting involves changing the way in which one thinks about the activities that comprise the job, from a set of discrete tasks to an integrated whole (or vice versa). The original theory advanced to describe job crafting predicted two outcomes of the practice: changes to the meaning of work and to one’s work identity. The practice of job crafting is voluntary, bottom-up, and can be undertaken with or without the knowledge or permission of management. Employees undertake job crafting as a way to assert control over their jobs, fulfill a need to see the self in a positive light, and to create relational bonds to others. Job crafting can result in jobs that contract or expand in scope and focus. While job crafting is not necessarily good or bad for organizations, the impact on the job crafter is theorized to be positive, as a result of the changes to meaning and identity that it promotes.
Job crafting is a relatively young literature though interest in studying its forms, antecedents, and effects has mushroomed over the past decade and a half. Wrzesniewski and Dutton 2001 introduced the theory and model of job crafting in the first paper on the topic, building on research that considered how jobs are designed and how employees take proactive approaches to shaping their jobs. Their paper drew on examples of job crafting described in Cohen and Sutton 1998; Star and Strauss 1999; Fletcher 1998; and Benner, et al. 1996 who described job crafting in occupations ranging from hairdressing to engineering. The early work on job crafting focused largely on the existence of the practice in particular occupations. Leana, et al. 2009 and Lyons 2008 detailed the practice of job crafting among teachers and salespeople, respectively.
Benner, Patricia E., Christine A. Tanner, and Catherine A. Chesla. Expertise in Nursing Practice: Caring, Clinical Judgment, and Ethics. New York: Springer, 1996.
Important book on the ways in which expertise is developed and used by nurses, which highlights the interplay between crafting the task, relational, and cognitive boundaries of work in order to provide more effective care.
Cohen, Randi C., and Robert I. Sutton. “Clients as a Source of Enjoyment on the Job: How Hairstylists Shape Demeanor and Personal Disclosures.” Advances in Qualitative Organization Research 1 (1998): 32.
An important, early example of job crafting. Vivid qualitative description of the ways in which hairstylists craft their jobs to build relationships with clients that go beyond a transactional service into emotional connection and personal disclosure.
Fletcher, Joyce K. “Relational Practice: A Feminist Reconstruction of Work.” Journal of Management Inquiry 7.2 (1998): 163–186.
Foundational piece on the articulation work done by female design engineers to enable the execution of work in group settings. Powerful description of the ways in which job crafting enables altered and expanded identities in the job.
Leana, Carrie, Eileen Appelbaum, and Iryna Shevchuk. “Work Process and Quality of Care in Early Childhood Education: The Role of Job Crafting.” Academy of Management Journal 52.6 (2009): 1169–1192.
Critically important early empirical piece on job crafting that established a measurement scale and the possibility of collaborative crafting that happens in conjunction with coworkers, rather than independently by individual employees. This piece was one of the first to tie job crafting to more effective job performance.
Lyons, Paul. “The Crafting of Jobs and Individual Differences.” Journal of Business and Psychology 23.1–2 (2008): 25–36.
Early empirical piece establishing relationships between job crafting, control, and identity in a sample of salespeople. Job crafting was practiced by the vast majority of the sample participants and involved changes to the job itself and also to the skills that employees sought to develop on the job.
Star, Susan Leigh, and Anselm Strauss. “Layers of Silence, Arenas of Voice: The Ecology of Visible and Invisible Work.” Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) 8.1 (1999): 9–30.
This piece describes the invisible work undertaken by technicians to maintain progress in group settings. An early example of the ways in which job crafting can be engaged in “under the radar” in ways that have impact on the organization.
Wrzesniewski, Amy, and Jane E. Dutton. “Crafting a Job: Revisioning Employees as Active Crafters of Their Work.” Academy of Management Review 26.2 (2001): 179–201.
Seminal theory paper that first proposed job crafting as a process that employees undertake to change the meaning of and their identity in their work. This paper has sparked a growing literature on job crafting that has expanded in several directions.
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