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Everyone dreams of having a satisfying job that is tailored to their needs and capabilities. But how many people actually do have such jobs? Professor Roman Cieślak and dr Anna Rogala, psychologists from SWPS University explain how to ensure job satisfaction and prevent job burnout.

Research conducted by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) indicates that Poland ranks fourth, right after Greece, Bulgaria and Hungary, among the countries where job satisfaction is the lowest. Denmark, Austria and Finland lead the ranking with the highest employee satisfaction. The reason for the low ranking of Poland among the 28 members of the European Union is not related to earnings. The summary of 115 studies, conducted by Timothy A. Judge and his team of management and leadership experts in the United States, indicates that the level of remuneration is loosely related to job satisfaction. It seems irrational, but it confirms a well known psychological truth that people’s views, judgements and feelings have very little to do with rationality.

Hence, it may be assumed that job satisfaction depends on personality. Results of 163 studies, summarized by Timothy A. Judge and his team, confirm this hypothesis, which is rather discouraging for managers, human resources professionals and job development experts. The studies have shown that since to a large degree job satisfaction depends on a constant factor, the majority of analytical and rational initiatives focused on increasing employee contentment are doomed to failure. Hence, making changes in the company’s policy is pointless, since it does not translate directly into the level of employee job satisfaction.

Subsequent research, conducted by the same team, enabled a new approach to this issue. This time the researchers wanted to know whether the characteristics associated with self-esteem, self-efficacy and the internal locus of control (i.e. the ability to shape one’s environment) can influence the level of job satisfaction. It proved to be true. What is more, the results have shown that job satisfaction is strongly linked to self-efficacy, related to planning and task completion.

Job Crafting

For a while now, psychologists have been indicating the need to tailor jobs to employees’ capabilities and the necessity of matching employees with the current or future job requirements. They also emphasize that the participation of employees in the process of job development and organizational change is important. Nowadays, organizations also include job crafting (i.e. the way employees customize their jobs by actively changing their tasks and interactions with others at work) in their organizational employee development related initiatives.

American researchers, Amy Wrzesniewski, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management, and Jane E.Dutton, Business Administration and Psychology expert, studied the meaning of work. One of the participants in the study, Jason, worked in a hospital in the American Mid-West. Every morning, he cleaned the hospital wards full of sick people. Some patients had visitors while others did not. When Jason saw that some patients were lonely, he started talking to them. Usually, the conversations were as simple as a customary greeting “How are you?” or small talk about the weather. Conversations with patients were not part of his duties, yet he volunteered to take on this responsibility, although he was not paid for it. Perhaps he was motivated, because the patients were happy to see him. The researchers observed that Jason and some other employees take on additional tasks at work to add meaning to their work and by doing so, they change their jobs in the process.

Thanks to the self-appointed new task, Jason began to feel responsible not only for cleanliness in the hospital, but also for the wellbeing of the patients. His work became more meaningful, because he felt needed by the patients, their families and other hospital employees.

Factors such as job responsibilities, remuneration, personality and employees’ ability to make changes, including changes to their job accountabilities, i.e. job crafting, are the key factors of employee satisfaction.

Above and Beyond

Job Crafting is not initiated by the human resources department or the management. It is employees’ own initiative to modify their jobs to suit their predispositions and preferences. This process is beneficial not only for the employees, but also for organizations.

Research indicates that people who craft their jobs to their satisfaction are less prone to job burnout and spend less time on sick leave. Moreover, they are more engaged in the organization and report higher job satisfaction. Everyone, from an entry level employee to a CEO, can modify their job.

Wrzesniewski and Dutton distinguish three types of job crafting:

Task crafting - job crafting through changing tasks. Employees can modify their formal job responsibilities by either adding or dropping tasks; by changing/altering the tasks or the time and effort devoted to different tasks. For example, an experienced sales person may share his or her knowledge on dealing with difficult customers with new members of the team. These informal training sessions not only increase job satisfaction of the “trainer”, but also benefit the company by improving competencies of other employees.

Relational crafting - job crafting through changing relationships. Employees can alter the frequency, the intensity or the character of interactions with other people at work. For example, a teacher may be involved not only in teaching a subject, but also in teaching social skills and in shaping students’ attitudes. This allows the teacher to have more meaningful relationships with the students and their parents and to have a greater impact on students’ lives.

Cognitive crafting - job crafting through changing your perceptions. This modification allows employees to give meaning to their work. Janitor Jason was transformed from a blue collar worker to an important member of the hospital staff, responsible for the wellbeing of the patients.

Change by Example

Job crafting is possible at every level of the organization, but managers are in a privileged positions. Usually, it is easier for them to modify their jobs or to undertake additional responsibilities and they can also impact the job crafting processes attempted by their subordinates. For an average employee job crafting may be impeded by very precise job descriptions imposed by the company. It is recommended to leave some room for employees’ initiative in this area. If employees feel that they have the trust of the managers, they initiate changes, which add more meaning to their jobs, more frequently.

However, if the changes introduced by employees are not aligned with the company’s goals, the modifications will not be beneficial for the organization. To avoid this scenario, managers should not only encourage employees to craft their jobs, but they also should monitor the process. The key to success is a good relationships between the managers and their teams, one that ensures that the leader understands what is important for the employees, so that the individual goals can be aligned with the goals of the organization. Encouraging employees to modify their jobs is beneficial for organizations, because lack of motivation is a typical symptom of job burnout, which is a direct cause of low productivity and other behaviors harmful for organizations.

Skill to Be Acquired

The job crafting phenomenon has become so popular that it has made its way from the pages of academic journals to popular magazines, such as Time, Forbes and the Harvard Business Review. New research on job modification has defined different types of job crafting, its impact on employee health and its impact on organizations. Thanks to this research, we know that only some employees show the initiative and actively modify their jobs. The ability to align a job to one’s capabilities and needs is not inherent, but one can acquire this skill during training. There are also interactive tools, such as Job Crafting™ Exercise that might be helpful. The effectiveness of Job Crafting™ Exercise was tested by a Fortune 500 company from the technology sector. Employees who had participated in the Job Crafting™ Exercise training, displayed an increased productivity and job satisfaction, six weeks later.

How to Craft Your Job? Start with a few simple steps:

  • List your current job responsibilities. Do not follow the official list of responsibilities from your job description, but list the tasks that you actually perform, during the day.
  • Which of these tasks take most of your time and energy?
  • Do you have any spare time and energy to devote to other activities or what can you do to find the time and strength? How can you use these extra resources, so that your job is better aligned to your needs and capabilities?
  • What motivates you at work? What are your favorite tasks and what are your strengths? What are your needs and capabilities?
  • Develop a job crafting plan: when, what and how to modify your job.
  • List potential challenges and problems that you might encounter. How can you overcome the challenges and solve the problems?
  • Look for help among your co-workers and supervisors. They will help you, when they understand that your job crafting will also be beneficial for them.


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The article was first published in the Polish edition of "Newsweek Psychologia Extra 1/15”.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania Anna Rogala swps

dr Anna Rogala

Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Psychology, at SWPS University in Warsaw. Her professional interests include job crafting, personal resources and their role in job burnout and work engagement. She is leading a research projects on the role of positive emotions in job crafting.

258 roman cieslak czarne tlo

Professor Roman Cieślak

Rector of SWPS University, psychologist. His research interests include work-related stress, job burnout and effects of trauma on individuals. Together with the Streslab team at SWPS University he develops and implements internet solutions that support patient therapies and wellbeing. He publishes regularly in international academic journals. Since 2007, he has been collaborating with the Trauma, Health & Hazards Center (THHC) at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, USA.