Making your job feel more like "you"

How job crafting can help people create meaningful work

Making your job feel more like "you"

With today's post, I'm venturing a bit outside my area of expertise. I'm combining two recent encounters: First, a conversation I had with Mandy Varley about the dark side of employee engagement, and second, a short article I'm writing for Human-matter on job crafting.

Human-matter is a new exciting project I’m working on. The seeds for it were planted during virtual hackathons at the beginning of the lock-down. We will launch the site at the end of August.

Both concepts, job crafting and employee engagement, are related. They are based on the Job Demand and Resource model. Combining these two concepts, the idea is that individuals who can change their job description (job crafting) so that the job feels more like them will be more engaged.

Employees shouldn't be forced to feel engaged. You can't make it part of their job. You can't write it into the job description. You can aim to recreate jobs so that the jobs are more engaging, but that requires input from those who are doing the job. You need to listen to their voice and give them the opportunity to design their job

Key points

  • If you can seek out challenges in your job, you will not be as bored
  • Once you start out seeking challenges, you'll start to modify other aspects of your work
  • If your job is temporary or you are self-employed, make sure your skillset is relevant for future work
  • If your job is permanent, engage in challenging tasks (i.e., a task that stretch your skills) within the company

What is job crafting

When someone changes the content of their job or how they perceive their job, they are engaging in job crafting. It is a proactive behavior a person can do. The goal of job crafting is to create a job that is closely aligned with your personal skills and values. The result of job crafting is a closer person-job fit.

Job crafting can take three forms:

  1. Task crafting consists of what tasks you have to do or not do. When you engage in task crafting you are changing what you have to do for your job. For example, when, in an administrative assistant role, you start to create social media posts and therefore add marketing to your job.
  2. Relational crafting consists of who you have to interact with in your job. When you begin collaborating with or seeking advice or support from a new person, you engage in relational crafting. Relational crafting is not only about changing the people with whom you work but also changing those from whom you get advice or feedback.
  3. Cognitive crafting consists of reframing beliefs about what your job is. It’s a purely mental form of job crafting. For example, if you don't like your job, but you can't switch (right now), thinking this is a movie can help. Another way you can engage in cognitive crafting is by developing a new story around your job's role for society. For example, you are not just mopping floors, you are observing patients and relaying important information to health professionals.

Theoretically, job crafting is connected to the Job Demand and Resource model. The idea of this theory is that individuals have access to certain resources when working and certain demands are posed to them. If the demands are too high, individuals are not engaged and potentially burn out. On the other hand, the right resources can lead to higher employee engagement. Job crafting is tied to this theory in that individuals change the resources they have and the demands that are imposed on them.

Job resources can be structural job resources, such as autonomy, variety and learning opportunities, and social job resources, such as social support, supervisor coaching, and feedback.

Job demands can be positive, such as participating in challenging projects, or more negative, such as emotionally intensive jobs.

What does job crafting predict?

To make changes in your job, you need to be able to face the risk of these changes. If you are willing to engage in this ego and image risk depends on your position.

Research has shown that permanent staff has more to gain and to lose when engaging in activities to change their job descriptions. Therefore for those with a permanent job, it is important that the environment is perceived to be psychologically safe.

For those who are on a temporary contract, it is important to be employable after the contract ends. This means making sure that your skillset remains relevant. In order to do this, increasing structural job resources is important. On the other hand, for permanent staff increasing job demands by doing challenging work, has a positive impact on their perception of employability.

Research by Arnold B Bakker has shown that increasing job resources has good outcomes for the employee. For example, it can lead to more development opportunities, better performance feedback, and a better person-organization fit.

Individuals who are able to engage in job crafting will also experience their work as more meaningful and feel less bored. The exact relationship has not yet been proven. This means that there is no proven direct link between job crafting and how meaningful individuals perceive their job to be.

On the topic of meaningful or purpose-driven work, I think it is important to keep in mind that your job does not have to be meaningful for you. If your job is just a way to make money and pay the bills, I do not think this is wrong, and it does not make you a less good employee. Not all employees need to be highly engaged in their work. Let's face it, it's just your job, and not your life. Who you are can be influenced by what you do, but your social identity, the image that you have about yourself, is not only influenced by the work that you do. That being said, if you find meaning in your work, chances are you will find it easier to do your work. I think this is easy for me to say. I’m a knowledge worker who has been fortunate to always be able to do what I enjoy. But I have friends who are not as lucky as me. A danger of seeing meaning in your work is that you will have larger problems processing a forced change in your job (e.g., by being laid off).

Increasing challenging job demands were positively related to perceived employability for permanent staff, but not for temporary staff. Temporary staff has a more favorable outlook on their employability if they add their structural job resources.

While writing this article on job crafting I'm constantly reminded how lucky I am with my job where I have the autonomy to engage in job crafting. Without autonomy or a manager who understands the importance of creating a job where you feel (momentary) at home, job crafting is very difficult. The only thing that is left is cognitive job crafting to keep on going until you can switch. But, given the many discussion I have with friends, even this is difficult to sustain.


  • Berg, J. M., Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2010). Perceiving and responding to challenges in job crafting at different ranks: When proactivity requires adaptivity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31(2–3), 158–186.
  • Harju, L. K., Hakanen, J. J., and Schaufeli, W. B. (2016). Can job crafting reduce job boredom and increase work engagement? A three-year cross-lagged panel study. _J. Vocat. Behav. _95, 11–20. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2016.07.001
  • Plomp, J., Tims, M., Khapova, S. N., Jansen, P. G. W., & Bakker, A. B. (2019). Psychological Safety, Job Crafting, and Employability: A Comparison Between Permanent and Temporary Workers. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 974.
  • Tims, M., Bakker, A. B., & Derks, D. (2012). Development and validation of the job crafting scale. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80(1), 173–186.
  • Tims, M., Derks, D., & Bakker, A. B. (2016). Job crafting and its relationships with person–job fit and meaningfulness: A three-wave study. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 92, 44–53.
  • Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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