Monday, February 14, 2011

Crafting the Job

Most people would like to have a ‘calling’ relationship with their work. However, they may be in occupations where they feel their callings are unanswered. However, it’s not the occupation, but the individual doing the work who defines the work orientation and makes meaning of the work. The same work may be viewed differently by different individuals.

People can realize a calling orientation by job crafting. Job crafting is defined as the physical and cognitive changes individuals make in the task or relational boundaries of their work. Individuals can redesign (craft) their work in ways that can enhance satisfaction, engagement, resilience and flourishing. This allows people to permeate their work with a personal and social meaning and allows one to view that through their work they are making a bigger contribution to the world.

Individuals can pursue unanswered callings by employing five different techniques to craft their jobs (task emphasizing, job expanding, and role reframing) and their leisure time (vicarious experiencing and hobby participating).

A. Job crafting

Task emphasizing: Involves accentuating tasks that are already formally a part of one’s job to pursue an unanswered calling.

This can be done either by (i) allocating additional time, energy or attention to an assigned task which relates to an unanswered calling or by (ii) changing the nature of an assigned task to incorporate aspects of an unanswered calling.

For example a manager who thinks that sharing knowledge or teaching is his calling can allocate more time for sharing knowledge with less experienced colleagues in a structured way.

Job expanding: Involves adding tasks to incorporate aspects of an unanswered calling.

This can be done either by (i) taking on short-term, temporary tasks or by (ii) adding new tasks to a job, which relate to the individual’s calling.

For example, an employee with a strong penchant for a foreign language can offer to be an interpreter when business visitors come or can join the team framing a business document in that language.

Role reframing: Involves modifying one’s perception of the meaning of his or her work to match an unanswered calling.

For example a cook with a creative inclination may perceive his work as an artistic expression rather than just the preparation of food.

B. Leisure crafting

Vicarious experiencing: Involves seeking fulfillment and meaningful experiences through participation of family (or friends and even celebrities) in an unanswered calling.

For example, a mother who perceives music as her calling but is involved in a catering job may gain fulfillment by helping her daughter to learn to play the piano and attending her concerts.

Hobby participating: Involves pursuing leisure and volunteer activities that individuals perceive as related to an unanswered calling.

For example, a salesperson who has a fondness for teaching and social issues may participate as a volunteer in community education programs like children literacy classes.


Berg JM, Grant AM, JohnsonV. When Callings Are Calling: Crafting Work and Leisure in Pursuit of Unanswered Occupational Callings. Organization Science. 2010; 21: 973-994. [PDF]