67. Finding Meaning at Work Part 2: Crafting Your Job

You will find meaning and purpose in your work when you are able to craft, change, modify and align your daily tasks to match your values. In fact, some say that finding meaning at work is more about what you do with what you have, instead of what you start with.


In this episode of Crina and Kirsten Get to Work, our hosts tackle part II of this two-part series on meaning in the workplace.  In Part I, Crina and Kirsten discussed the importance of meaning at work and that meaning arises when we find alignment with our values.

Identifying our values allows us, hopefully, to match those values to those of our employer.  This is where our internal work on values can overlap with the external world – in this case our employer. 

The good news is that meaning is more about what we do with what we have instead of what we start with.  Some folks may be in a job that completely aligns with their values – maybe a teacher who values teaching and children and being of service and her employer supports her in those values.  Not that she loves everything she does, but her internal values coincide with her external work experience.

So, what do we do when that is not the case?

There are a number of ways to modify our internal and external worlds to align with our values and create meaning.

Amy Wresniewski. professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management, with the assistance of her colleagues, introduced the concept of job crafting.  In studying the work of a group of janitors at a hospital, she discovered the janitors experienced the same job in different ways – and fell into two distinct groups.  One group saw themselves as just janitors, did not think they were highly skilled and would describe their job as cleaning.  The other group talked about their work in relation to patients and visitors’ care. In fact, most of how those in this second group described their job was not even in the job description.  They discussed tasks such as changing the art on the walls of patients who were in a coma or cleaning the floor extra times in the rooms of patients who did not have visitors, or guiding visitors to where they were going.  This second group viewed their work as providing a safe and clean place for people to get healthy and heal or as ambassadors for the hospital.  She called what the second group was doing job crafting.

Wresniewski describes job crafting as “[w}hat employees do to redesign their own jobs in ways that foster engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience and thriving.” (Berg, Wrzensniewski and Dutton, 2010) Job crafting can be changing the task you perform – adding or dropping responsibilities – like the janitor cleaning the floor of a lonely patient several times a day.  It can also be in creating certain types of interactions – who do we want to work with and how?  We can choose who we brainstorm with, sometimes who we work with on a project and even sometimes who we serve so that these people add meaning to our work.  Job crafting can also be changing your mindset about what you are doing, which is also something the janitors did – realizing their job was not cleaning floors, but providing a place for people to heal and get well.

People who job craft tend to have more satisfaction, commitment, happiness and better performance in and with their jobs.  It is a really good way for people to find meaning at work.

Employees will likely job craft– often not even being aware of it.  Managers and supervisors should recognize this and support it.  We know it has an incredibly positive effect in the workplace when employees find meaning in their work – and job crafting is one significant way employees find meaning in their work.  Leadership can consider:

  1. Giving autonomy and support to employees
  2. Encouraging employees to identify their values and create plans for themselves at work that align with those values
  3. Communicating company values and goals so employees can see how they fit into achieving those goals and living those values
  4. Allowing and encouraging task reassignment that fits values, such as holding a job crafting “swap meet” where people talk about whether given values and strengths of each employee, certain tasks can be traded.
  5. Recognizing and celebrating and supporting employees who take the ownership in their work necessary to job craft.

 And here are some good reads:

 Job Crafting – Amy Wrzesniewski on creating meaning in your own work

The 4-Hour Meaning Week. 4 power-hours of super-meaning per week… | by Taylor Foreman | The Startup | Jul, 2021

Help your employees find purpose–or watch them leave

Igniting individual purpose in times of crisis

The Why Of Work: Purpose And Meaning Really Do Matter

Positive Workplace What is Job Crafting? (Incl. 5 Examples and Exercises)