We go through days when we are dissatisfied with our jobs, don’t feel challenged anymore by the work we are doing, question if we are adding any value to our organizations, and ponder if our work is answering our calling. We wake up every morning disenchanted, no longer driven by what we do. We stop seeing the meaning, we feel unhappy, and quitting our job often seems to be the solution.

Luc Dorenbosch, a researcher at a company in the Netherlands that helps people rethink their work in new and creative ways, says people quite often fall out of love with their jobs when actually it’s just a few small things that are making them unhappy.

In his research, he found that people are satisfied with 80% of a job, but it’s the “bothersome” 20% of the job that makes them want to leave. But in many cases, it would be better to experiment with their current job and see if they can make it more satisfying.

What he is referring to is the discipline of “job crafting” – reshaping our jobs in such a way that it makes us happy again.

What is job crafting?

Coined in 2001 and the outcome of a research by Michigan Ross School of Business – Positive Organizational Centre, the term “job crafting” is defined as:

The active changes employees make to their own job designs in ways that can bring about numerous positive outcomes, including engagement, job satisfaction, resilience, and thriving.

The research was based on real stories of employees who have succeeded in taking advantage of opportunities to customize their jobs by actively changing tasks and interactions with others, resulting in them becoming happier and attaining higher levels of self-fulfillment.

How did they do that? Examples include contributing to an important project, creating new ways of doing things so the job becomes less repetitive, offering to help colleagues as a way to increase social interaction, and sharing knowledge.

In her famous video, “Job Crafting – On Creating Meaning In Your Own Work,” Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management, discusses the art and science of job crafting.

Wrzesniewski studied hospital maintenance workers to look at how job crafting affected their work experience and morale. She set up two groups – one simply followed the job description, while the second was asked to take on other, related tasks of their own choosing.

Differences between the two groups were significant – the second group found meaning in their work and saw themselves and their purpose as radically different from their counterparts. She found that allowing an employee to influence work scope changes the meaning of that work, and allows them to take ownership of their job. Wrzesniewski’s work shows that job crafting can foster engagement, job satisfaction, and resilience.

Josh Bersin also describes how job crafting enables employees to create meaningful work, one of five core drivers of employee success in the “Simply Irresistible” model for the employee engagement. According to this model, offering autonomy to job craft is a major practice of effective leadership to help employees thrive in and from the work they do.

Five steps to find your calling in what you do.

  1. Start by keeping track of your feelings during the day. Pay attention to what makes you feel good, what energizes you, and what helps you be at your best. Also note what things drain your energy and make you feel dissatisfied.
  2. List your daily tasks for a full week with notes next to those that bring you up and those that push you down, plus the reason why they make you feel the way they do and how long you spend on each. Then analyze the time you devote to the positives and the negatives.
  3. See if and how you can increase the time spent on the things that energize you. Are there any opportunities there where you can shift the focus from the negative to the positive activities? What other elements make your job more enjoyable? Who are the people you enjoy interacting with most?
  4. Explore what other aspects of your job are fun and make you feel happy. Is it interacting with colleagues and customers, perhaps? After all, it is proven that quality connections with other people does give meaning to our jobs.
  5. Talk about it with your manager and colleagues and discuss changes you can make together to make your jobs more fulfilling for each other.

Let’s bring it home.

For organizations keen on creating workplace environments where employees thrive and perform at their best, job crafting is a powerful tool for employee engagement and wellness, if implemented and managed effectively. This requires a strategy in-place and must align with both the employee and company’s goals. It also needs to be embraced and supported by all seniority levels of the organization.

For us to be happy at work and for our work to have meaning, our jobs must align with our purpose in life, allow us to enjoy working with the people around us, and our tasks must contribute to the overall vision of the organization we belong to.

Next time you are demotivated by what you do and jumping fence seems the only escape to happy land, try rediscovering your work in a manner that opens your eyes and mind to see the greener pastures in your own backyard first.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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