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Crafting a Job: Revisioning Employees as Active Crafters of Their Work



We propose that employees craft their jobs by changing cognitive, task, and/or relational boundaries to shape interactions and relationships with others at work. These altered task and relational configurations change the design and social environment of the job, which, in turn, alters work meanings and work identity. We offer a model of job crafting that specifies (1) the individual motivations that spark this activity. (2) how opportunities to job craft and how individual work orientations determine the forms job crafting takes, and (3) its likely individual and organizational effects. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR] Copyright of Academy of Management Review is the property of Academy of Management and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)
Crafting a Job: Revisioning Employees as Active Crafters of Their Work
Author(s): Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane E. Dutton
The Academy of Management Review,
Vol. 26, No. 2 (Apr., 2001), pp. 179-201
Published by: Academy of Management
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c Academy of Management Review
2001, Vol. 26, No. 2, 179-201.
New York University
University of Michigan
We propose that employees craft their jobs by changing cognitive, task, and/or rela-
tional boundaries to shape interactions and relationships with others at work. These
altered task and relational configurations change the design and social environment
of the job, which, in turn, alters work meanings and work identity. We offer a model of
job crafting that specifies (1) the individual motivations that spark this activity, (2) how
opportunities to job craft and how individual work orientations determine the forms
job crafting takes, and (3) its likely individual and organizational effects.
Organizational researchers care about what
what composes the experience of a job. Tradi-
tionally, they have focused on either individual
determinants (Dubin, 1956; Lodahl & Kejner,
1965; Roberson, 1990), such as expectations or
values, or external characteristics of the job it-
self (Griffin, 1987; Hackman & Oldham, 1980),
such as work tasks or social interaction at work.
Both perspectives minimize the role that em-
ployees play in actively shaping both the tasks
and social relationships that compose a job.
Even in the most restricted and routine jobs,
employees can exert some influence on what is
the essence of the work.
The core premise of this article is that the
work tasks and interactions that compose the
days, the jobs, and, ultimately, the lives of em-
ployees are the raw materials employees use to
construct their jobs. In our perspective we draw
on assumptions of social constructionism that
"place particular stress on the individual's psy-
chological construction of the experiential
world" (Gergen, 1994: 67). The social context pro-
vides employees with the materials they use to
build the experience of work (Salancik & Pfeffer,
1978). Interactions with others help employees
define and bound tasks by shaping impressions
of what is and is not part of the job. However, job
boundaries, the meaning of work, and work
identities are not fully determined by formal job
requirements. Individuals have latitude to de-
fine and enact the job, acting as "job crafters."
We define job crafting as the physical and cog-
nitive changes individuals make in the task or
relational boundaries of their work. Thus, job
crafting is an action, and those who undertake it
are job crafters. Our perspective illuminates
how, when, and why employees are likely to
craft their jobs, and how crafting revises both
employees' work identities and work meanings.
An employee's job is made up of a "set of task
elements grouped together under one job title
and designed to be performed by a single indi-
vidual" (Ilgen & Hollenbeck, 1992: 173). Thus,
tasks represent the most basic building blocks
of the relationship between employees and the
organization (Griffin, 1987) and are composed of
"the set of prescribed work activities a person
normally performs during a typical work period"
(Griffin, 1987: 94). Crafting a job involves shap-
ing the task boundaries of the job (either physi-
cally or cognitively), the relational boundaries
of the job, or both. Changing task boundaries
means altering the form or number of activities
one engages in while doing the job, whereas
changing cognitive task boundaries refers to al-
tering how one sees the job (e.g., as a set of
We thank the William Russell Kelly Chair for its financial
support of this work. Blake Ashforth, Janice Beyer, Arthur
Brief, Wendy Guild, Ulla Johansson, Fiona Lee, Elizabeth
Wolfe Morrison, Leslie Perlow, Anat Rafaeli, Lloyd Sand-
elands, and three anonymous reviewers provided helpful
comments on earlier drafts. We also thank Gelaye Debebe
for her help in doing the research about hospital cleaners
that inspired this article.
180 Academy of Management Review April
discrete parts or as an integrated whole), and
changing relational boundaries means exercis-
ing discretion over with whom one interacts
while doing the job. By changing any one of
these elements, an individual alters the design
of the job and the social environment in which
he or she works.
We argue that such actions affect both the
meaning of the work and one's work identity. By
"meaning of the work" we mean individuals'
understandings of the purpose of their work or
what they believe is achieved in the work (Brief
& Nord, 1990). The meaning of work is reflected
in the framing of the work more generally (e.g., a
physician may frame work as being about heal-
ing people or about acting upon illness with
technology, among other possibilities; Hughes,
1971; Terkel, 1974). By "work identity" we mean
how individuals define themselves at work.
Work identity is partly cognitive: it describes the
attributes and the more holistic conception that
people have of themselves at work. At the same
time, individuals make claims about what work
is and what it is not, making work identity a set
of actions as well as a set of cognitions (Bartel &
Dutton, in press; Creed & Scully, in press; Guild,
1999; Van Maanen, 1998). While identity cannot
be changed at will, individuals make claims
about who they are and why what they do mat-
ters, and this is part of the social identity that is
created at work (Ashforth & Mael, 1989). Work
identification, like organizational identification,
assumes correspondence between how individ-
uals define themselves and how they define
their work (Pratt, 1998).
What individuals do at work and who they
interact with are two important means by which
employees change their work identities. For ex-
ample, when a hospital cleaner changes the job
by cutting tasks and avoiding interaction with
others, the meaning of the job and the identity of
the employee change as well. Clearly, changing
the meaning of work informs and is informed by
one's work identity, or by being the person who
accomplishes these purposes. The meaning of
work and one's work identify are core ingredi-
ents in the creation of a job over time. Changes
in one's framing of the work's purpose by defi-
nition changes the meaning of the work, which,
in turn, alters how one defines oneself as a doer
of the work. For example, when an internet ser-
vice provider changes the framing of the work
from being about making sales to being about
connecting those who would otherwise be left
behind in the computing revolution, the mean-
ing of the work changes, as does the employee's
identity (deal maker versus champion of the
In this article we construe employees as "job
crafters," and we use the term job crafting to
capture the actions employees take to shape,
mold, and redefine their jobs. Job crafters are
individuals who actively compose both what
their job is physically, by changing a job's task
boundaries, what their job is cognitively, by
changing the way they think about the relation-
ships among job tasks, and what their job is
relationally, by changing the interactions and
relationships they have with others at work. Job
crafting is a psychological, social, and physical
act, in which cues are read about physical
boundaries of the work and are interpreted by
motivated crafters. Job crafters act upon the task
and relational boundaries of the job, changing
their identity and the meaning of the work in the
process. In doing so, job crafters create different
jobs for themselves, within the context of de-
fined jobs. Thus, job crafting is a creative and
improvised process that captures how individu-
als locally adapt their jobs in ways that create
and sustain a viable definition of the work they
do and who they are at work. Whether this craft-
ing is "good" or "bad" for the organization is an
issue that is situationally dependent.
We offer a model of job crafting that specifies
(1) the individual motivations that spark this
activity, (2) how opportunities to job craft and
how individual work orientations help to deter-
mine the forms job crafting takes, and (3) its
likely individual and organizational effects. Job
crafting is a situated activity, in the sense that
different contexts enable or disable different
levels and forms of crafting. Because job craft-
ing is related to similar concepts in the organi-
zational literature, we contrast job crafting and
its contribution to these concepts. In addition,
we provide several examples of job crafting,
which bring to life two aspects of job crafting:
(1) employees construct their work worlds by
shaping the tasks that compose the job, and
(2) employees form interactions and relationships
that compose the social environment at work.
Job crafters are all around us. Job alterations
can be incremental or radical-visible or invis-
ible. For example, a computing support person
who helps employees with their web pages, in
2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 181
addition to regular job tasks, is changing the job
as well as his or her relationships with others.
Similarly, when an overworked employee re-
duces the scope and scale of work activities to
prevent exhaustion, this is a form of job crafting.
Ilgen and Hollenbeck (1992) define such job
changes as emergent task elements, but they
separate this idea from the job itself, instead
naming these changes as part of the employee's
new role. Thus, in their view, jobs do not change
as a result of job crafting; we, however, contend
that the job (and its tasks), its meaning, and
employee identity all change when job crafting
occurs. Although a dominant focus in studies of
work has been on understanding the connection
between employees' ratings of their jobs and
objective job properties, we argue for a perspec-
tive that acknowledges the everyday altering of
jobs that individuals do. Therefore, there is no
"objective" job to which to compare employees'
perceptions. Instead, the job is being re-created
or crafted all the time. Also, job crafting differs
from job design (Hackman & Oldham, 1980) in
that it addresses the processes by which em-
ployees change elements of their jobs and rela-
tionships with others to revise the meaning of
the work and the social environment at work. In
contrast, the job design perspective focuses on
employees' experiences of jobs in which task
elements are more static.
Job design perspectives are largely concerned
with determining how employees interpret ob-
jective task characteristics and social informa-
tion in the job setting to produce attitudinal and
motivational responses to the work (Griffin &
McMahan, 1994; Ilgen & Hollenbeck, 1992). Job
crafting complements theories of job design by
essentially changing the direction of this rela-
tionship; instead of the design of the job elicit-
ing attitudes and motivation, the opportunity
and motivation to craft elicit job crafting. Rather
than assume that employees who are satisfied
in their work will take on more job tasks, as
those with the job design perspective do, we
assume that employees alter the task and rela-
tional boundaries of their jobs to create work
with which they are more satisfied.
Our discussion of job crafting proceeds in
three steps. First, we present our model of job
crafting, followed by an account of how job craft-
ing differs from related constructs and how it
builds upon a subset of these to portray the
motivations for and effects of crafting a job. Sec-
ond, we offer six examples from organizational
research of job crafters in action to enliven our
model. Third, we discuss how our model contrib-
utes to organizational research, offer practical
implications, and suggest areas for future re-
In Figure 1 we present our job crafting model
-built on the premise that the motivation to job
craft and the perceived opportunities present
within the organization to engage in crafting act
in concert to affect the form and extent of job
crafting. More formally, we argue that the moti-
vation to craft a job is moderated by the
perceived opportunity to do so, as well as by
individuals' work and motivational orientations.
Thus, situational and dispositional conditions
moderate how motivation to craft creates job
crafting patterns. We outline the contours for a
general framework of job crafting in Figure 1.
Motivation for Job Crafting
The motivation for job crafting arises from
three individual needs. First, employees engage
in job crafting to assert some control over their
jobs in order to avoid alienation from the work
(Braverman, 1974). Second, employees are moti-
vated to create a positive self-image in their
work. Third, job crafting allows employees to
fulfill a basic human need for connection to oth-
ers (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). We consider each
motivation below.
The need for personal control is a basic hu-
man drive. Humans respond well to having con-
trol even over seemingly small matters, and con-
trol in one's own environment has been
described as "an intrinsic necessity of life itself"
(Adler, 1930: 398). Thus, one would expect that
having or taking control over certain aspects of
the work would be a basic human need. The
implications of having little control over one's
work are even more profound; the hallmarks of
alienating work are having little or no control
over the tasks of, conditions for, or overall pur-
pose of the work (Braverman, 1974; Rogers, 1995).
By taking control of or reframing some of these
factors, even in small ways, job crafters make
the job their own. Even in low-autonomy jobs,
employees can create new domains for mastery
and shape facets of job tasks to take control over
182 Academy of Management Review April
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2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 183
some aspect of the work (Hamper, 1986; Roy,
People also desire to create and sustain a
positive sense of self in their own eyes (Steele,
1988) and in the eyes of others (Baumeister, 1982;
Erez & Earley, 1993). The drive for self-enhance-
ment through construction of a positive self-
image is a basic tenet of social identity theory
(e.g., Tajfel, 1981, 1982) and is reflected in the
drive to create positive images of self in work
(Dutton, Dukerich, & Harquail, 1994). When the
jobs that people have make this positive con-
struction of self difficult, they (and people in
general) are motivated to remedy the situation.
For example, Roger (1995) describes how tempo-
rary workers change the pace of the work, as
well as their names, while working in temporary
jobs to separate negative impressions of temp
work from the positive image they have of them-
selves as people. Goffman's (1956) focus on def-
erence and demeanor illustrates the range of
actions people engage in to create a positive
impression of themselves in the eyes of others.
This pressure to create a positive image infil-
trates many aspects of employees' work activi-
ties. Accordingly, one important motive for job
crafters is to change the tasks and relationships
that compose their jobs to enable a more posi-
tive sense of self to be expressed and confirmed
by others.
The third motivation for job crafting concerns
a need for human connection. Human beings are
motivated to forge connections with others as a
way to introduce meaning into their lives
(Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Most theories of the
meaning of work are individually based (Brief &
Nord, 1990), but we extend this view by showing
that employees build relationships with others
at work to reframe the meaning of work and
their work identities. For example, when hospi-
tal cleaners integrate themselves into patient
care functions, they are able to see their work as
being about healing people and to see them-
selves as a key part of this process, thus enhanc-
ing work meaning and creating a more positive
work identity (e.g., worker as healer instead of
cleaner). Through these kinds of changes, em-
ployees narrate a different sense of who they
are at work (Gergen & Gergen, 1988) and why the
work matters. By altering their jobs, they fulfill
prescribed work tasks but craft the job into
something fundamentally different at the same
The job crafting motivations we describe com-
plement other perspectives on the role of need
fulfillment in jobs. For example, employees with
high growth-need strength (Hackman & Old-
ham, 1980) are likely to respond well to changes
that expand their jobs. However, we suggest
that those with high growth-need strength will
craft boundaries for themselves, rather than re-
spond positively to task boundaries that are ex-
panded for them, in order to respond to their own
motivation and opportunity to craft in the job.
Thus, job crafting addresses a set of practices
and dynamics quite different from theories of
job design.
Not all employees are motivated to fulfill
needs for control, positive image, and connec-
tion at work. Individuals who look to fulfill these
needs at work likely will look for opportunities
to craft their jobs in ways that allow them to
meet their needs. Others may find that these
needs are met elsewhere in their lives. Likewise,
when employees work in jobs that fulfill their
needs for control, positive image, and connec-
tion, they may not be motivated to job craft,
since their needs are met by their current work
situation (Caldwell & O'Reilly, 1990). Motivation
to craft a job most often will result from situa-
tions in which employees feel that their needs
are not being met in their job as it is currently
Perceived Opportunities for Job Crafting
Motivation to craft a job is more likely to spark
job crafting when employees perceive that op-
portunities for job crafting exist. Perceived op-
portunity to craft a job refers to the sense of
freedom or discretion employees have in what
they do in their job and how they do it. Like other
opportunity perceptions, opportunities to job
craft are psychologically positive, since they im-
ply autonomy to act (i.e., a form of control), a
sense of possible gain, and some sense of abil-
ity or means to act (Jackson & Dutton, 1988; Laza-
rus & Folkman, 1984). Thus, motivated employ-
ees are likely to assess opportunities for job
crafting at work before crafting their jobs. Fol-
lowing this, perceived opportunity for job craft-
ing moderates the relationship between motiva-
tion to job craft and job crafting behaviors;
perceived opportunities for job crafting can re-
strict or open up possibilities for employees to
184 Academy of Management Review April
see what paths are available in how they enact
their jobs.
Our model sets forth two major contributors to
the perceived opportunity to craft a job, both of
which are tied to the actual design of work:
(1) the level and form of task interdependence
and (2) the level of discretion or freedom to job
craft implied by monitoring systems in the job.
In any organization, employee tasks are car-
ried out with more or less task interdependence
built into the work. Task interdependence refers
to "the extent to which the items or elements
upon which work is performed or the work pro-
cesses themselves are interrelated so that
changes in the state of one element affect the
state of the others" (Scott, 1987: 214). Employees
engaged in tasks with higher degrees of inter-
dependence (e.g., approximating reciprocal as
opposed to pooled interdependence; Thompson,
1967) are yoked more strongly to the timing and
tasks of others, restricting the degree of possible
task alterations, how the employees perform
tasks, and with whom they interact along the
way. Thus, those with more task interdepen-
dence work under more constraints and have
less freedom to alter task and relational bound-
aries as a result. In effect, the more task inter-
dependence an employee has, the fewer de-
grees of freedom he or she has to job craft. In
contrast, an employee with job tasks that re-
quire little task interdependence with coworkers
(e.g., hairdresser, cleaning staff member) has
more latitude to alter the task and relational
boundaries of the job. Thus, we expect that less
interdependence with coworkers creates more
freedom for crafting, enhancing the perceived
opportunity to job craft.
Also, closeness of monitoring or supervision
by management may affect whether employees
perceive opportunities to job craft. In jobs in
which managers closely control employee tasks
and time (e.g., customer service agent, telemar-
keter), job crafting is likely to be both high in
visibility and less welcomed. When employees
work "out of the limelight" of management's
gaze, they may perceive more opportunities to
be creative in crafting their jobs (Amabile, Hill,
Hennessey, & Tighe, 1994). We argue that when
employees' jobs are explicitly defined and con-
trolled, employees may see less opportunity for
crafting activities. This point offers a contrast
with a job design perspective, in which it is
assumed that autonomy in the work leads to
enhanced meaning in the work and felt respon-
sibility for the job. Instead, we assert that auton-
omy in the job leads to perceived opportunities
for job crafting and encourages employees to
alter the task and relational boundaries of their
This argument suggests that there are contra-
dictory forces at play in the modern workplace
that might affect crafting patterns. As technol-
ogy enables organizations and supervision to be
more controlling (e.g., by monitoring computer
work, web usage, and e-mail traffic), these
forces are likely to dampen perceived opportu-
nities for job crafting. At the same time, how-
ever, organizations are embracing less limiting
practices, in which casual dress, flexible work
hours, and flexible workplaces may accentuate
perceived opportunities to job craft. These
boundary conditions are meant to be suggestive
about conditions that might encourage moti-
vated employees to job craft.
Work and Motivational Orientations and
Job Crafting
Individuals' orientations toward their work
are likely to affect the relationship between mo-
tivation to craft and job crafting behaviors. Re-
search shows that most people have one of three
distinct relations to their work, seeing it as a job,
career, or calling (Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan,
Swidler, & Tipton, 1985; Wrzesniewski, McCau-
ley, Rozin, & Schwartz, 1997). The distinctions,
drawn starkly, are these: people with jobs focus
on financial rewards for working, rather than
pleasure or fulfillment; those with careers focus
primarily on advancement; and those with call-
ings focus on enjoyment of fulfilling, socially
useful work. Research indicates that employees
in a wide range of occupations-from clerical to
professional-see their work primarily in one of
these three ways and that jobs, careers, and
callings are each represented within occupa-
tions as well (Wrzesniewski et al., 1997).
Work orientations are likely to interact with
motivation to job craft in encouraging or dis-
couraging job crafting. Work orientations allow
people to see different kinds of possibilities for
how to change their tasks and relationships at
work. Employees are likely to revise their jobs in
ways that fit their work orientation, enacting the
same jobs very differently. For example, em-
ployees with job orientations working in a hu-
2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 185
man services organization are likely to focus on
tasks done for pay rather than on helping as
many people as possible. Likewise, employees
with career orientations are likely to craft their
jobs so that they interact with and help those
who are more powerful than them, and engage
in high-visibility tasks that are good for the or-
Employees' general motivational orientations
may also affect job crafting (Amabile et al.,
1994). Specifically, those with intrinsic (e.g., do-
ing the work for its own sake) motivations for
working may engage in more expansive job
crafting, which will allow for the expression of
self-determination (control) and competence in
their work. In contrast, extrinsic (e.g., doing the
work for a reason apart from the work itself)
motivations for working may encourage job
crafting that limits the task and relational
boundaries of the job, since the work is done to
meet some external end. Indeed, extrinsic moti-
vation has been shown to produce rigid behav-
ior and less creativity in approaching tasks
(Amabile et al., 1994). While Amabile and col-
leagues suggest that people may choose occu-
pations based on their motivational orienta-
tions, we suggest that, through job crafting,
people will craft from within their jobs to meet
their needs.
Thus, job and individual features both moder-
ate the relationship between motivation to job
craft and job crafting behaviors. When job and
individual features create conditions that are
favorable for job crafting, more job crafting
should result among employees who are moti-
vated to job craft. We argue that employees who
perceive limited opportunities to job craft or who
are not motivated to craft will engage in less job
crafting than those who are motivated or see
opportunities. Job crafting is a way that individ-
uals express and use often-hidden degrees of
freedom in their job to customize it to fit their
own sense of what the job should be.
Forms of Job Crafting
In Table 1 we present three forms of job craft-
ing. The first form involves changing the job's
task boundaries. Employees achieve this by
changing the number, scope, or type of job tasks
done at work. By choosing to do fewer, more, or
different tasks than prescribed in the formal job,
employees create a different job.
The second form of job crafting entails chang-
ing the relational boundary of the job. This prac-
tice involves changing either the quality or
amount of interaction with others at work, or
both. Employees often can decide how fre-
quently they wish to interact with others on the
job and can also help determine the quality of
those interactions. The examples we offer later
in the article highlight cases in which employ-
ees change their level of involvement with oth-
ers at work and alter the nature of these rela-
tionships in ways that change the job.
The third form of job crafting occurs when
employees change the cognitive task bound-
aries of their jobs. Changing the cognitive
boundaries can take many forms, but one likely
involves employees' altering how they parse the
Forms of Job Crafting
Form Example Effect on Meaning of Work
Changing number, scope, and type Design engineers engaging in relational Work is completed in a more timely
of job tasks tasks that move a project to fashion; engineers change the
completion meaning of their jobs to be
guardians or movers of projects
Changing quality and/or amount of Hospital cleaners actively caring for Cleaners change the meaning of
interaction with others patients and families, integrating their jobs to be helpers of the
encountered in job themselves into the workflow of their sick; see the work of the floor
floor units unit as an integrated whole of
which they are a vital part
Changing cognitive task Nurses taking responsibility for all Nurses change the way they see
boundaries information and "insignificant" tasks the work to be more about
that may help them to care more patient advocacy, as well as
appropriately for a patient high-quality technical care
186 Academy of Management Review April
job-viewing it either as a set of discrete work
tasks or as an integrated whole. Changing the
view of the job in this way fundamentally
changes how employees approach the job. For
example, nurses who see their work as being
about advocacy and total patient care, rather
than the delivery of high-quality technical care,
change the way they view the job and, as a
result, engage in different job activities (Benner,
Tanner, & Chesla, 1996). Johansson (1996) de-
scribes a similar process, in which housing com-
pany employees shifted the way they framed the
work when the company delegated "total re-
sponsibility" to its workers in caring for the
building areas to which they were assigned.
Effects of Job Crafting on the Job Crafter
The effects of job crafting are outlined in Fig-
ure 1. Following directly from the conditions en-
couraging job crafting and the ways employees
craft their jobs, the effects of job crafting are
both specific and general; job crafting creates
alterations in the meaning of the work, as well
as revisions of work identity.
Job crafting changes the meaning of the work
by changing job tasks or relationships in ways
that allow employees to reframe the purpose of
the job and experience the work differently
(Tausky, 1995). Psychological meaningfulness of
work results when people feel worthwhile and
valuable at work (Hackman & Oldham, 1980).
Thus, any actions that employees take to alter
their jobs in ways that increase feelings of pur-
pose are likely change the meaning of the work.
Creating or adding meaning to the work by
job crafting is similar to the process Ashforth
and Kreiner (1999) describe regarding how those
in stigmatized occupations (e.g., involving "dirty
work") transform the meaning of the work by
refraiming the job. For example, public defend-
ers claim they are "protecting the constitutional
rights of all citizens to a fair trial" (1999: 421)-
not helping criminals avoid condemnation. Sim-
ilarly, Goffman (1974) describes regrounding, in
which individuals perform an activity for rea-
sons or motives that differ from other people's.
This regrounding process helps employees to
compose a different purpose for the work they
are doing. In both cases, individuals reconstruct
the job in ways that differ from its original struc-
ture, and they craft a different purpose for the
work that is believable for self and others.
Job crafting also has the potential to shape
one's work identity. Again, the reasons for shap-
ing a work identity are basic. People attempt to
create social communities that support desir-
able images of themselves (Schlenker, 1985). The
people with whom one interacts on and off
the job play a role in cocreating and sustaining
the claims one makes about one's work identity.
In Sampson's terms, others "endow us with
meaning and clothe us with comprehensibility"
(1993: 106). The basis of our argument is that
people have some freedom in creating sustain-
able work identities by selectively influencing
the relational partners with whom they interact
(Gergen, 1994; Schlenker, 1985). These relational
partners, in turn, through talk and action, help to
cocreate employees' work identities by reflect-
ing back, or not (Cooley, 1902; Mead, 1934), ele-
ments of this identity. Therefore, by shaping the
form and amount of interaction with others at
work, employees participate in the creation of
their work identity with others and enable the
creation of desirable identities that fulfill a need
for positive self-assessment.
Job crafters seek out relationships with others
on the job who serve as audiences for which
they can sustain desirable identities. The cre-
ation of work identity is an active process, in
which "people strive to create environments, in
both their own minds and the real world, that
support, validate and elicit desirable identity
images. They thus selectively encounter, per-
ceive and influence the situations and audi-
ences with which they deal" (Schlenker, 1985:
89). As McCall and Simmons describe it, people
create a self-confirming opportunity structure
and then develop social environments that nur-
ture their self-views (1966: 105).
The work meanings and identities employees
forge by job crafting are not static. Employees
are likely to use these meanings and identities
as feedback about their crafting activities, and
they may be motivated to engage in additional
job crafting to further shape the work meaning
and work identity. For example, an employee
who alters the task boundary of the job to en-
hance control over the work might find that this
practice changes the purpose of the work in un-
expected ways, thus motivating the employee to
craft the job in other ways. Thus, this employee
may use the changed purpose of the work as
feedback to guide more job crafting.
2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 187
Job crafting is primarily an individual-level
activity, in which the employee decides how and
when to shape job tasks and interactions. We
argue that this activity serves the employee, but
it is not inherently good or bad for organizations;
employees may change the job in ways that
benefit or hurt the organization while benefiting
themselves. For example, car assembly line em-
ployees who decide to make changes to their
tasks might cause major problems in the flow
and quality of work or, alternatively, might
boost productivity and quality.
Our framework implies that all employees are
potential job crafters. We realize this argument
might mislead people into thinking that employ-
ees who are caught in jobs in which they find
little meaning can choose to change their fate if
they wish. We do not assume that all employees
can and should engage in job crafting and,
therefore, are to blame if their jobs are not
meaningful. Rather, we choose to focus on the
freedom employees have and the creativity they
exhibit in crafting jobs to be different from their
formally specified ingredients.
In addition, we do not address the point that
job crafting may create more work for the em-
ployee, even though this work is voluntary. Job
crafters are not necessarily recognized or re-
warded for the effort they make to create more
meaningful jobs; much of what they do may be
invisible to managers, supervisors, and cowork-
ers (Fletcher, 1998; Star & Strauss, 1999). Job
crafters may engage in practices that benefit the
organization, introducing innovation into tasks
and the relationships that compose work. Yet, at
the same time, by changing their jobs, job craft-
ers' actions may put the organization at risk for
legal or regulatory problems, or they may jeop-
ardize the employees' capacities to perform the
job well. However, as we argue, the rewards that
employees can reap from job crafting are real
and consequential.
Linking Job Crafting to Related Constructs
The idea that individuals can craft new jobs
within the constraints of prescribed jobs is not
entirely new. Building on Katz and Kahn's (1966)
ideas of role innovation, Staw and colleagues
argue that individuals engage in task revision
(Staw & Boettger, 1990) and sculpting activities
(Bell & Staw, 1989) that make a difference for the
organization and the individual doing the job.
For example, Raf aeli (1989) found that cashiers
change features of their job by defining their
level and type of customer service and control
over customer interactions. The cashiers in her
study engaged in different practices to maintain
control over service interactions with customers,
such as ignoring, rejecting, reacting to, or en-
gaging the customers in the transaction. Ilgen
and Hollenbeck (1992) note that job holders cre-
ate emergent task elements in their roles in or-
ganizations and are most able to do this when
the job has few formal requirements and allows
employees to choose the work tasks to be under-
Despite these useful developments, the idea
that employees actively design their jobs has
not been studied in proportion to its importance
to organizational studies. In some perspectives
researchers do address similar phenomena to
job crafting, but they often implicitly or explic-
itly (e.g., Ilgen & Hollenbeck, 1992) assume that
only those employees with a great deal of job
autonomy or complexity can engage in such be-
haviors. Other perspectives on work share some
features with job crafting but differ in their fun-
damental focus. In particular, job design (Hack-
man & Oldham, 1980) and social information
processing (Salancik & Pfeffer, 1978) perspec-
tives on work stand in contrast to job crafting
but offer foundations on which crafting can be
offered as a useful complement.
The job design literature has historically been
a central frame for understanding how individ-
uals experience their jobs. Hackman and Old-
ham (1976, 1980) and, earlier, Hackman and
Lawler (1971) outlined a theoretical framework
regarding how individuals judge their jobs to be
motivating and satisfying by focusing on objec-
tive task characteristics. According to this the-
ory, job motivation is tied to objective features of
the job, including skill variety, task identity and
significance, autonomy, and feedback. Although
support of the job characteristics model has
been mixed (Glick, Jenkins, & Gupta, 1986;
Hogan & Martell, 1987), it remains a dominant
frame for understanding how employees expe-
rience their jobs.
The job design perspective puts managers in
the role of job crafters: the managers design
tasks and act as job crafters, altering the moti-
vation and satisfaction of employees by chang-
ing task features. In recent research scholars
have strengthened theory on job design by inte-
188 Academy of Management Review April
grating it with insights from the social informa-
tion processing perspective (Salancik & Pfeffer,
1978) to acknowledge that tasks are not purely
objective but are socially constructed by the em-
ployee doing the work. In this integrated model,
features of the objective and subjective work
environments affect job attitudes (Griffin, 1987,
1991; Griffin, Bateman, Wayne, & Head, 1987).
Individuals play a role in filtering and reacting
to job information, but in this literature re-
searchers tend to portray them as passive par-
ticipants in the process: "lumps of clay, ready to
be shaped by all those around them" (Bell &
Staw, 1989: 232).
The job design perspective decouples inter-
pretation of the job from the objective character-
istics of the job itself, but there is still an as-
sumption that the interpretation is based on the
job as it was designed-not as the employee
crafted it. Job crafting casts the employee in a
more active light; those in the work environment
(e.g., clients, coworkers) can help forge new
work relationships that alter the boundaries of
the job. More basically, job design assumes that
employee responses derive from the motivating
potential of the job; job crafting assumes that
employees create this motivating potential by
shaping elements that traditionally compose
the design of the job (e.g., skill, significance,
Our theory of job crafting builds on this social
information processing perspective (Salancik &
Pfeffer, 1978) by identifying different predictors
of how people enact their jobs. According to the
social information processing model, social in-
formation and cues from others act as inputs to
the meaning of the work. However, this model
does not account for the features in the context
of the job (e.g., individual, task, and organiza-
tional features) that shape how the work gets
done. Our job crafting perspective builds on
Salancik and Pfeffer's (1978) perspective in two
ways. First, it complements the social informa-
tion processing model by indicating that rather
than simply interpreting and acting from the
cues offered by the job and by others, individu-
als are instead interpreting and using as feed-
back the crafting actions they have taken in
their own jobs. Second, our model explicitly ad-
dresses the identity changes that accompany
job crafting and the meaning that employees
derive from the work by doing their work differ-
ently. This is consistent with Salancik and Pfef-
fer's statement that "the critical variable in pos-
itive job attitudes is the construction of the
environment and the appropriate attitudinal re-
sponses" (1978: 249). Advocates of other perspec-
tives on how individuals change job tasks or
other job elements offer additional contrasts to
job crafting. In particular, they predict how and
when individuals are likely to alter their jobs.
Below, we describe five different conceptual
lenses on how jobs change, and we discuss how
job crafting differs from each.
Role and Individual Innovation
Schein used role innovation to describe be-
havior that represented a "basic rejection of the
norms which govern the practice of the profes-
sion combined with a concern for the role of the
professional in society" (Schein, 1971: 522).
Schein described role innovation behaviors that
redefined who the professional's clients were,
who initiated contact, what settings were appro-
priate for contact with clients, and what the ap-
propriate boundaries were of the professional's
expertise. Later, Van Maanen and Schein de-
fined role innovation as "behaviors done to re-
define the major premises concerning missions
followed by the majority of the role occupants"
(1979: 229). Nicholson (1984), following Schein
(1971), defined role innovation as the initiating
of "changes in task objectives, methods, materi-
als, scheduling and in the interpersonal rela-
tionships integral to task performance." (1984:
175). These changes are intended to match the
role requirements to the needs, abilities, and
identity of the employee.
Job crafting theory resembles role innovation
theory in that there is an assumption that em-
ployees can act upon the job to create a better
fit. However, as a lens on employee behavior,
role innovation theory restricts individuals' ac-
tions on the job to reactive, problem-solving be-
haviors and fails to develop the individual focus
we describe here. Rather than an emphasis on
problem solving, in job crafting theory there is
an emphasis on the proactive changes employ-
ees make in the boundaries of their work to alter
their identity or the meaning of the work.
The job crafting model is also less formal than
the model of role making proposed by Graen
and Scandura (1987). In their model there is a
proposed sequence of activities, from first shar-
ing standard job elements and then adding
2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 189
task-emergent elements to the job and to the
employee's role until, finally, some emergent
task elements become part of the formal role
description. Our model of job crafting is more
fluid than the role-making model, and we see
the process as having a more improvisational
than planful quality.
A related research area involves individual
innovation and creativity in organizations. His-
torically, in such research scholars have focused
on individual problem solving in organizations
(Kanter, 1983; West & Farr, 1990). Much of the
writing is intended for managers, with prescrip-
tions for how to develop and select for innova-
tion among employees. West and Farr offer a
definition of innovation as "the intentional in-
troduction and application within a role, group,
or organization of ideas, processes, products, or
procedures, new to the relevant unit of adoption,
designed to significantly benefit the individual,
the group, organization or wider society" (1990:
9). Although this definition is broad, the authors
use it in a different way from that of job crafting.
In Table 2 we describe the differences between
job crafting and the perspectives on job change
offered here.
Personal Initiative
Personal initiative also resembles job crafting
(Frese, Kring, Soose, & Zempel, 1996; Frese, Fay,
Hillburger, Leng, & Tag, 1997). Frese and col-
leagues (1996) define personal initiative as a
behavioral syndrome in which individuals take
self-starting approaches to work and go beyond
formal job requirements. Individuals taking per-
sonal initiative engage in behaviors that (1) are
consistent with the organization's mission,
(2) have a long-term focus, (3) are goal directed
and action oriented, (4) are persistent in the face
of barriers, and (5) are self-starting and proac-
tive. These researchers (Frese et al., 1996, 1997)
have developed this concept through a com-
parison of East and West Germans' personal
Like job crafters, those with personal initiative
redefine jobs to include extrarole work goals (cf.
Staw & Boettger, 1990). However, Frese and col-
leagues emphasize problem-solving dimen-
sions of personal initiative. Similarly, Morrison
and Phelps (1999) describe "taking charge" be-
haviors, which also improve how work is exe-
cuted in the organization. Although such an ori-
Comparison of Job Crafting with Similar Organizational Perspectives on Work
Social Nature of Favorable Conditions
Perspective Locus of Activity Purpose of Activity Activity for Activity
Role/individual Employee, with Addressing or Inherently social Support of others,
innovation (Schein, management improving upon a activity feedback,
1971; Van Maanen intervention faulty task or role autonomy, complex
& Schein, 1979) work
Role making (Graen Employee, with Task accomplishment Inherently social High-quality dyadic
& Scandura, 1987) others in the activity structures in the
organization organization
Personal initiative Employee, with Solving problems or Individual Autonomy, complex
(Frese, et al., 1996, management overcoming work
1997) intervention barriers
OCB (Organ, 1988, Employee Discretionary Can involve others or Job satisfaction, organ-
1997) behaviors to help be pursued by izational
others or others commitment
Task revision (Staw & Employee, with Correcting problems Individual Authority, task
Boettger, 1990) management in roles or alternatives are
intervention procedures salient
Job crafters Employee Increasing meaning Can involve others or Can occur in any
in the work, be pursued by type of job
changing identity individual
and role in
190 Academy of Management Review April
entation is useful in increasing organizational
effectiveness (Borman & Motowidlo, 1993; Katz,
1964; Motowidlo & Van Scotter, 1994; Organ,
1988), the focus on problem solving differenti-
ates the personal initiative perspective from
that of job crafting.
Organizational Citizenship
Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB)
provides yet a different lens for understanding
employees' behaviors. Organ (1988) first defined
OCB as individual discretionary behavior that
is not explicitly recognized by the organization-
al reward system but, in the aggregate, in-
creases the effectiveness of the organization
(Organ, 1988: 4). Later, Organ (1997) redefined
OCB along the lines of a similar construct,
called "contextual performance" (Borman &
Motowidlo, 1993), which consists of behaviors
that support the broader organizational, social,
and psychological environment of the organiza-
tion. OCB includes generating new ideas for
doing work, helping others with their work, be-
ing cheerful and neat, accepting orders without
resentment, cooperating with others at work,
and doing high-quality work (Bateman & Organ,
OCB is mostly targeted at helping others in
the organization or the organization itself,
whereas job crafting is focused on changing the
task and relational landscape to alter work
meaning and identity. While some crafting be-
haviors might be described as OCB (e.g., doing
extra work to move projects along, forming rela-
tionships with clients), the intent behind such
behavior is not fully to promote the good of oth-
ers and the organization. Rather, job crafting
can be motivated by a desire to create more
meaningful work for the job holder, independent
of effects on others. As such, it is not simply
about doing more or doing better, which is the
focus of OCB.
Task Revision
Task revision is the practice of employees'
taking action to correct a faulty procedure, inac-
curate job description, or dysfunctional role ex-
pectation (Staw & Boettger, 1990: 537). Staw and
Boettger (1990) have shown that people engage
in more task revision when they are in charge of
and accountable for the function they perform
and when alternatives for doing the task are
salient. Again, the focus in task revision is on
problem solving or correction of work proce-
dures. These researchers argue that when organ-
izational roles are misspecified (from the em-
ployee's perspective), then task revision can be
a valuable outcome. We contend that making
changes in work tasks is beneficial not only
when problems exist but also when task func-
tions are entirely appropriate and functional,
since they can enhance the meaning of the work.
Staw and Boettger also argue that task revision
should have a low base rate in organizations,
since it "involves resistance to social norms and
expectations" (1990: 538). We expect job crafting
to appear often, in many different kinds of work.
The organizational studies literature reveals
several examples of job crafting that illustrate
and animate the model of job crafting we have
In the next section we describe six examples
of job crafting in action. The examples come
from narrative or qualitative descriptions of
work. We have culled from these sources evi-
dence that job crafting is a part of the work
being studied by organizational scholars, and
we illustrate the antecedents and consequences
of this important individual activity.
The examples of job crafting we offer range
from the subtle to the more obvious actions of
employees. We start with a study of hospital
cleaners who craft the work very differently. Our
other examples come from published research
in organizational studies.
Hospital Cleaners Integrating Themselves into
Care Delivery System
One study of a hospital cleaning staff shows
that cleaners experienced and constructed the
meaning of their work very differently (Dutton,
Debebe, & Wrzesniewski, 2000). It became evi-
dent, through a series of personal interviews
with twenty-eight members of a hospital clean-
ing staff about the nature of their work, that
while the cleaners had the same prescribed job
at the same hospital, they crafted it differently.
The contrasts among the cleaners were striking,
ranging from how they described the skill level
of the work to the kinds of tasks they would do.
2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 191
The data separated the cleaners into two
groups. One group created a task and relational
boundary in the job that included only a mini-
mum of necessary tasks and interaction with as
few others as possible. Members of this group
disliked cleaning in general, judged the skill
level of the work to be low, and were less willing
to step outside formal job boundaries to engage
with others and alter job tasks. In contrast, the
second group of cleaners altered the task and
relational boundaries of the job to include addi-
tional work tasks, as well as frequent interac-
tions with patients, visitors, and others in their
unit. Members of this group liked the job, en-
joyed cleaning, felt the work was highly skilled,
and engaged in many tasks that helped patients
and visitors and made others' jobs in the unit
(e.g., nurses, clerks) go more smoothly.
Table 1 describes the three dominant forms of
job crafting that emerged from our examples.
The cleaners engaged in the first form of job
crafting by doing (or not) tasks that were outside
the formal job. For example, cleaners in the pro-
active group added tasks or timed their work to
be maximally efficient with regard to the work-
flow on their unit. By changing their work tasks,
or by timing their regular tasks with care, clean-
ers altered the meaning of their work. Cleaners
in the more proactive group saw the work and
themselves as critical in healing patients, alter-
ing the meaning of the work and their own work
identity. In contrast, cleaners in the less active
group restricted the meaning of the work to be-
ing simply about cleaning and did not see them-
selves as anything other than room cleaners.
Such differences in how employees define their
jobs echo Morrison's (1994) account that employ-
ees vary in what activities they consider part of
the job.
The cleaners also changed the relational
boundary of the job by altering their interactions
with others at work. While the passive cleaners
did not seek additional interaction, the proac-
tive group engaged patients and visitors in
ways that fundamentally altered the job. Many
of the relational interactions that cleaners en-
gaged in were intended to brighten someone's
day (e.g., talking to patients, showing visitors
around). The proactive group of cleaners also
interacted more often with the nurses on their
units, resulting in a work unit that functioned
more smoothly.
Cleaners manifested a third form of job craft-
ing by changing the cognitive task boundary of
the job so that they saw their job as an inte-
grated whole, rather than as a set of discrete
tasks (e.g., cleaning rooms). For example, proac-
tive cleaners reported an increased number and
complexity of interactions with others at work.
They saw the larger picture of the unit workf low
and adjusted their timing and tasks in response
to this more interdependent view. These clean-
ers' own work descriptions revealed an aware-
ness of the broader unit context in which they
worked, which was reflected in their relation-
ships with others and in the kinds of tasks they
chose to do.
Hairdressers Cutting Hair and Crafting a More
Enjoyable Job
Cohen and Sutton's (1998) ethnographic study
of hairdressers also brings to life the promi-
nence and pattern of job crafting. Their findings
reveal hairdressers as able job crafters who
change both the task and relational boundaries
of the job by making personal disclosures about
themselves, asking clients personal questions,
punishing clients who refuse to disclose, and
sometimes "firing" clients to create more desir-
able and affectively pleasant interactions. Hair-
dressers in this study changed the job tasks to
include not only physically cutting hair but also
getting to know clients-a practice that changed
the relational boundary of the job by bringing
hairdresser and client closer together.
Just as a subset of cleaners altered the phys-
ical and relational boundaries of their job, hair-
dressers created new jobs for themselves within
the context of their prescribed role as hairdress-
ers, in which norms against personal disclosure
are sometimes enforced by management (Cohen
& Sutton, 1998). Again, job features may have
encouraged job crafting: hairdressers' tasks are
low in interdependence, and there are very low
levels of employee behavior monitoring. Accord-
ing to our model, these should have promoted
job crafting as well.
Engineers Creating Jobs to Enable the Success
of Projects and Others
Fletcher's (1998) research on the work of fe-
male design engineers provides another com-
pelling example. Fletcher describes four differ-
192 Academy of Management Review April
ent kinds of engineering work (what she calls
"relational practices") that changed the way en-
gineers saw their work and their work identity.
The first kind of work was preserving, which
included taking on extra work in order to get a
task done, connecting people on the project to
the people and resources needed to do their
work, and rescuing the project by calling atten-
tion to problems that needed to be addressed.
Mutual empowering entailed behaviors that en-
abled others' achievements and contributions to
the project (Fletcher, 1998: 170). These behaviors
often involved teaching others a new skill in an
empathetic manner or connecting others on the
project to protect them from their own lack of
relational skill. The third form of relational prac-
tice, achieving, involved reconnecting cowork-
ers to avoid breaks in relationships, reflecting
on the emotional nature of work situations and
calibrating responses appropriately, and rela-
tional asking (i.e., asking for help in ways re-
spectful of others and their tasks). Finally, the
engineers engaged in creating team, or provid-
ing the conditions that allowed a team to do its
work. They enabled collaboration by smoothing
relationships and including everyone in the
team effort.
Fletcher's taxonomy of relational practices il-
lustrates how design engineers altered the task
and relational boundaries of their jobs. By
changing job tasks and how they were executed,
engineers created new task boundaries to move
projects toward completion. In addition, they
changed relational boundaries by working to-
ward a positive atmosphere for teamwork and
by connecting people on the project to get work
done, both of which involved changing the qual-
ity and amount of interaction with others. Fi-
nally, the engineers engaged in the third form of
job crafting by shifting their focus from discrete
project tasks to the whole project.
By constructing themselves as preservers, em-
powerment givers, achievers, and team creators,
engineers changed the meaning of the job, from
engineering to enabling an organization's work
to go more smoothly. Creating such work condi-
tions allowed the engineers to exert control and
build relationships with others. At the same
time, they altered their work identities to in-
clude expanded roles. This construction of the
work and its significance to the organization
enhanced its meaning to the self, creating dif-
ferent identities.
Nurses Creating a Pocket of Care
Around Patients
A fourth example of job crafting in the work-
place comes from two complementary studies of
the nursing profession (Benner et al., 1996;
Jacques, 1993). Benner and her colleagues inter-
viewed and observed nurses from a variety of
units, whereas Jacques observed nurses from a
single unit to quantify acts of caring in their
work. Both studies convey the skilled caring
work that occurs in the practice of nursing and
the role of this work in the organization's mis-
sion. The nurses acted as job crafters by actively
managing the task boundary of the job to deliver
the best possible patient care. By paying atten-
tion to the patient's world and conveying seem-
ingly unimportant information to others on the
care team, nurses re-created their job to be
about patient advocacy, rather than the sole de-
livery of high-quality technical care.
Nurses changed the relational boundary of
the job by expanding their relationship set to
include patients' family members, on whom the
nurses relied for information and input. Benner
and her colleagues (1996; see also Jacques, 1993)
describe examples of nurses engaging patients'
families and involving them in the illness pro-
cess to achieve the best patient outcome. Skilled
nurses recognized that nonquantifiable and
nonmedical observations were critical inputs in
treating patients (Benner et al., 1996). Learning
to seek out, notice, and convey this information
to other care providers represented job crafting
that helped the patients and the organization.
Information Technicians Supporting the
Computer Workplace
Star and Strauss (1999) provide a fifth example
of job crafting in their analysis of technicians'
work in computer-supported cooperative work
environments. They document the often unrec-
ognized work of technicians, including articula-
tion work, in which employees work to "get
things back 'on track' in the face of the unex-
pected, and modify action to accommodate un-
anticipated contingencies" (Star & Strauss, 1999:
3). Articulation work allows for smooth work-
place operation, but it is rarely acknowledged.
Much like the relational work of Fletcher's engi-
neers (1998), articulation work enables others to
get their work done.
2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 193
However, according to Star and Strauss (1999),
what is considered "real work" depends on the
definition of the situation and who is permitted
to define it. Often, practices that appear as "non-
work" serve the organization in important ways.
Those in information technology work craft their
jobs by altering the task and relational bound-
aries of the work to achieve the organization's
mission. For example, what might seem like
chatting between organization members may be
"work" to smooth communication between man-
agers of different work units.
Restaurant Kitchen Employees
Creating Cuisine
The final example of job crafting comes from
Fine's ethnographic study of work in restaurant
kitchens (1996a,b). Fine describes how profes-
sional cooks engaged in structuring multiple
tasks under time pressure in ways that reflected
job crafting. By taking shortcuts and using tricks
of the trade to compose a meal, professional
cooks and kitchen staff altered the task bound-
ary of their jobs by changing (1) the number of
tasks and (2) the way they saw their tasks, from
being a set of discrete food preparation steps to
an integrated whole of dish creation that re-
flected the artistic character of their work. Fine
uses the term aesthetics to describe activity in
which the "sensory component of production
... captures the cognitive and affective compo-
nents of aesthetic judgments and ... the inten-
tional quality of human action" (1996b: 178). Like
the other job crafters we have described, the
cooks changed their identity through their exe-
cution of the work-in this case, from food pre-
parers to culinary artists.
In creating dishes, cooks used their creative
impulses to craft meals in ways that connected
them to the work. Rather than simply prepare
food that served customers' needs, the cooks
tried to make the food as "nice" as possible, thus
changing the task boundary of the work. Instead
of thinking about the preparation of meal ele-
ments as separate tasks, the cooks engaged in
the third form of job crafting by seeing their
work as being about the gestalt of the entire
meal. The cooks used their own artistic stan-
dards in trying to create a product worthy of
pride. As such, the cooks Fine studied experi-
enced "flow" as they executed their work tasks
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1975), paying attention to
their own artistic vision rather than manage-
ment policy regarding cooking. In fact, the cooks
worked as creatively as possible within strict
managerial cost constraints. Cooks often tried
new food combinations, creating novel dishes in
order to meet job demands (i.e., preparing cus-
tomers' meals) in ways that allowed them to
experience the work as meaningful and cre-
ative, rather than scripted and uninspired.
In all of the examples, employees actively
crafted the job, sometimes against manage-
ment's wishes. Rather than have managers in-
tervene to enable or encourage these employees
to act as job crafters, the employees took initia-
tive on their own. Each example suggests that
employees actively shape both the design and
the social environment of their jobs by changing
job tasks and job-related interactions and rela-
Our model and examples of job crafting offer
three contributions to how organizational schol-
ars think about and study job design, work
meanings, and work identity. These contribu-
tions address how individuals, jobs, and indi-
viduals-in-jobs are conceptualized and studied.
More generally, job crafting offers an alternative
lens for understanding basic dynamics of work
in organizations such that organizational ele-
ments that once seemed fixed (i.e., jobs) are
made more complicated and dynamic.
Job Design
With our model of job crafting, we contribute
to theories of job design by offering a new per-
spective on how jobs are constituted. We have
specified the motivations, job, and individual
features that create situations making job craft-
ing possible. The process we propose opens up
different pathways for understanding how peo-
ple change their jobs and effectively shows that
employees can be competent designers of their
work. This suggests that employees are more
agentic than typically depicted in theories of job
design. Rather than paint employees as passive
recipients of job tasks or of social information
about job tasks, our job crafting model indicates
that employees alter their jobs and use the feed-
back from these alterations to further motivate
job crafting.
194 Academy of Management Review April
The job crafting perspective complements the
job design (Hackman & Oldham, 1980) and social
information processing perspectives (Salancik &
Pfeffer, 1978) by offering an alternative view on
the direction of the relationship among work,
motivation, and meaning. In effect, advocates of
job design perspectives treat attitudinal and
motivational responses as reactions to a job.
The job crafting perspective flips this relation-
ship around with the assertion that responses to
a job actually begin the dynamic process in
which employees alter task and relational
boundaries in ways that change work meaning
and identity. Thus, job crafting offers an alter-
native to job design perspectives, in which the
employee is effectively placed in the position
traditionally held by managers and is viewed as
a competent and active architect of the job. Also,
job crafting offers an alternative to the other
perspectives reviewed here on how jobs change.
In these perspectives managers are called upon
to design more complex work, to permit greater
autonomy, and to give feedback about the
changes that employees make to their jobs. In
contrast to such managerial-focused views of
work, we argue that employees take on the role
of job crafters even in work that might be con-
sidered low in autonomy (cleaning), authority
(nursing), or complexity (cutting hair).
Meaning of Work
Our job crafting model contributes to the liter-
ature on the meaning of work by indicating how
employees shape work meanings. Work mean-
ings shape work motivation and performance
(Roberson, 1990: 107) on the job; thus, a model of
the processes by which employees imbue their
work with meaning contributes to what we know
about the meaning of work. Historically, the
meaning of work has been argued to be the
product of one of three forces. First, the work
environment (design of job and reward struc-
ture) is thought to affect how individuals derive
meaning from the work. A second influence is
the individual; the psychological attributes and
characteristics of the individual employee are
thought to affect the kinds of meanings as-
signed to the work (Roberson, 1990). Indeed, de-
bates have arisen over the relative strength of
these two determinants of work meaning. Third,
advocates of the social information processing
perspective (Salancik & Pfeffer, 1978) have
argued that the social environment (e.g., man-
agers, coworkers) at work helps employees in-
terpret which job and work setting attributes are
most important. All three perspectives are help-
ful for understanding the sources of work mean-
ing, but they do not address the dynamic inter-
play between employee and job that we present
The evolving relationship between the em-
ployee and the job captured in the job crafting
model suggests a dynamic view of individuals-
in-jobs and of work meanings more generally.
We have argued that individuals play an active
role in creating the meaning of their work,
through the small changes they make in task,
relational, and cognitive boundaries of the
work, and we have shown the different contexts
that enable or disable these kinds of job impro-
More broadly, however, we hope to suggest a
more holistic view of how individuals compose
their lives and the meaning of their lives by
changing their jobs and themselves within
them. Through proactively crafting their jobs,
people may create different trajectories through
an organization and enact their work lives dif-
ferently over time. Although job crafting behav-
iors are locally situated at any given point in
time, they are connected to employees' enduring
needs at work and their more general framing of
the domain of work.
Individuals and Work Identity
As agentic architects of their own jobs, job
crafters enable transformations of work identity.
Although some elements of job crafting might
seem like extrarole behaviors, they are rooted
much more deeply in identity-altering processes
that redefine both the employee and the job. A
model of job crafting helps identity theorists to
untangle the process through which identity-
based motivations (i.e., desire for a positive im-
age) change how people enact and craft their
jobs. Thus, the shaping of a work identity
through job crafting becomes an employee's be-
havioral accomplishment, undertaken over time
with others encountered on the job.
Our model of job crafting paints employees as
proactive and creative identity builders who
take opportunities they see in their work setting
to engage others in ways that change work iden-
tity and work meaning. This process unfolds
2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 195
over time and likely is engaged in iteratively, as
motivation and opportunity to job craft shift. We
have named some of the ways that job crafters
use their job tasks and relationships to change
identity and meaning in the work; there are
likely many more. Job crafters also may alter
their work identities by altering how they use
the physical space at work, the temporal dimen-
sions of their work, and many other features of
Finally, in our model of job crafting, we assert
that part of the identity-shaping process at work
is relational. By changing with whom they re-
late, job crafters highlight the relational nature
of work in organizations. This point reminds us,
as organizational scholars, that work is more
than job content and tasks; it also concerns re-
lationships with other people (Baron & Pfeffer,
1994; Gersick, Bartunek, & Dutton, 2000). These
relationships and the interactions composing
them help to create and sustain not only differ-
ent notions of what the work is but also who the
person is who is doing the work.
Practical Implications of Job Crafting
Job crafting is neither inherently good nor bad
for organizations. The degree to which job craft-
ing behaviors contribute to organizational per-
formance depends on the kinds of changes em-
ployees make and on job crafting's proximal
effects on employee motivation and perfor-
mance. We have suggested that job crafting is
one route by which individuals alter the mean-
ing of work and forge new identities. If these
meanings and identity constructions motivated
behaviors that aligned individual work patterns
with organizational objectives, then job crafting
could be a net positive for the organization.
However, if job crafting altered connections to
others or task boundaries in ways that were at
odds with organizational objectives, job crafting
could harm rather than enhance organizational
effectiveness. Crafting's effects on organiza-
tions are also dependent on the systems in
which individuals work; what others do to craft
their own job interacts with any one individual's
crafting behaviors to influence organizational
There are important managerial implications
of job crafting. These implications are both em-
powering and disempowering for managers
wishing to affect job crafting. Job crafting is a
process that can be affected only indirectly by
managerial action. If we think about managers
as architects of the contexts in which individual
action is enabled, or not (Ghoshal & Bartlett,
1994), managers can affect the context in which
individuals do job crafting, although they may
not be able to affect when and to what extent job
crafting occurs. Managers have direct control
over the incentives and material rewards that
are associated with job outcomes. These re-
wards and incentives may encourage or dis-
courage individuals to alter the relational and
task boundaries of the job. At the same time,
managers may affect how work is organized in
ways that enhance or undermine employees' de-
sire and capacity for job crafting. Thus, manag-
ers may affect the odds that job crafting will
take place through both reward systems and the
organization of work.
Managers also affect job crafting by indirect
means. For example, organizations can include
or exclude people from strategic conversations
about what they are trying to accomplish and
why (Westley, 1990). "The development and cas-
cading of a strategy are critical management
tasks" (Mohrman, 1993: 135), and they shape the
extent and type of job crafting likely to take
place. When employees know and buy into the
strategic goals of an organization, they can use
this knowledge to motivate and legitimate their
own job crafting behaviors. We saw this kind of
effect for hospital cleaners, who used the stra-
tegic goals of the hospital to motivate the fram-
ing of cleaning as care for customers. This type
of work framing helped to legitimate a different
form of relating to patients and visitors and en-
couraged the addition of caring tasks to the
Beyond thinking about how to affect patterns
of job crafting, the crafting perspective opens up
new ways of thinking about the competence in-
volved in how employees conduct their work.
Crafting takes effort. It often involves a series of
creative acts in which employees push, shrink,
or transform task and relational boundaries. So-
cialization programs and employee training
would benefit from a recognition that this kind
of activity occurs. In organizations in which
crafting behavior is a means for "growing a job"
or developing an employee, active acknowledg-
ment and encouragement of job crafting are
likely to yield tangible and intangible benefits.
196 Academy of Management Review April
Future Research Directions
The job crafting perspective affords many new
research opportunities. First, it provides a range
of individual, task, and organizational features
that are likely to affect job crafting. In future
research, how these variables directly and indi-
rectly encourage or discourage important job
modifications could be addressed. Similarly, the
effects of job crafting on individual- and organ-
izational-level outcomes could be addressed.
We have suggested that job crafting is not fully
positive or negative. An important future re-
search agenda includes empirically testing un-
der what conditions job crafting produces posi-
tive results or destructive outcomes. Candidates
for situational and individual moderators have
been hinted at throughout the paper, including
elements of the job and work and motivational
A closer look at the lives of individual employ-
ees might also help explain job crafting. In our
model we primarily consider the work context as
shaping job crafting. Such a view violates a
more holistic account of human behavior, in
which individuals in their work and nonwork
contexts would be considered. In future research
scholars could consider the ways that motiva-
tions at work are related to demands and oppor-
tunities in employees' nonwork lives and how
the meaning of work created through job craft-
ing is related (or not) to the meanings and mo-
tivations that employees take from their non-
work activities.
The antecedents to job crafting motivation
should be further delineated in future research.
Features of individuals, jobs, and organization-
al contexts create motivation for crafting behav-
iors. Broadly speaking, any factor in individuals'
personal or organizational lives that makes job
crafting a vessel for need fulfillment is a poten-
tial antecedent for the motivation to job craft.
We offer a few, realizing that the full set is much
richer. First, individuals whose lives outside the
job are not well positioned to fulfill needs for
control, connection with others, or positive iden-
tity might be more motivated to meet these
needs in the domain of work. Second, features of
the job or occupation are likely to affect the
motivation for job crafting. For individuals who
work in stigmatized occupations, the pressures
to assert a positive identity are greater (Ashforth
& Kreiner, 1999). Thus, job crafting that is in-
tended to restore or create positive identity in
one's work is more likely among those in stig-
matized or "dirty work" jobs, and it could be an
effective local solution to an occupational prob-
lem. Third, those who work at levels of the or-
ganization in which freedom and creativity to
craft are constrained might find that they are
more motivated to work against these con-
straints by using job crafting as a vehicle for
control and self-expression.
In future research scholars should expand
upon the set of individual factors affecting job
crafting. For example, employees who view
work as simply the source of a paycheck might
reduce the amount and complexity of the tasks
to be performed in the job (Henson, 1996),
whereas those who view work as an enjoyable
end in itself might see the job as an integrated
whole, shaping work tasks and relationships ac-
cordingly. Individual economic needs also may
shape crafting to signal ability and effort on
behalf of the organization that are likely to be
rewarded (Brief & Aldag, 1989; Brief, Konovsky,
Goodwin, & Link, 1995). Finally, those who view
work as a calling are more engaged with their
work, spend more time working, and view the
job as more central to their lives (Wrzesniewski
et al., 1997). As a result, these employees may
actively craft their jobs because of a higher in-
vestment in the work itself.
In future research scholars could also focus on
the process of job crafting and how it unfolds
over time. Our model of job crafting provides
snapshots of features that are conducive to the
occurrence of this behavior. However, we ignore
how the process unfolds over time. Future re-
search would benefit from a more nuanced and
processual account of how job crafting is initi-
ated; how it is sustained and transformed in the
work process; and how it resembles (or not)
learning, improvising, and creative processes
over time.
Job crafting is indeed dynamic. This raises
methodological challenges for how to best study
the practices, forms, and outcomes of job craft-
ing in organizations. We believe it is no coinci-
dence that the examples of crafting we discov-
ered in the organizational literature arose from
detailed qualitative studies of work. It is possi-
ble that studying narratives of work may be a
better way to study job crafting, for crafting
takes many forms and directions, involving how
people see their work and themselves in their
2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 197
work. Such matters are not often easily reduced
to simple survey items. Thus, methodological
care ought to be taken when one attempts to
discover the nature of job crafting in employees'
work lives.
Finally, we have construed job crafting as an
individual-level activity. Valuable future re-
search could be focused on exploring collective
and negotiated forms of job crafting that are
team based rather than individually based.
Where task boundaries are drawn around teams
or collections of individuals, there may be more
opportunities to revise, alter, and craft rela-
tional and task boundaries as part of collective
improvisation on how work gets done. In future
research scholars could address the joint collab-
orative "working out" of job boundaries that is
done in the context of work organized around
groups rather than individuals.
Work in the twenty-first century increasingly
will be changed by the necessity for more em-
ployees to actively craft their own work lives, as
opposed to having them created by others
(Bridges, 1994). Thus, we have much to learn
from those who craft their own jobs. We believe
that those who have worked in occupations of-
fering little autonomy, complexity, and authority
have always had to "take it or make it" in terms
of the jobs they create for themselves (Juravich,
1985). We can glean important lessons from the
examples offered here about how job crafters
draw and redraw the task and relational bound-
aries of a job to make it a more positive and
meaningful experienrce.
At the same time, we realize the limits of this
agentic view of job crafting. Structural con-
straints do constrain job crafting possibilities.
Economic constraints give individuals differen-
tial resources to derive job meaning (Brief &
Nord, 1990). Differential occupational status,
prestige, standards, and requirements bestow or
deny individuals with varying resources the op-
portunity to evaluate, interpret, and act within
job categories (Pavalko, 1988). Finally, organiza-
tional values, beliefs, and norms, as well as
research on the division of labor within the or-
ganization, can affect employees' ability to con-
struct a job differently. However, despite these
constraints, we believe individuals do make use
of limited job resources in creative and master-
ful ways. We have much to learn from them
about how to create a meaningful job from ma-
terials that, many would argue, are limited in
both value and amount.
In addition to revising passive perspectives of
employees, the job crafting perspective follows
the common call to "write the worker back in" as
an active participant in shaping both the job
and its meaning. By stressing the prominence of
crafting practices and their effects for work
meaning and identity, our perspective is consis-
tent with theories of work meanings that are
based on the individual (Alderfer, 1972; Staw,
Bell, & Clausen, 1986; Wrzesniewski et al., 1997).
However, we add an important element by high-
lighting how the relationship among the em-
ployee, others, and the job itself ultimately
shapes the meaning of the work by detailing the
process by which an employee alters tasks and
relationships to change the meaning of the
Our perspective reframes the debate over dis-
positional versus situational influences on work
meaning. Instead of asking what determines job
attitudes and work meaning, we are trying to
change the question to ask how individuals
shape their own work meanings through job
crafting. Our view offers a reason for Spector
and Jex's (1991) failure to find a strong link be-
tween job incumbents' descriptions of their job
characteristics and those offered by the U.S. Dic-
tionary of Occupational Titles. If employees
crafted their jobs by changing task characteris-
tics, we would expect weak relationships be-
tween the prescribed job and the job the em-
ployee created.
Why is it necessary to call attention to job
crafting? Certainly, our perspective may be in-
terpreted as little more than a timely correction
to more passive models of how employees be-
have at work. However, we feel that in the cur-
rent work environment, the nature of work is
changing along with contemporary organiza-
tions (Rousseau, 1997). Employees are increas-
ingly being treated as "free agents" (Bridges,
1994), left to shape their own work experiences
and career trajectories. Thus, in addition to its
contribution to our understanding of common
notions of work, the job crafting perspective
should play a critical role in understanding
changes in the nature of work. As Rousseau
(1997) points out, a shift has occurred in organi-
zations such that the process of organizing is the
198 Academy of Management Review April
new focus to which we should direct our re-
search efforts. This new model of organizations
leaves open opportunities for improvisation and
control over work by the individual employee.
As organizations change their forms and func-
tions more quickly, employees need to funda-
mentally realign how they understand the firm
(Lau & Woodman, 1995). Thus, employees' ability
to craft their own jobs (and, thus, their under-
standing of their role in the organization) may
be a strategic advantage in larger-scale organ-
izational change.
Also, we are entering an age of renewed en-
trepreneuralism, in which millions of employees
have left their organization to go it alone. In
such an environment, understanding job craft-
ing is even more important. By uncovering hid-
den crafting skills that employees have and of-
ten use, we can explore the possibilities that
emerge when we understand employees as able
to change the form of their jobs to create work
meaning and viable work identities. In addition,
employees may be leaving organizations to
form their own entrepreneurial ventures out of
growing dissatisfaction with the opportunities
they detect for crafting their own jobs within the
organization. It is possible that employees have
been frustrated in their attempts to make their
jobs their own. By frustrating the job crafting
efforts of employees, organizations may carry
some of the responsibility for recent increases in
entrepreneuralism in the United States.
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2001 Wrzesniewski and Dutton 201
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Amy Wrzesniewski is an assistant professor of management and organizational
behavior at New York University. She received her Ph.D. in organizational psychology
from the University of Michigan. Her research interests focus on how people make
meaning of their work in challenging contexts and the experience of work as a job,
career, or calling.
Jane E. Dutton is the William Russell Kelly Professor of Business Administration at
the University of Michigan Business School. She received her Ph.D. in organiza-
tional behavior from Northwestern University. Her current research focuses on how
people build high-quality relationships at work and why this matters for firms and
... This form of job crafting "requires higher job autonomy, job complexity, and other job crafting opportunities" and has many benefits, such as better performance, efficiency, teamwork, process improvement, as well as lower work-home conflict and higher cognitive engagement [22]. However, to what extent are nurses proactive and assisted in the implementation of new technology at work? Job crafting behaviors are generally shaped by work context [23], such as HRM practices [24], including job design and training [25,26]. This will require a bottom-up approach to implementing technological change [7] to support employees in adapting to their work environment transformed by the pandemic [11]. ...
... Employees may adopt job crafting behaviors because of organizational change; that is, they may bring changes to certain aspects of their job to move it closer to their personal preferences or make the job more meaningful [26]. They may bring such changes in the job's tasks, their relationships at work, or their cognitive work role perceptions. ...
... Amongst healthcare professionals, "caring moves" were identified as specific job crafting behaviors involving developing and nurturing the relationship with patients [34]. Job crafting is closely linked to employee creativity and innovation, as it has been described as a "process by which individuals initiate and create change over time" [22,26]. Innovation practices have been identified as a crafting strategy, with employees manifesting job-expanding ideas involving an expansion of their responsibilities and abilities [35]. ...
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Nursing professionals are constantly required to adapt to technological changes, and especially so in the wake of COVID-19, which has prompted the development of new digital tools. A new and specific form of job crafting in relation to new technology has recently emerged in the literature; that is, adoption job crafting. However, little is known about this specific form of job crafting, especially within the pandemic context. We aim, in this study, to explore the advantages of and barriers to adoption job crafting. We used NVivo software to analyze 42 semi-structured interviews conducted during COVID-19. Our findings revealed that nurses had proactive and positive attitudes toward new technology (adoption job crafting) to enhance efficiency, sustainability, well-being, virtual teamwork, communication, and knowledge sharing. We also identified many barriers to adoption job crafting due to several organizational obstacles, such as the lack of human resource management practices, especially training, and the characteristics of the technology used. We contribute to the literature by documenting innovative cases of and barriers to adoption job crafting, which have not been explored before. These findings stress the necessity to adopt human resources practices, especially training, to foster positive job crafting among nurses and safeguard their adaptive expertise.
... Encourage job crafting. Job crafting is the process of reimagining and redefining our work in a more personally meaningful way, and it can be done in three ways: task crafting, relational crafting, and cognitive crafting (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001). We know from research that the design of one's job can significantly shape how they experience the meaning of their work (Hackman, 1980), and job crafting provides a framework and process to help employees rethink and redesign elements of their work to allow them to experience greater meaning. ...
Through this paper, I explore the current U.S. landscape of stress and work-related stress, including when it can be bad for us (i.e., distress and burnout) and good for us (i.e., eustress). Then, I draw on positive psychology - the science of well-being - and affiliated disciplines (e.g., positive organizational scholarship and positive organizational behavior) to offer science-based strategies for leaders to rethink and help manage stress and manifest well-being in the workplace. Specifically, I discuss meaning, mattering, and belonging as three interconnected and important principles for leaders to know and to put into practice through zones of control, low-cost, high- impact positive psychology interventions, such as job crafting, building self-efficacy and resilience, and creating high-quality connections. While this paper is certainly not the solution to work-related stress, it is a step and a tool for leaders towards more managed stress and manifested well-being in our workplaces.
... Now the goals of management were viewed more as empowering the employees, emphasizing mutual confidence, and enhancing the autonomy and meaningfulness of work by sharing decision-making with individual workers and selforganizing production units or teams (Lee et al., 2014;Zhang & Bartol, 2010). Indeed, in empirical studies, shared leadership has been found to enhance employees' autonomy and the 8 opportunities to enrich and craft their work both on a daily basis and in the long run (Mäkikangas et al., 2016;Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001). From the employees' perspective, job crafting refers to modifying the elements of the job to better fit their personal motivation, skills, and interests (Harju & Hakanen, 2016). ...
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In an era of emerging service work robotization, this article investigates how workers perceive job diversity in robotized work, and how those perceptions relate to job satisfaction and the perceived meaningfulness of a job. The study used a nationwide Quality of Work Life survey (QWLS) data collected in Finland in 2018 (N = 4110), and its subsample of salary earners working in a robotized workplace at the time of the study (n = 535). The data were analyzed using a correlative cross-sectional study design, descriptive statistics, ANOVA, and OLS regression analysis. Against a common belief and previous studies, the findings show that intrinsic job satisfaction at work is on the average lower in robotized workplaces than in nonrobotized workplaces. The aggregate higher job satisfaction and perceived meaningfulness of work were mostly associated with perceived task diversity depending on whether, or how extensively, the employee worked with robots. The study contributes to the scientific robotization discussions with unique empirical evidence of job diversity and well-being. Moreover, the study produces information for working life, organizations, and change management by disclosing the importance of maintaining job diversity in and after implementing technological changes.