“Given that we spend about a quarter of our lives at work - maybe more - it’s kind of a travesty to say we’re going to spend most of our waking hours doing something that we don’t think matters that much. So it’s not a surprise that people are searching for meaning in work.” These are the words of organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who specializes in improving the work lives of employees.
For those who want to change their fortunes at their place of employment, the key may lie in the ability to identify what you are passionate about and work those passions into your job.
Discovering core values
“Make a list of the biggest sources of meaning in your life,” says Grant, and then ask yourself a one-word question about each: Why? The goal of the exercise is to eventually reach a core value. These values are at the heart of who we are as individuals. Incorporating core values into your daily activities will provide a much happier and satisfying work life.
Grant says that once you identify your core values, two actions need to be taken. First, connect parts of your job that don’t feel meaningful to a core value. Second, find ways to work core values into your job.
To illustrate the first action, I will use a first-person perspective. As our company’s staff writer, I craft all types of content from blogs to website copy to emails. Without a doubt, there are some things I enjoy writing more than others. Email composition resides pretty low on my list of preferred tasks.
However, an important core value I live by is to be a great communicator. I strive to communicate in a way that is easy to understand, and leaves little room for misinterpretation. While emails may not be terribly inspiring, doing so gives me a chance to connect with my core value of being a good communicator. When I think of it in those terms, I view the task much more positively.
Grant referenced an article from the Harvard Business Review when he discussed the concept of job crafting. “Job crafting is this idea of saying, I have unique interests, values and skills that I could bring to the table that would allow me to be more effective and find more meaning in my work. So, I’m going to become an active architect of my job and I’m going to change the way that I do it, or I’m going to change what I work on,’” says Grant.
Job crafting does not advocate turning your job into a free-for-all, but it does mean incorporating elements that will inspire you and help you maintain a high level of energy and engagement. One idea is to come up with a side project from your day-to-day duties that really speaks to a passion you possess. Even if you spend just 10% of your work time on that project, it will help put you in a better place mentally to take on the rest of your tasks with a clearer mind.
Depending on your interests, this idea might come to fruition in the form of a social group that meets outside of work, such as a book club that furthers learning, or a charitable activity that can benefit your workplace.
Job crafting involves serious introspection about your job with the purpose of redefining it to incorporate your motives, strengths, and passions. Going through this process helps you to have influence on your daily activities, creating a job that will feel more meaningful and fulfilling. It serves the additional benefit of giving you more control over what you do on a day-to-day basis. You are the one that ultimately controls your outcome, not your boss or the leadership team.
Why would an organization support job crafting?
Most people have more to do than time in which to do it. Having the ability to delegate tasks can free up time to address other important job tasks. Typically, leaders are the ones that determine what a worker does on a regular basis. By delegating job crafting to the employee, it frees up the manager to accomplish other things.
Not only does job crafting empower employees, it can serve the additional bonus of being a company benefit in lieu of cash bonuses or time off.
How to job craft
Begin by identifying motives, strengths, and passions, three vital components that will lead to higher engagement, better performance and overall happiness. Then look at how those things apply to work-related tasks, relationships and perceptions. Considering each of these three factors will ensure a thoroughly devised plan and greatly increase its chances for success.
According to a survey of 5,000 U.S. households by The Conference Board, only 45% of those polled say they are satisfied with their jobs, certainly a downward trend from the 60% who were satisfied in 1987, the first year the survey was conducted. More recent studies from Gallup about job engagement show numbers even more disheartening.
Much of that dissatisfaction may lie in whether or not individuals control their own workplace destiny or are simply following orders and completing tasks on a daily basis. Make sure that you are shaping your job, not letting your job shape you.