The Field of Positive Organisational Scholarship and The Cultivation of Wellbeing through Job Crafting
The following paper will centre around the overarching theme of positive organisational scholarship. This concept will be explored first. Specifically, the reasons of why it became a field of study and how. Following that, this piece will continue to delve deeper into job crafting, a notable aspect of positive organisational scholarship. This will be done by unpacking the theory of job crafting and exploring the advantages and disadvantages of the application of this theory. The third portion will involve the proposal of ways in which job crafting can be implemented in a workplace to nurture wellbeing. Additionally, a self-reflection will be provided entailing what has been learnt through producing this essay that may be helpful in future career pathways.
The What, How and Why of Positive Organisational Scholarship
Positive organisational scholarship (POS) is an all-encompassing topic that groups past studies together, while proffering a framework for present and future studies relating to positive conditions, results and ongoing productivity in individuals and collective groups (Roberts, 2006, p.292). This concept can be applicable to any workplace setting that operates under any systematic hierarchy that consists of employees. This may be schools, large-scale business organisations, institutions and so forth. The overall focus of positive organisational scholarship is to pinpoint the strengths of people and groups – whether it is a characteristic trait or internal mechanism – as well as understanding how these assets may lead to flourishing (Roberts, 2006, p.292). It is important to highlight that positive organisational scholarship does not have a neutral standpoint. Instead, the concept demonstrates some degree of bias because it advocates for the generativity, giving of life and ennoblement of the human conditions despite the conventional monetary and political advantages associated with it (Cameron & Spreitzer, 2011, p.4).
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Positive organisational scholarship did not arise in hopes of trying to reharmonise the many reiterations of the negativity and decay in organisations (Cameron & Spreitzer, 2011, p.4). This notion entered the field of positive psychology when a gap in the research was found. One of the reasons that positive organisational scholarship had came about was due to the conception that certain phenomena from the organisational context were not being addressed enough through thorough research nor valued. The majority of positive organisational scholarship focuses on promoting and supporting ways to address and resolve conflict as a collective, rather than in separate levels of “individuals, groups and societies” (Cameron & Spreitzer, 2011, p.5). Based on Cameron & Spreitzer’s assertion, it can be concluded that the negatives overpowered the positives in the field.
Most importantly, POS is a concept that aims to focus on the positive aspects of organisational settings. Cameron & Spreitzer (2011, p.5) depicts the importance of this notion by comparing it with the heliotropic effect, which follows the idea that – as humans – we are drawn to positive forces that sustain life and away from the negative that drains living energy. Therefore, humans have the tendency to be drawn to the positive elements. Through this field of study, the emphasis is to foster positive attitudes, experiences and results in organisation contexts. Within POS, job crafting is one of the key subfields of interest that this paper is going to investigate.
Navigating Job Crafting
Job crafting is one of the research areas in the field of positive organisational scholarship. Job crafting refers to the idea of workers rethinking and tailoring the design of their professions to foster more meaningful experiences and serving their personal purpose (Berg, Dutton, & Wrzesniewski, 2013, p.81). It also involves being proactive in the way that employees can mould their work boundaries by going above and beyond what is required in the job description (Berg, Dutton, & Wrzesniewski, 2013, p.82). There are three different approaches to job crafting.
The first approach is called task crafting, which refers to workers changing their responsibilities of their listed job description by adding or subtracting specific tasks or changing the nature of their assigned work (Berg, Dutton, & Wrzesniewski, 2013, p.82). The second approach is relational crafting. This involves changing the way employees engage with other people at work by establishing or altering relationships (Berg, Dutton, & Wrzesniewski, 2013, p.82). And finally, the third approach to job crafting is cognitive crafting. This technique involves workers changing their ways of thinking in terms of the tasks they do and the relationships that are part of their profession (Berg, Dutton, & Wrzesniewski, 2013, p.82). Below is an example of all three approaches in a public transport context:
A tram driver finds his job enjoyable when he announces the weather forecast as passengers board or get off the tram (task crafting). He likes to work collaboratively and build a mentor-like relationship with other tram drivers in training by coaching them how to properly operate the tram (relational crafting). He also perceives his job as not only providing transportation for passengers, but also providing passengers with a sightseeing service by pointing out certain scenic places to look out for (cognitive crafting).
Although the intent of job crafting is to foster meaningful work, which refers to any type of work that involves adding purpose or importance to that job (Steger, 2017, p.61), there are both advantages and disadvantages to it.
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The main benefit of job crafting is that the workplace is imbued with a sense of meaning (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001, p.194). Because of this, employees are likely to be more motivated and invested in their jobs as their intrinsic needs are being met. Job crafting establishes a sense of belonging, autonomy and purpose (Steger, 2017, p.63) in the workplace context. In return, this could improve workers’ level of efficiency, productivity and performance in the workplace because work is made enjoyable.
However, the major setback of job crafting is organisational inertia. Organisational inertia refers to a workplace’s reluctance to undergo change (Larsen & Lomi, 1999, p.406). This may be a reason as to why organisations only want employees to complete tasks as listed in the job description and not beyond that. Because task crafting may involve adding new tasks, the outcome of something new may be unpredictable, causing discomfort when stepping outside of the status quo. Hence, it is important that prior to job crafting, the benefits need to outweigh the setbacks and if there are setbacks, strategies should be applied to minimise or overcome those setbacks.
Job crafting in the Fish and Chips Context
Sarah (pseudo name) has been running a fish and chips business with two other employees for the past three years in southeast Melbourne. Through an interview about the ways in which she aims to foster wellbeing in the workplace, she has revealed that minimal job crafting approaches have been applied. The only approach that she has applied is relational crafting. Sarah has mentioned that she has very strong relationships with her employees. An example that she has provided when establishing relationships with her colleagues is that she continuously asks them how their families are. She believes that by starting a conversation with them, she can get to know them better and make work less formal and more casual. Sarah has asserted with great confidence that her way of building strong relationships is rather successful.
However, it is recommended that Sarah tries to implement task crafting into her workplace too. For example, she can create a weekly schedule where each worker does a new task per week on top of the current tasks they do. This can be beneficial in the workplace because not only is adding a task makes work more interesting, employees can also accumulate new skills in the work environment. By adding only one task, the employees’ workload is not overwhelming. They can still enjoy the new change in the business. This recommendation helps foster wellbeing because it considers workers’ ability to adapt to new changes by easing them into something different while making it exciting, meaningful and purposeful. Additionally, the response to task crafting is simple to observe and monitor. In comparison, cognitive crafting is quite difficult to monitor and observe because it is an internal process. Therefore, it is not recommended in this setting.
This paper will now be written in the first-person perspective to produce a self-reflection on lessons learned through producing this paper.
2019 and beyond
Some of the lessons I have learned through this paper is that job crafting is not a simple strategy to implement in any workplace. Although it aims to foster wellbeing in an organisational setting, there are internal and external factors that may oppose this notion. It is preferable to set out an action plan prior to implementing changes so that stakeholders of an organisation are prepared to undergo change.
I think it is crucial to acknowledge that at some point in my career, I will not always enjoy the work that I do. However, my strategy in trying to overlook portions of my career that I do not enjoy is to possess an optimistic attitude by altering my way of thinking and the tasks that I do. For example, rather than associating a task as boring and uninteresting, I will try to look for the positives. Such as looking forward to working with my favourite colleague and enjoying their company.
Learning about job crafting is highly fascinating and I look forward to sharing this concept with other people I know at present and in the future. As a collective, we can make work meaningful and autonomous to enhance our physical, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
- Berg, J. M., Dutton, J. E., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2013). Chapter 4 Job Crafting and Meaningful Work. In Dik, B. J., Byrne, Z. S., & Steger, M. F (Eds.), Purpose and meaning in the workplace (pp.81-104). Washington: American Psychological Association.
- Cameron, K. S., & Spreitzer, G. M. (2011). What is positive about positive organisational scholarship?. In K. S. Hopkins, G. M. Spreitzer (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organisational Scholarship (pp.1-14). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Larsen, E. R., & Lomi, A. (1999). Resetting the Clock: A Feedback Approach to the Dynamics of Organisational Inertia, Survival and Change. The Journal of the Operational Research Society, vol.50(4), pp.406-421.
- Roberts, L. M. (2006). Shifting the Lens on Organisational Life: The Added Value of Positive Scholarship. The Academy of Management Review, vol. 31(2), pp.292-305. doi: 20159202.
- Steger, M. F. (2017). Chapter 5: Creating Meaning and Purpose at Work. In Oades, L. G., Steger, M. F., Fave, A. D., & Passmore, J (Eds.), The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Positivity and Strengths-Based Approaches at Work (pp.60-78). Australia: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
- Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2001). Crafting a job: revisioning employees as active crafter of their work. Academy of Management Review, vol.28(2), pp.179-201.
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