American Association for Physician Leadership

Team Building and Teamwork

Is Job Crafting Good for Your Team?

David F. Smith, PhD

October 8, 2022


Medical practices have many job functions, with team members filling one or more depending on their skills and the needs of the organization. Job design is a management function directed toward meeting the organization’s needs, which is important but ignores the individual needs of employees. Job crafting describes how a leader and team members meet the functional needs of the organization and also consider what is important to each team member. Employees can be motivated to perform better if they have some control over their work environment and content, especially if they see the importance to their internal or external customers of what they do. Crafting can begin during a performance review to agree on changes that could be made. Sometimes changes are made to modify dysfunctional behavior, make a job more fulfilling, and allow a team member to improve and grow to be more valuable to the organization. As with any change, leadership skills must be applied to create and maintain a trusting environment.

Here’s an idea for annual performance reviews: ask your team member what three things they like most about their job and what three things are their least favorite. Why ask these questions? Because if job content is all positive, then employees are very happy to be at work and great things are the outcome. Negative aspects work against productivity. These answers provide you, as a practice leader, to assist with job crafting to improve job design. Job crafting is the process an employee undertakes to modify elements of their job to enhance positive aspects and eliminate negative ones. There are three types of job crafting, which can be used together or separately. Crafting involves: 1) job responsibilities; 2) on-the-job relationships and interactions; and 3) employee mindset regarding their work.(1)

One motivation for an employee to engage in job crafting is to control their job content to make it more personally meaningful.

It is important to differentiate job crafting from job design. Job design is a management function that impersonally structures job functions and resource requirements to achieve organizational goals. This is a top-down process. Job crafting is a bottom-up process. Job crafting occurs when an employee takes personal responsibility to engage with management to modify the existing impersonal work structure to better fit the employee while still achieving organizational goals. This difference between work design and job crafting is the reason that job crafting is better suited for workers with job designs with higher degrees of autonomy.(2) The worker who has greater discretion in how their job gets done is more likely to engage in job crafting if so motivated.

One motivation for an employee to engage in job crafting is to control their job content to make it more personally meaningful. Enhancing their day-to-day work so it is more interesting and reflects better on their self-image increases the work’s intrinsic rewards.(2) They will be doing the work they believe is important and aligned better with their expectations. Good leaders will assist in meeting those expectations. For example, a radiologic technologist may see their higher role as performing the tests correctly while discounting the value of the paperwork that goes with the job. Job crafting in this instance would involve greater involvement in the actual testing and less in the preliminary forms and follow-up filing. Can it be done? Sure. Should it be done? If a leader could forecast that hiring someone to do department paperwork could pay off quickly through increased productivity and long-term employee satisfaction, then this job crafting could work.

Another employee motivation for job crafting is to connect with the people they serve.(2) Their work effort gains meaning when they can see how they help others by what they do. If a billing manager can interact with the patients who are affected by their work, the manager can connect their job functions with helping people work through complex billing statements. The manager has a greater sense of achievement when experiencing how others benefit. Meaningful work leads to greater work enjoyment, which is related to positive organizational outcomes, including increased productivity, lower voluntary turnover, and volunteerism.(2)

The third motivation for an employee to embark on job crafting is to satisfy a need for an expansion of their role to encompass extra-role work—activities that are not tied to their job but that do fulfill personal passions. They will volunteer their time to do something they enjoy.(2) For example, if the IT department needs people to beta test a new network communications package, an employee who enjoys the tech side of the organization, but works in the pharmacy, may step forward to help on this project. This job crafting outcome is related to greater work enjoyment and employee satisfaction with their organization.

Sometimes employee motivation for job crafting comes from a defensive posture to avoid job-related problems. This fourth motivation is based on an employee recognizing that their work would be more enjoyable and satisfying if they could be allowed to not perform some aspect or not be subjected to a problem, perceived or real.(2) They would like to avoid a coworker, for example. Or they are introverted and don’t want to give departmental presentations. Working through these issues may solve the problem, but even if the problem isn’t solved, the employee might gain the strength to face the problem.

Job crafting sometimes is surreptitious. Employees will craft their jobs to satisfy their motivations without management approval.(2) This can be dysfunctional for the organization. For example, if a team member decides that since they don’t like filing, they just let it pile up, this presents a problem. If a customer service representative so likes to connect with customers that they spend an inordinate amount of time chatting with them, that behavior is probably not productive. And although volunteerism is good, it shouldn’t be at the expense of job performance. Leaders need to be aware of this possibility and use their everyday skills to ensure job crafting is undertaken appropriately.

Performance reviews are perfect settings for working on job crafting, provided leadership skills are employed and the process is managed. The review is an opportunity for leaders to interact with each team member to understand how they feel about their work. This requires the use of at least five leadership skills found to be important in building and maintaining high-performance teamwork: inclusion, respecting, rewarding, improvement, and modeling.(3) Management support will be necessary to implement change, but first, the team leader will use these five ways of interacting with their team member to discover and plan what change looks like. Leaders apply these leadership behaviors during a performance review process to initiate employee-directed job crafting:

  • Inclusion: Job crafting concerns how a job is structured and so provides for inclusion. Inclusion is the consulting behavior a leader exhibits to discuss possible changes in the team member’s work. This is useful every day and especially important for job crafting. Together, the leader and member need to determine if the employee is motivated. Is the employee motivated to change job requirements and content? Do they want to interact differently with those they serve? Is fulfilling a passion outside of their role important? Do they want to find a way to reduce the job-related adversity they face? During a performance review, these four questions may uncover strong feelings that can support job crafting.

  • Respecting: The respecting behavior supports the inclusive discussion by acknowledging the genuineness of the employee’s feelings. By empathizing, the leader provides support for job crafting ideas generated. Not every change may be possible, but for the employee to feel validated that their thoughts are respected is the basis of a trusting relationship. There will need to be mutual trust as the job changes are crafted. The leader must feel confident that organizational goals will still be met. The member needs the management support the leader provides to make and maintain change.

  • Rewarding: Leaders can provide incentives to motivate the employee to achieve goals even with the changes to the job. The incentive design process uses the rewarding behavior of leadership. Rewarding behavior differs from reward design in the same way job crafting differs from job design. A leader using rewarding behavior is treating the incentive design from a member’s perspective. What is it that will motivate that team member to do what needs doing? Individualizing rewards is important, because the goal of the reward is to motivate an individual. Rewards can be extrinsic, such as a cash bonus, but a “thank you” at a team meeting is an intrinsic reward that is highly motivating. A leader finds what works within the realm of possibility.

  • Improving: For some job changes to be made, the employee may need to obtain new skills or knowledge. The improvement behavior is the individualization of the improvement process to better fit what the employee needs and wants. The new knowledge and skills support changes in the employee’s job due to crafting. For example, for a radiological technologist to do more testing and less paperwork, they may have to learn how to use additional equipment to stay fully productive. Leaders will assist in this because they have agreed the changes are beneficial. This agreement comes from their respectful dialogue about feelings and possibilities.

  • Modeling: Leaders can assist in this improvement process directly with modeling behavior. They may possess the skills and knowledge that the job changes require. Job crafting may also require the less hands-on aspect of modeling, the “Do as I do” message. For example, if a team member wants to participate more in committee work, they need to be able to work in groups. If the team member is inexperienced in this area, the leader could include the member in meetings so they can observe and learn. Or if a leader and member agree that one job change is to include more travel, then the leader can ensure that their team member understands the complexities involved such as how to dress, how to arrange travel, and how to correctly complete expense reports on time by being a good example. This understanding can be imparted directly through training or indirectly by being observed doing these things correctly.

Positive organizational outcomes support a strategy of allowing team members to job craft. Creating an environment where job crafting is natural and supported requires management to be flexible in job design, rewards, and resource use. In a highly structured environment, however, job crafting is still possible if leaders encourage team members to think about their work differently. For example, a file clerk might think of their job as pushing paper. Alternatively, if they could be persuaded that their job is important, because if the paper isn’t handled correctly everything falls apart, then this would be cognitive job crafting. This persuasion process is the stuff of leadership. Leaders can use the five leadership behaviors to help the file clerk understand their importance to the organization.

Team leaders will have to keep in mind that there is a dark side to job crafting. For example, an employee may craft their workday to avoid their supervisor because they dislike them. This is dysfunctional. Or an employee spends too much time on one part of the job because they like it better than the other parts. This is unproductive. Job crafting can cause problems even if the crafting was encouraged by the leader. For example, possible accusations of favoritism might result if one team member and not another is allowed to make changes. Also, the changes need to be monitored to ensure that organizational goals are still being met. Agreements made to effect the change need monitoring as well. “If I agree to let you join the company’s charitable giving committee, then you will still get your work done on time so the team still functions well, correct?” Job crafting can be work, but it can be well worth the effort by providing happier employees and the associated organizational benefits.

High-performance teamwork is based on a trusting relationship between a team leader and the team members.

High-performance teamwork is based on a trusting relationship between a team leader and the team members. Job crafting is a way to communicate that their leader cares about them individually, which supports trust. The leadership skills used are: 1) to listen carefully to what team members want and need; 2) to reward them effectively; 3) to help them improve; and (4) to be a good model. All fully support job crafting. So, job crafting isn’t for everyone, but everyone should consider it.


  1. Moore C. What is job crafting. May 17, 2019. . Accessed December 24, 2020.

  2. Berg J, Dutton J, Wrzesniewski A. What is job crafting and why does it matter? 2007. Accessed December 24, 2020.

  3. Smith D. How Successful Teams Work: What Science Says About Leadership High-Performance Teamwork. Lioncrest Publications; 2018.

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David F. Smith, PhD

Director of Research, Five Star Leadership, Oahu Adventures Foundation, Inc., 6960 Feldspar Place, Carlsbad, CA 92009, and author of How Successful Teams Work: What Science Says About Leadership and High-Performance Teamwork (Lioncrest Publishing, 2018); phone: 619-876-6343; e-mail: davidsmith@​

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