Advancing the Study of ‘Time’ in Job Crafting

Hannah Weisman, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Business School, discusses the notion of job crafting and answers questions regarding the paper, ‘It’s About Time: Understanding Job Crafting Through the Lens of Individuals’ Temporal Characteristics,’ that Weisman; Uta K. Bindl, a reader of organisational behaviour at King’s College London; Cristina B. Gibson, Dean’s Distinguished Professor in Management at Pepperdine University; and Kerrie L. Unsworth, chair of organizational behavior at Leeds University Business School, saw published in Group & Organization Management.

Our paper focuses on job crafting—the actions that employees take to customize their jobs, such as by changing their social interactions and tasks at work. My colleagues and I were motivated to write this paper because we noticed a puzzling phenomenon in the literature. First, job crafting, by definition, is an ongoing activity that employees engage in over time (i.e., as they progress in their careers). Second, job crafting is an activity engaged in by employees with unique, individual time-related characteristics; for example, some employees have stronger time management skills than others and some tend to have a stronger sense of time urgency (i.e., the feeling of being chronically hurried).

Despite these realities of the nature of job crafting, research has not acknowledged the role of individuals’ temporal characteristics in job crafting, such as how these characteristics may influence the consequences of job crafting for employees’ well-being, or how an understanding of these characteristics might enable better predictions about the extent to which employees will engage in different forms of job crafting (i.e. promotion crafting, which is focused on maximizing the positive features of a job, and prevention crafting, which is focused on minimizing or avoiding the negative features).

In our paper, we develop theory to account for the role of individuals’ temporal characteristics in job crafting. We specifically consider the following set of temporal characteristics: individuals’ career stage (early versus late), temporal focus (on the past, present, and future), and polychronicity (preference for multi-tasking) as antecedents, or predictors, of different forms of job crafting; as well as time urgency (feeling chronically hurried) and time management as boundaries of job crafting’s effects on well-being. Our hope in writing this paper is to stimulate future research that considers the role of individuals’ temporal characteristics in job crafting, and more generally that acknowledges the important role that “time” may play in shaping employees’ engagement in job crafting and job crafting outcomes.

What did not make it into our paper is some of our prior thinking about the potential role of temporal characteristics at other levels of the organization. For example, employees’ job crafting unfolds in different organizational temporal contexts (i.e., alongside other organizational events and processes, and within organizations that are pursuing different strategic goals). To keep our paper and theorizing cohesive, and thanks to some wise suggestions from our reviewers, we removed organization-level (and team-level) temporal characteristics from our model during the review process.

The most influential paper that I have read in the past year, which nicely complements our own work, is a paper by De Bloom et al. This paper developed theory about the dynamics of job crafting, for instance proposing trajectories of employees’ engagement in job crafting over time, as employees satisfy their individual needs.

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Hannah Weisman

Hannah Weisman is a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Business School. She completed her PhD in management at the London School of Economics. She uses longitudinal methods to study how people craft meaningful jobs, careers, and lives.

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