The Power of Doing: How Job Crafting Transmits the Beneficial Impact of Autonomy Among Overqualified Employees

Abstract

Overqualified individuals have more experience, KSAs (knowledge, skills, abilities), and/or education than what is needed in their job. Prior research has identified autonomy as a work characteristic that helps individuals deal with overqualification; yet, it remains unclear as to why this is the case. The goal of the present study was to identify the mechanism through which autonomy exerts its beneficial impact. Drawing on the literatures of person-environment fit and proactivity, we first hypothesized that, in addition to autonomy, job crafting likewise moderates the relationship between overqualification and both withdrawal and turnover intention as central outcomes. Job crafting denotes a proactive type of behavior whereby individuals change the boundaries of their jobs. Next, we hypothesized that job crafting is positively related to autonomy, and that job crafting represents the key mechanism through which autonomy moderates the overqualification-outcome relationship. In a multisource sample of 226 employee-supervisor dyads, we found that overqualified employees were significantly more likely to withdraw from their work and intend to exit if (a) their job provided little autonomy or (b) if they engaged in low levels of job crafting. When individuals experienced high levels of autonomy or engaged in high levels of job crafting, the overqualification-outcome relationship was reversed (or non-significant). Moreover, autonomy was positively related to job crafting. Finally, we found evidence for mediated moderation, such that the moderating effect of autonomy on the relationship between overqualification and both withdrawal and turnover intention was transmitted through job crafting. We discuss theoretical and practical implications.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We thank Amy Wrzesniewski for providing us with access to this scale. The complete list of items can be directly obtained from her.

  2. 2.

    We calculated a global job crafting score to capture the job crafting construct in its wholeness according to the definition by Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001). Yet, we also conducted CFAs to examine the dimensionality of the job crafting scale in both datasets (main study and validation study). A two-factor model in which the task and relational items loaded onto different factors fitted only slightly better than a one-factor model; moreover, the two latent factors correlated at r = .76 and r = .81, respectively—thus justifying that all items can be combined into a total score (for the same approach in the case of work engagement see Schaufeli et al. 2006).

  3. 3.

    We examined whether turnover intention levels differed between the three dyad types (male-male vs. female-female vs. mixed-gender dyads), which was not the case, F(2,223) = .093, ns.

  4. 4.

    For comparison purposes, we had also collected employee self-reports of autonomy with the scale by Semmer (1984). Self and supervisor ratings correlated at r = .46 (p < .01), thus indicating reasonably high convergence in line with previous findings (Spector et al. 1988). More importantly, we were able to replicate all interaction and mediated moderation effects with self-reported autonomy. Detailed results can be obtained from the authors.

  5. 5.

    Due to the partial nesting of our data (i.e., employee-supervisor dyads nested in organizations), we re-ran all analyses within a multilevel framework. All results remained unchanged. Detailed results can be obtained from the authors.

  6. 6.

    We thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting this analysis.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Tamara Berrino and Sandra German for their help with data collection.

Funding

This work was supported by a grant from the Schweizerischer Nationalfonds [Swiss National Science Foundation, grant number 100019-156537] awarded to Maike E. Debus.

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Correspondence to Maike E. Debus.

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Debus, M.E., Gross, C. & Kleinmann, M. The Power of Doing: How Job Crafting Transmits the Beneficial Impact of Autonomy Among Overqualified Employees. J Bus Psychol 35, 317–331 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-019-09625-y

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Keywords

  • Overqualification
  • Job crafting
  • Autonomy
  • Job design