Employees and Management Can Meet Halfway to Redesign Jobs

Topic(s): job satisfaction, motivation, stress
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior
Article: Beyond top-down and bottom-up work redesign: Customizing job content through idiosyncratic deals 
Authors: S. Hornung, D. M. Rousseau, J. Glaser, P. Angerer, M. Weigl
Reviewed by: Sarah Teague

Efforts to redesign jobs are undertaken on a daily basis in organizations worldwide. This involves re-evaluating or changing the nature of jobs in order to improve various outcomes, including job satisfaction and organizational productivity. Traditionally, two approaches have dominated the literature: top-down and bottom-up. In other words, job redesign can be initiated by management to enhance the job, for example, by allowing it to provide a greater deal of motivation for the employee. Alternatively, job redesign can be initiated by the employee and may or may not be legitimately recognized by the employer, which is also called job crafting.


A recent article (Severin et al., 2010) investigates a middle ground approach. It involves unique negotiations between employees and employers that the authors refer to as idiosyncratic deals, or i-deals. These i-deals are initiated by the employee (as in bottom-up) and authorized by a supervisor (as in top-down). Results show that the extent of successfully negotiated i-deals is associated with better perceived relationships with supervisors, and ultimately increased feelings of control and decreased job stressors.


Successfully negotiated i-deals can result in beneficial effects for employees and the organization when done correctly (and fairly across employees). Overall, it seems that individuals who received approval for i-deals were both happier and more engaged in their work. Still, the the authors stress that i-deals should not be viewed as a replacement for traditional top-down redesign efforts that strive to make all jobs meaningful and motivating.


Hornung, S., Rousseau, D. M., Glaser, J., Angerer, P., & Weigl, M. (2010). Beyond top-down and bottom-up work redesign: Customizing job content through idiosyncratic deals. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31, 187-215.