Redesigning Work Design Theories: The Rise of Relational and Proactive Perspectives

A.M. Grant, Sharon Parker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

707 Citations (Web of Science)


Many scholars assume that the fundamental questions about work design have been answered. However, a global shift from manufacturing economies to service and knowledge economies has dramatically altered the nature of work in organizations. To keep pace with these important and rapid changes, work design theory and research is undergoing a transformation. We trace the highlights of two emerging viewpoints on work design: relational perspectives and proactive perspectives. Relational perspectives focus on how jobs, roles, and tasks are more socially embedded than ever before, based on increases in interdependence and interactions with coworkers and service recipients. Proactive perspectives capture the growing importance of employees taking initiative to anticipate and create changes in how work is performed, based on increases in uncertainty and dynamism. Together, these two perspectives challenge the widely held belief that new developments in work design theory and research are no longer needed. Our review charts the central contributions and unanswered questions from these relational and proactive perspectives with the goal of inspiring renewed interest in advancing theory, research, and practice on work design.One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can't eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours-all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man [sic] makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy. (William Faulkner, 1958)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-375
JournalThe Academy of Management Annals
Issue number1
Early online date5 Aug 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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