Hi all. Today I want to talk a little about autonomy at work. You will find something about this on pretty much every work values quiz, and for good reason. While there isn’t necessarily a standardized definition of measure of autonomy at work, I’m defining it as a measure of control over your own decisions related to your job: things like how you prioritize your tasks, your calendar, and your ability to have a voice in projects. Research shows that people who have a sense of autonomy at work have higher rates of satisfaction, motivation, and productivity, plus a lower turnover rate. A sense of control over our own work is even thought to be a contributing factor to your general health and longevity. In other words, feeling micromanaged can be a factor in heart disease and other life-altering illnesses. This is something I very much do not want for you!
But why is this such a big deal? Imagine for a moment that you are a small child who loves drawing. You draw enthusiastically and freely, choosing colors and subjects because you like them. Now imagine that an older child, perhaps a sibling, comes along and begins to criticize your work: bunnies aren’t purple, the woman is taller than the house, that’s not what rockets look like. How do you feel? If you’re anything like me, you feel deflated and sad. The thing you used to love doing is now a source of pain and judgment. And what if you were stubborn and decided to keep drawing anyway, but that older child stood over your shoulder telling you what to do and how to do it? I, for one, would stop drawing once and for all! This older child has taken away your intrinsic motivation, your desire to do something for its own sake. How often has that very same scenario played out in your life?
Unfortunately, all too many of us take these criticisms to heart and wind up in jobs that don’t make us happy. We put up with the micromanager because we’re getting paid well. We take the negative feedback because we suspect that maybe it’s true. We let someone else decide what our projects will look like because that’s just how life is. But I’m here to argue that that’s not how it has to be! I want you to draw improbably bunnies and rockets, oversized big humans, rainbows that follow their own logic, dinosaurs that never existed. I am here to tell you that you do deserve to do your own work in your own way, even with the realities and challenges of your life. Have you always wanted to be a poet? Write something and submit it to your favorite publications. Been fascinated with electricity your whole life? Call an electrician and ask for an informational inverview. Toying with the idea of entrepreneurship? Check out the free courses and mentors at SCORE.
You deserve to be content. If you aren’t, today is the day to start taking action!