The power to dictate our own lives without any interference from external forces is an invaluable feeling. When it comes to our jobs, there is an ever increasing pressure to ‘fit in’ in a corporate work environment. We have targets, deadlines, hierarchies and often a patriarchal social structure which dictates our career paths. Working in an environment where one lacks the autonomy to create and pursue one’s own career path and personal goals can have an unsurprisingly negative effect on productivity and mental health. The good news is that it’s entirely possible to take back the control and reclaim autonomy in your job.
1. Identify What Autonomy Means to You
The notion of autonomy is subjective and will mean different things to different people. To be able to reclaim autonomy in your job, you must first decide how you define it. Ideas might vary from having the room to be creative with your job or having the opportunity to grow in a position. It can also refer to the ability to make decisions or have control over a project without having to conform to pre-existing structures within the workplace.
2. Set Long-Term Professional Goals
Setting long-term personal objectives and goals is key in taking back control of your job. If you lack motivation at work, probably because you feel you’re not progressing, setting goals can push you to achieve more. Documenting the objectives and plans to achieve those objectives will also help you to stay the course and stay accountable for the progress.
3. Take Action on Your Plans
Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s so easy to then procrastinate and become complacent. It’s far more effective to take action on your plans because the only way to create long-lasting change and reclaim autonomy is by beginning to take steps into developing yourself and career. Start small, by gradually introducing ideas, strategies or solutions related to achieving the end goal.
4. Network, Reach Out and Learn More
Though having autonomy in your job ultimately just involves taking back control of what you do, meeting people and networking provides exposure to new ideas and opportunities. This exposure can help expand knowledge, create alliances and increase career prospects. Networking could mean joining relevant industry associations or reaching out to influencers in the field or demonstrating thought leadership.
5. Learn to Say ‘No’
Learn to stand up to those in authority and take back control of your job by having the courage to say “no” when you know that something is not within your area of expertise. When doing so, make sure to explain your reasons clearly and concisely to prevent any disputes. Having the bravery to say ‘no’ could be the first step in regaining autonomy over your work.
6. Develop Your Negotiating Skills
Negotiating is an important tool to have when trying to retain control in our jobs. It’s a learned skill, which enables you to have meaningful and productive discussions with your employer, colleagues or potential clients. It’s a great way to create a deeper understanding of expectations, roles, duties and remuneration.
7. Take Time Off to Recharge
To stay in control of your job, taking a break should not be seen as an option as it can actually influence productivity and creative thought. It’s easy to become lost in career objectives and forget what motivated you in the first place, but taking a few days to reflect and relax can bring clarity and focus.
It can be hugely demoralising working in an environment where you feel that you aren’t in control of your career. Reclaiming autonomy at work is possible though, if you’re willing to put in the effort and use the tools available to you. Setting personal objectives, taking action, networking, learning to say ‘no’, developing negotiation skills and taking time off are all useful steps that can help individuals take back control of their job.