Who loves being told what to do? Not many of us, I’m willing to bet. I was talking to my daughter earlier, and she mentioned she’d been looking for new glasses with a friend. The friend said her husband has the last word on her new glasses – he would say if she could have them or not. My daughter was horrified – and said if her husband tolde her she couldn’t have them, those are the ones she’d buy, even if she didn’t like them herself. Just to make the point he couldn’t tell her what to do. (He doesn’t, just to be clear. Which is possibly one reason she was horrified that someone else’s husband would.)
It’s one thing for husbands and wives, but does your boss have the power to tell you what to do? Certainly some bosses act as though they do, and I guess if you push it, there is an expectation that they can. I remember years ago a colleague recounting a conversation with one of her team members
Jane: Are you telling me to do it?
Sue: No, I’m asking you
Jane: If I say no?
Sue: Then I’m telling you
Daniel Pink says that autonomy is one of our most important drivers, so what do you do if your boss is always telling you what to do? It's a key aspect of happiness at work.
It can feel stifling if we feel powerless at work, and certainly some work environments drain the life out of people because of this. But there is always something you can do. Job crafting means thinking about the purpose of your work, what is important to you, what you enjoy, and crafting more of those things into your work every day.
Even if you have the most micromanaging manager of all time (I’ve met one or two of them) you can take control of how you feel about your work. As Viktor Frankl said in Man's Search for Meaning,
'...the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.'
Both books are an inspiring read, and you can watch my reviews of them here.
I've written more on this subject here
What will you do to take control and gain a little autonomy for yourself? Taking even the smallest of steps will help you to feel happier at work. Let me know in the comments below what change you will make to be happier at work.
Lindsay is the owner of Silvern Training. Before that she had a very varied working life, doing everything from admin, volunteering, sales, teaching, training, fundraising, management and chairing a board of charity trustees. Now wants to change the world of work by improving workplace cultures so that people can look forward to Monday mornings. Also likes to support individuals to speak up, be better listeners and to take action.