Learn how to assert your independence at work and motivate yourself to feel invested in what you do.
Do you stand proudly behind where you work? Or are you resentful toward your company, feeling tense and bitter? If the latter case best describes how you feel on the job, take note: There are ways to be proud of your job and for your co-workers to feel engaged and productive in the workplace, all while minimizing your stress and frustration.
Through autonomy support, employees thrive in a work environment that encourages enthusiastic job performance without an undercurrent of pressure or coercion. Rather than relying on others to feel motivated, you are given the necessary conditions to motivate yourself.
Autonomy support happens when employees are given meaningful choices while doing their work, clear explanations for why their jobs are important, and are shown empathy by their peers and leaders. Employees in this ideal work environment approach their daily tasks with interest, enjoyment, and encouragement.
Unfortunately, many people feel controlled and pressured at work. Research has shown that harsh workplace policies, such as threats of punishment, are quite ineffective; they are associated with low morale, defiance and resentment from employees. In this day and age, your organization can't stay competitive by dangling a carrot in front of you. Today's most innovative workplaces throw away the carrot and create an atmosphere in which you can earnestly approach your work with eagerness and true zest.
The ideal workplace that I'm describing may sound like a fantasy, but you can make it part of your workplace by following the three steps below.
Don't assume that you have no meaningful choices in your job. Carefully examine your day-to-day routine and you may find options that you've come to take for granted. For example, if you are asked to write a report, you may be able to choose the best way to format or present it, which gives you freedom to be creative and cater to your own preferences. Even with mandatory tasks, you can let your opinions shine through.
Autonomy support also requires getting a clear explanation for why your job matters. You and your co-workers will perform best when you understand why your roles are important, how you are all making an impact and how you will all benefit from working hard. This will help nurture a sense of pride for your jobs, giving everyone a reason to come to work, over and above a paycheck. Also, remember that the importance of your job may have been conveyed during your orientation or is detailed in your employee handbook. If so, do what it takes to give yourself frequent reminders of this critical information—that could mean daily workplace affirmations or sticky notes on your desk reminding you why you’re there.
Do you feel understood by your manager? Most people in your situation don't. When we feel stressed, burned out, or at odds with co-workers, we tend to feel isolated and resentful because our struggles are going unrecognized. To be clear, being autonomous at work does not mean you are entirely independent; you deserve a compassionate listener to help you through adversity and move forward. However, if you are unable to get the understanding you desire, don't give up. Try to show that you're sympathetic to how your co-workers see things and you may get some empathy in return.
A complete lack of motivation in the workplace is rare. More than likely, you and your co-workers are very motivated—to show up for work and get paid. Autonomy support will create the work environment you need to feel a different kind of motivation. For perhaps the first time in your career, you will eagerly approach your job with passion and zeal.
Although it may be difficult to do so, consider having a conversation with your manager or human resources representative so you can get the autonomy support that you need. If this is not possible, take notice of the aspects of your job that you may have forgotten. Whether your workplace can be changed or you need to be the change your workplace needs, discover the reason to stand proudly behind your work. You'll be glad you did and you just might inspire others to do the same.
Additionally, if you want to see how Delivering Happiness can help you be proud of your job, check out our Hello Doc below.