The Value in Flexibility: How autonomy and accountability provide the best work environment

No one likes to be micromanaged at work. Not only does having a boss constantly looking over your shoulder cause frustration, but it also damages leadership trust in the workplace. That’s why autonomy at work is so important.

Autonomy in the workplace means giving employees the freedom to work in a way that suits them. Over the past couple years, companies and employees have been able to start practicing this, especially with so many people working remotely part time or fully. 

When working remotely, autonomy is engaged to a certain point, and employees get to decide how and when their work should be done to some extent. However, autonomy needs to be carried through to the office to help foster a flexible and empowering workflow from home to office. 

What is autonomy in the workplace?

Autonomy at work refers to how much freedom employees have to do their jobs. Specifically, it relates to the pace at which work is completed, its order of completion, and a person’s freedom to work without micromanagement.

Sometimes rules stifle creative thinking and create unneeded performance pressure. If giving freedom sounds potentially chaotic, let’s look at the situation from a different angle. 

Increased workplace autonomy embraces the concept that not everyone is the same. They don’t work at the same pace, they don’t respond to the same incentives or guidelines, and they don’t compartmentalize their flow in the same way. And just because they don’t all have the same approach, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing their job incorrectly. Trust is given to each employee based on the notion that they will get the job done. 

Job autonomy is defined by working toward a set goal. How employees reach that goal may be open, with certain timelines in place – the employee won’t just be answering to themselves. They will also have to answer to their workplace team they have let down.

Why is autonomy in the workplace important?

A workforce feels less pressured and more confident when given autonomy. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Increases job satisfaction

Some companies struggle to increase job satisfaction because they take the wrong approach. They often overlook removing strict predetermined rules. The simple act of granting employees autonomy increases job satisfaction. 

  1. Creates employee engagement and motivation

Workplace engagement and work motivation naturally increase when team members have to make their own decisions. Learning a set of strict rules and sticking to them is a tedious way to work. This is even more true when employees are punished for deviating from the rules.

  1. Improves employee retention

Increased job autonomy results in happier employees. Happy employees do not feel the need to seek out other work. Job turnover is, therefore, significantly reduced, saving time and effort in recruitment and onboarding.

  1. Encourages creativity and innovation

Free thinking people come up with unique and creative solutions. In turn, this gives rise to innovation.

  1. Builds a culture of trust

A workforce based around trust works efficiently, thereby boosting productivity. When employees understand that they’re trusted to achieve tasks, that same trust is extended back to leaders. The resulting workplace culture of mutual trust is a setting for true innovation.

  1. Boosts productivity

An employee that is allowed autonomy is self-motivated, inspired to achieve, and more likely to engage with work. The inevitable result is a boost in productivity. 

  1. Employees feel valued

Little makes an employee feel as valued as having freedom. When goals are achieved via personal thinking and innovation, successful results mean praise. Since it was their solution that produced results, they are deserving of recognition and credit.

  1. Develops leadership qualities in employees

When employees have autonomy in the workplace, they develop self-reliance and resilience. These are two of many important leadership skills. 

  1. Promotes skill development

When creativity is allowed, innovation is inevitable. Innovative solutions often require new skills, and with increased responsibility, employees feel encouraged to expand their skill set. The result is a workforce that strives to improve itself based on personal goals.

Empowered employees are happier, and happy employees are productive and motivated. Empowerment helps employees and their managers grow and develop faster, professionally and personally.

Finding freedom from anxiety: Returning to work post COVID

With the phased return to work right around the corner, you are not alone if you’re feeling anxious and stressed.  The change in routine and social interactions, as well as the fear of the unknown, are all major contributors to this feeling of anxiety. It can affect both those of us returning to work for the first time since March 2020, as well as those who remained working in the office and have adjusted to a less densely populated workplace.

Read more

Your Coworker Stinks! How to handle sensitive issues like personal hygiene

It’s not exactly the most pleasant thing in the world, having a difficult conversation with a coworker, but some things must be said for the sake of the work environment. After all, work is where you likely spend about 40 hours (or more) of your week. What’s worse than confronting a difficult or awkward situation is not confronting it and letting it… shall we say, “fester”. No one wants that!

We’ll use the example of hygiene issues at work. This type of thing can make working in close quarters a very tedious and even stressful situation. Maybe they are painfully unaware of the social standards of hygiene, perhaps they can’t help it due to medical reasons, or maybe they can’t smell themselves. Taking into consideration the fact that it may not necessarily be their fault, the situation must still be addressed to find a suitable solution that works for everyone. You may feel that this can’t be done without looking like a jerk, but it absolutely can be. These same steps can be used for other types of difficult conversations that must be had. 

Step 1: Don’t wait to have difficult conversations at work

The longer you wait, the harder it is. Anxiety will build up, ultimately keeping you from having the conversation at all and exacerbating the problem. Get in the habit of delivering feedback and having necessary conversations regularly and address issues immediately. 

Step 2: Check your mindset

You have to be in the right place to have the conversation to begin with, and that needs to be a calm and rational place. If you are already worked up about the issue, it is not the time to have the conversation and instead you should wait until you have your wits about you. This way you can bring positive energy into the situation by approaching it positively. 

Step 3: Practice having difficult conversations at work

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages her employees to have tough conversations at least once a week. Because she believes if you do not have them, you’re not growing. Having the tough talks forces companies to bring uncomfortable issues out into the open. And it can help businesses address them, especially when it comes to critical matters like workplace diversity and pay inequality.

Step 4: Manage your emotions

Your goal is to have the conversation in an even tone and keep it professional. This technique is especially important when the meeting is with someone you work closely with. It can help if you look at things from a fact-based standpoint. When emotions start to take over, remind yourself that the more in control you are, the better you’ll be able to communicate the message.

Step 5: Be empathetic

Consider how the other person will feel during the conversation and give them time to process their emotions. Clearly explain why you’re having the meeting to help them fully understand your perspective. If you see them struggling, pause for a minute so they can gather their thoughts. If they start to get emotional, appreciate how they must be feeling and reassure them that you’re providing this feedback because you care.

Step 6: Brainstorm together

The goal of having this conversation is to come up with a solution. If it isn’t clear from the beginning, work together to brainstorm ideas. Listen to the other person’s thoughts and bring some suggestions to the table as well. Once you reach an agreement, make sure there is an action plan in place moving forward.

Tough talks can be awkward and unpleasant. But they are inevitable. The key is to approach them with honesty and empathy. By following these strategies, you’ll be able to successfully navigate difficult conversations at work while growing your potential.

 

What to do when you find out your boss is lying to the company

Let’s put you in an imaginary scenario. You’ve been working at your position in the company for quite some time, you’ve built an exceptional reputation and you have received high praise from your boss and other influential voices in the company. About 5 months ago, you had heard that the CEO of the company would be looking for a new Executive Assistant and had been hoping to hire internally. Upon speaking with your boss about the prospect of moving up, he agreed whole-hardheartedly and offered to put your name in the bid with a sparkling recommendation. 

Time has passed and without even a whisper, now another peer in the company has been announced to step into the role with the CEO. Happy as you can be for your peer, you are still curious why you weren’t chosen, so naturally you pose the question to your boss. He fumbles for an answer and gives you what you can only assume is a nervous run-around, something about the CEO needing to “go a different direction”. 

A week later, the CEO runs into you and questions why you had never applied for the position and confessing they aren’t very happy with the current person in the role. Okay, so now you know one unsettling thing for sure: Your boss lied to you. What do you do now?

You have two ways to handle this: re-actively or proactively. If you are in reactive mode, stay calm and be constructive. No matter the deceit and how hurtful it can be, it doesn’t entitle you to act out and lose your sense to rage. Make sure to stay collected. 

Reactive Actions

Do a cost/benefit analysis. Once you spot deceit, you have to choose between the lesser of two evils. If you confront your boss, you may poison the relationship forever. The same may be true if you go to someone else in the firm, such as HR or your boss’s boss. Think before you act, gossip, or complain. Have a hard conversation with yourself. Do you want to keep your job? Confrontation or sounding an alarm is not a good way to do that. But if changing jobs is not out of the question, it may make sense to directly address the deceit.

Turn the situation around. Before you engage in a hard conversation, try to understand the motivations your boss may have had. Is he trying to be discreet about a pending merger (which is morally understandable), or is he trying to hide a series of illegal kickbacks (morally repugnant)? Perhaps what feels like deceit to you is actually an attempt by your boss to protect you. Never confront your boss alone if you suspect laws have been broken; always consult an attorney first.

Have the hard conversation. Never corner or ambush your superior. If you choose to clear the air, provide a face-saving escape. Avoid labeling the deceit as such, and do not be accusatory. Put on your curiosity hat — remember, you might learn something. Use language such as “I might be seeing this the wrong way” or “I understand that there may have been circumstances that prevented you from sharing all the details with me.” Ask for an explanation of recent events that gave you the impression that you were not receiving an accurate portrayal of what’s been happening. To go back to the opening example, after the CEO pulled you aside, you might choose to relate that conversation to your boss and inform him that you avoided any discussion of previous opportunities — but also expressed enthusiasm about the chance to help her out in the future.

Proactive Actions

Be explicit about your moral code. Consider taking this simple step. Add a moral quote, such as “Success without honor is worse than fraud,” to your email signature line or in a framed print on your desk. The more you talk about, and live by, your principles, the harder it will be for others to treat you in a morally ambiguous manner.

Build strong relationships. If you have good relationships with your colleagues and become known as someone who sweats the details and always follows up, it will be harder to sustain a falsehood in front of you.

Pay attention. Carefully read memos and presentations that your boss and others circulate, and ask yourself if they fit logically with the messages your boss is giving you. By paying attention, you will be able to spot deceit earlier. If you begin to suspect deceit, document it. Write down specific examples, save copies of documents, and see whether your gut instincts hold up when listed in black and white. But don’t show anyone…yet.

There is a downside to this strategy: If you push it too hard, or run around all day long with a “gotcha notebook,” you may become known as a person who can be incredibly tiresome to work with. But there’s plenty of room in the middle. Situational awareness is a skill that takes practice, looking, and listening. Focus on the benefits of developing the skill, not on your boss’s wrongdoings.

If, after taking these steps, you find your boss lying to you again, it may be time to move on. A friend of mine once realized that her boss was highly supportive to her face but actively critical of her in private. In short, he was her enemy, and he was lying about it. It didn’t take her long to decide that there was no upside for her in confronting, or accusing, her boss, so she quietly and methodically made a plan to leave the company, and ended up with a much bigger job at a competitor nine months later. While it can feel unfair to have to make a career decision because of a morally deficient boss, doing so can sometimes lead you in the right direction, if a bit faster than you otherwise would have preferred.

At the end-of-the-day, you must keep an awareness about those you interact with and learn how to deal with conflict, especially deceit, in a professional manner. It doesn’t mean that it will be easy, but if can effect the relationships at work and how you are respected. 

 

Keeping it Casual: Dressing for the office vs. Zoom

It’s been eerily quiet in offices buildings and spaces over the past two years, but now companies are opening their doors to their teams and tugging employees away from their carefully crafted work-from-home offices and Zoom screens… for the most part. But what will the office attire look like now, and how can you make sure to stay on top of it?

Read more

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: How Has Office Attire Changed Since COVID?

The past two years have been a bit of a blur, especially when it comes to the changing work landscape. First we were having to very quickly adjust to no work at all, followed by learning to work from home, and the butterfly effect of residual modifications. One of the biggest changes we had to adapt to was the new outlook on work attire. We started out dressing up for Zoom meetings, but once we got a little more comfortable, the line started to blur. 

Read more

Did you leave your goals behind?

Remember those goals you set for 2022? We’re a few months into the year now, cautiously optimistic about how everything is going, and it’s time to check in with yourself about the goals you set at the start of the year. In this blog we will discuss the importance of revisiting goals that you set in the beginning of the year and how to revamp your goals after revaluation.

Read more

Skills don’t stop at your resume: Using your skillset to build confidence

Are you stuck trying to figure out how to develop in your role and further your professional career? Continued education is key to success – especially in an industry where everything is moving at warp speed. There are many ways to improve the skills you already have, as well as broaden your existing skill set – Let’s talk about thinking outside the box. 

Read more