In Other Words, Don’t Treat Us As Ro­bots

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - OPINION - David Wilson Learn­ing Ev­ery Day

Years ago I heard that the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NASA) found out that as­tro­nauts in space needed room in their work sched­ule for play or for ab­so­lutely noth­ing at all.

They would ben­e­fit from ex­plor­ing what­ever they found in­ter­est­ing as they ex­pe­ri­enced weight­less­ness in space.

In the first mis­sions it wasn’t that way, as NASA planned ex­per­i­ments so that ev­ery sin­gle minute could be uti­lized to the max.

It made sense. A space mis­sion is costly and time had to be uti­lized wisely.

In other words, the me­ter was run­ning; it was too ex­pen­sive to be up there just play­ing around.

But they found out some­thing very im­por­tant: as­tro­nauts are just like any other per­son on the job. They per­form bet­ter when there is some oc­ca­sional down-time dur­ing the work day.

So when you see video of as­tro­nauts in a weight­less en­vi­ron­ment do­ing slow-mo­tion flips with an al­most child­like en­thu­si­asm, re­mem­ber that it is a part of the over­all ef­fort to make sure they en­joy their work and are highly pro­duc­tive at the same time.

To put it an­other way, peo­ple need some lat­i­tude within their job. They need a break from stress, and they also need some au­ton­omy as to how they carry out their du­ties.

Or to put it an­other way still, we are not ro­bots, and we do bet­ter when we aren’t ex­pected to do all of our work in a mo­not­o­nous ro­botic-like fash­ion.

Au­thor Daniel Pink wrote about this phe­nom­e­non in his 2011 book en­ti­tled “Drive.”

“Re­searchers have found,” he wrote, “a link between au­ton­omy and over­all well-be­ing.”

He fur­ther ex­plained that peo­ple not only de­sire au­ton­omy, but that au­ton­omy en­ables them to do bet­ter work and to im­prove their lives over­all.

“A sense of au­ton­omy,” Pink said, “has a pow­er­ful ef­fect on in­di­vid­ual per­for­mance and at­ti­tude.”

Think about where you work.

Do you want the boss to give you ex­plicit de­tails about how to ap­proach ev­ery task or would you rather have great dis­cre­tion in com­plet­ing your work?

Most of us, I think, would pre­fer the lat­ter.

When em­ploy­ees are em­pow­ered, it can be both lib­er­at­ing and ex­hil­a­rat­ing. Hav­ing au­ton­omy—or feel­ing in con­trol of one’s time—also brings about a great deal of sat­is­fac­tion.

Some­one once said, “Work is what you are do­ing when you would rather be do­ing some­thing else.”

A per­son is less likely to feel like he or she is at work when he or she ac­tu­ally en­joys the job.

And ac­cord­ing to Pink, hav­ing a de­gree of au­ton­omy is a cru­cial com­po­nent of that. Peo­ple who are granted au­ton­omy feel like they are be­ing treated as pro­fes­sion­als. It also makes them feel like they are im­por­tant and ap­pre­ci­ated.

All of that makes for a more ful­fill­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at work and helps a per­son carry out du­ties with a much greater sense of pride.

But au­ton­omy isn’t the only thing to con­sider.

Pink wrote that over­all, peo­ple are more in­trin­si­cally mo­ti­vated when three things are in play. Hav­ing au­ton­omy is one. An­other is when peo­ple are suc­cess­ful at what they are do­ing. A third is when peo­ple feel that what they are do­ing is mean­ing­ful.

The last item is im­por­tant be­cause when peo­ple feel their work is mak­ing a real dif­fer­ence it helps them to press on, even on tough days or when fac­ing for­mi­da­ble chal­lenges.

A shift in per­spec­tive can make all of the dif­fer­ence in the world.

You want your doc­tor to help you live life to the fullest and not just write a pre­scrip­tion.

You want your child’s teacher to help pre­pare stu­dents for suc­cess in life and not just dis­pense in­for­ma­tion.

You want a sol­dier to be a de­fender of free­dom and not just some­one who can march and shoot.

You want jour­nal­ists to be no­ble chron­i­clers of events — as well as guardians of a free so­ci­ety—and not just in­di­vid­u­als who find some­thing to write about or talk about.

And most of us want our vo­ca­tion and our very lives to be some­thing of great pur­pose. With that in mind, it is cru­cial for each in­di­vid­ual — within the pa­ram­e­ters of a job de­scrip­tion—to have free­dom to pur­sue in­di­vid­ual heart­felt mis­sions.

DAVID WILSON, EDD, OF SPRING­DALE, IS A WRITER, CON­SUL­TANT AND PRE­SEN­TER, WHO GREW UP IN ARKANSAS BUT WORKED 27 YEARS IN ED­U­CA­TION IN MIS­SOURI. YOU MAY E-MAIL HIM AT DWNOTES@HOT­MAIL.COM. THE OPIN­IONS EX­PRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AU­THOR.

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