In Other Words, Don’t Treat Us As Robots
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.