Freedom on the job

My own employment experiences gave me lots or room to maneuver, choose my own approach and deliver results in the best way I saw fit. I found freedom on the job. In hindsight, this came easily to me because I was working in fields that involve a lot of creativity (architecture, management consulting, teaching problem solving). It also helped that situations made it necessary for my managers to take a hands-off approach to overseeing my work.

Freedom on the job is a contrast to getting mismanaged. Most satisfaction surveys show more than half the employees feel like they are doing time in paycheck prisons, handcuffed like slaves to a machine or resenting their indentured servitude. Freedom is nowhere in sight and inconceivable in those oppressive situations. Here's four ways that freedom contrasts with captivity and shows you whether more freedom can be found where you work:

Free to choose: When responsibility has been delegated to us with the necessary authority to fulfill the expectation, we feel free. We are trusted to get results without being told how to get it done. We may be in charge of a project, account or team. It's up to us to make decisions, learn from our mistakes and discover better ways to get things done. When we're deprived of this freedom, responsibilities have been dumped on us without the needed authority. Our hands are tied. We're not free to choose without the review and approval of higher-ups. We're getting micromanaged by control freaks who are cracking their whip and pulling our chains.

Free to relate: When we can reach out for help to coworkers and other departments, we've found freedom on the job. We extend our reach, use our influence and gain respect outside our circle. We find we can understand others and get understood by them by building bridges. Our conduct engenders increasing coordination, cooperation, communication and commitment. We feel others have got our back, scout the horizon and guard our flank as we take risks. When this freedom is obstructed, we cannot cross lines departmental lines or penetrate silos. We're careful to stay out of the cross fire of turf battles and character assassination attempts. We learn to feel safe inside bunkers, fortress mentalities and isolation chambers.

Free to be outspoken: When it's safe to tell it like it is, we feel free at work. We can speak our mind, call the shots and voice our opinions. We will discover if we get branded as a complainer or respected as a keen observer of what's unfolding. We can point out when the emperor's new clothes are vaporware or leadership is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. When this freedom has left the building, we experience intense conformity pressures. Everyone appears to be buying into the propaganda and checking their brains at the door. Evidence of brainwashing suggests it's better to be silent and compliant than observant and outspoken.

Free to take ownership: When we feel good about taking initiative to follow-through and protect our investment, we've found freedom on the job. We discover it's rewarding to care about more than we're required to by the policy manual and job description. We can show interest beyond our scope of duties and benefit from stretching our comfort zone. We get a better sense of our strengths and weaknesses as we test our limits and take our game up a level. When freedom is a distant dream at work, we get punished for taking added responsibility. We hide behind our job description and volunteer for nothing. We learn lay low and stay out of the searchlight in the prison yard. We may be so overworked by mandatory overtime or the rework of others ineptitude, there's no time to take initiative. If fear is instilled by cleaning house, downsizing, or promoting the kiss-ups, the motivation to act like owners will vanish.

Sometimes freedom is there to be found and enjoyed on the job. In other situations, its nowhere to be seen and cannot be found. Considering these four ways to find freedom will help you decide if there's more freedom on your job to be discovered or not. You can then get confidence that you're seeing you job accurately. You can rest assured that you're not missing something, blinding yourself to the obvious or passing up opportunities.


  1. Oh wow! I find so much to nod to in your post that my head nearly fell off. Sadly I am not currently free to explain why and in what way, but watch this space...

  2. Thanks for the nod! I'm looking forward to learning more of your experiences.