Welcome to the second installment of my little series on freedom. If you want to start from the beginning, check out the previous blog, “Individual Freedom.” 

We’ve all got to get up and go to work at some point in our lives—with the rare exception of trust-fund kids, I suppose, but even most of them get bored and end up doing something. Even rock stars have to stumble into the recording studio in the morning and the British monarchy can get busy waving from the backseat of a car from time to time.

No, we’ve all got bills to pay and frankly, there are too many hours in the day to sit around watching TV without going a bit crazy. Many of us are fortunate enough to love our jobs, but many of us dread going in every day.

Why is that, I wonder? Sure, some folks have labor-intensive work that wears them out physically. But even then, there’s a satisfaction to being productive and watching your efforts move along some visible change in the world.

I tend to think it has to do with dehumanization to some degree. Our society (mine at least) seems to adhere to the principle that people are more productive when they are being controlled, when they’re micromanaged at every turn. This is a major factor in that pervasive sense of disenfranchisement in society, that feeling that you are just a cog in the machine, a number, a statistic, a replaceable node in the unfeeling, uncaring employment network.

This sort of feeling has a negative effect a very important and fundamental human element—willingness. People go into work, half-heartedly do what they’re told, and go home.

I haven’t got any statistics, but I would venture a guess that most people who feel that way are among the millions who work for large, sprawling organizations with multiple departments, hierarchies of authority, several offices spread over a large geographic area, and thousands of employees. You know, the kind of place where your boss’s boss doesn’t know your name.

Considering we’ve all got to work, and often some of the best jobs with the best opportunities and highest pay are in these types of organizations, we should, as a society, find a way to keep people employed, make sure these important organizations have enough employees, and have a happy, productive workforce.

The remedy for this is two-sided. First, realize that the only thing you personally have total control of is your inner self. In this respect, freedom is yours. We work best when faced with a challenge that is appropriate for us. To accept a challenge, to immerse oneself in it, to own it personally, and to persevere are the keys to creativity. It may be possible that your job simply isn’t challenging and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe you’re in the wrong line of work. Or maybe, it’s not your fault and the organization is hopelessly flawed. Regardless, your attitude is extremely important in life and work, and unless you get it sorted out, it’ll likely follow you wherever you work.

That being said, organizations—and more accurately, management within organizations—bear much of the responsibility for encouraging, not suppressing workplace autonomy. This is a function of the management culture and their first step is to get rid of that pesky idea that controlling employees is helpful to the bottom line.

Really, management’s job is to set the immediate workplace context. That means, for example, the social media manager at a company creates an environment where everyone in his/her department knows what they are trying to accomplish (get more engagement on Twitter, or more friends on Facebook or something). Within that context, employees are given maximum autonomy.

Of course, the social media manager has a manager who sets his/her context, and that person has a manager who sets their context, and so on. Still, in a well-functioning organization, these managers and those they oversee are aware of the context in which they operate, but are allowed as much leeway as possible to simply get their job done. Imagine how totally revolutionary that would be.

(Incidentally, this comes from THEE’s Levels of Work framework—which is not yet posted yet though it should be very soon. You can, however, get a taste of it while reading about Authority, Hierarchy & Power and the notion of a Bad Boss.)

In the end, life in an organization means alignment with the goals of that organization—which are not necessarily your personal goals, which means that total freedom is impossible—but hey, that’s just life. Stick around next week for freedom in society.

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