As a young professional, how can I earn the freedom to take decisions?
Early career can be a hard time. You’re hungry to create impact. But you get bogged down by micromanagement, or by having to influence without authority, or you burn yourself out in the process of trying to prove your worth.
It need not be like this. Here’s what I have learned.
Two elements, more than anything, contribute to our feeling of having made a difference and, by extension, work satisfaction. This is the ‘job strain’ model (Karasek, 1979).
☑Decision latitude, or the freedom to take work-related decisions
☑Psychological demand, or work pressure
Many early career folks believe, like I used to, that their first big success will earn them the space to make their own decisions. But earning your stripes does not automatically lead to decision latitude. Your boss, business priorities, nature of work–one or all of these may change.
It’s important then to learn to create decision-making space for yourself. Here’s a suggestion: 𝘔𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘣𝘰𝘴𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺. There are a number of reasons to do so, the most important being your boss’s success is in your success.
Framing the problem thus energizes you to find ways to make the existing arrangement work. Here are 5 ways you can go about creating decision latitude for yourself:
1️⃣ Know what is important to your boss (what’s her North Star),
2️⃣ Know how she wants accountability (‘how does she prefer being updated)
3️⃣ Know what competence she takes pride in (don’t pit against her on her turf; leverage that to improve the quality of your output),
4️⃣ Tell her what kind of autonomy is important to you (the most common ways are 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰 and 𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘰 𝘥𝘰, but what to do can be problematic*), and
5️⃣ Finally, ask better questions to break any deadlock (‘what would have to be true for us to go with the alternative?’)
A good way to kickstart this process is to make your own 𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐫 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐮𝐚𝐥📔 where you capture all of this and more, and share it with your boss. It may even nudge her to reciprocate.
*Sometimes, you may face the inverse of this problem: 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐛𝐨𝐬𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐠𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐨𝐨 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐲𝐨𝐮’𝐫𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐟𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨. As a first-time manager I was guilty of giving autonomy without direction. This can be disorienting for young workers. The onus is on you to bring it to your manager’s notice because it is possible she’ll be, just like I was, surprised that someone wants to give up autonomy.