How to gain independence at work

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Independence at work237 years ago, the 13 American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, complete with a list of grievances against King George III and a philosophy for how they wished their own nation to exist. Still today, the Declaration of Independence is regarded by Americans as a defining moment in American history and lends inspiration to those fighting for freedom in their lives.

While it may not be in your best interest to draft an email listing all the ways you believe your co-workers and boss have suppressed you, you can gain independence from them at work. Follow the example of our forefathers and you can create a more independent environment to work in.

Identify the factors that make you feel restrained at work
One of the main functions of the declaration was to establish why the American colonies felt justified in separating from Great Britain. You can do the same and identify the factors that make you feel restrained at work. Are the hours or work schedule too demanding? Do your co-workers expect you to cover part of their workload? Does your boss treat you like a personal assistant? Are you being passed over for promotions or raises?

It’s common to experience some dissatisfaction in your job, but it’s up to you to identify what makes you feel that way and what you can do about it. The first step in making a change is recognizing the problem. What comes next is differentiating what’s part of your job and what you can work to change.

Establish your expectations for your job
The forefathers believed that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” While this is an honorable belief to found a country on, it may not be as realistic an expectation to have in your job.

Are the factors you identified as holding you back at work a part of your job description? If so, you may make more progress by looking for a new job that is a better match to your work style and needs. But if there are parts of your job that you can change without having to quit, such as work habits with co-workers or leading a project, now’s the time to establish some changes.

Write your own job description for the job you have now, as you’d like to see it. Does your ideal description include flexible work hours for family care? You may propose telecommuting once a week. Would you like to gain management experience? Create or identify a project you’re qualified to work on, and speak to your boss about taking the lead this time, or working as second in command. You can create more independence at work simply by breaking patterns and expectations that have held you back in the past.

Create your own path to independence
After identifying what has restrained you at work, as well as establishing your expectations for the job you’d like to have, you can begin creating your own path to independence.

Begin by making small adjustments to your day-to-day responsibilities. If you feel too dependent on checking your inbox during and after work, gradually change to checking once an hour or speak to your manager about what’s appropriate for staying in touch after business hours. Communicate that you want to remain reliable and easy to get in touch with, but that your productivity can get sidetracked by too many conversations going on at once.

For larger issues, such as work relationships or moving up in your career, shift your tone to a more polite and diplomatic stance. If co-workers regularly expect you to help with their workload, begin removing yourself from the dynamic. Say you’re glad to help this time, since soon you won’t have as much free time due to the new responsibilities you’re shifting your focus to. Also speak with your manager, explaining that you have talents that are going unused, and suggest where you could be better used.

The key to gaining your independence is demonstrating that you have career goals and want to put in the work to make them happen. The forefathers worked together, made a plan and took action to create a better future for themselves. You can do the same in your work and gain independence in your career.

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