“I’d like to ride that terrifying roller coaster of unknown length, in the dark, for an uncertain number of times, without any guarantee that my seatbelt is fully functioning or that the ride has been inspected anytime in the past ten years,” said no one ever.


I’m not ashamed to say that I don’t like roller coasters at all. I don’t like them even when I’m sure that the seatbelt works and the inspection certificate is up to date. I am a control freak of the highest magnitude. But even those who do enjoy thrill-seeking in their personal life probably need to feel that they have some element of control over their work.


Autonomy matters. In fact, it matters so much that the degree to which you have control—over the work you do, the team with which you do it, and the projects on which you are engaged—has a direct impact on your performance at work. And these days, workers tend to expect more autonomy and control over their work. Technology, in particular, has opened up new opportunities for us to do all kinds of work. We can do it from anywhere—our offices, our cars, or the other side of the globe.


Having confidence in our level of self-determination at work allows us to control our world, to feel protected and safe, and to know that we have options. Control is so important. Various studies show workers are more likely to take a job with more control rather a job with more power.


Control can come in many forms, from input on performance metrics to salary and perks to workspace design. For some, control is the flexibility to manage the burdens of the sandwich generation—those of us who are taking care of both young kids and aging parents. For others, it’s having a say in the kinds of leaders under whom you work. Perhaps you are seeking direct control over how hard you work. Or, how much money you earn through sales and commissions. Or you may require greater influence over whether your working pace looks more like the roller coaster or the merry-go-round.


When we have our calling firmly in place … and when we can connect the work we do to serving that calling … and when we understand how that work contributes to the life we want to live … finally, we need to have some ability to control how we go about our work.