Workers take on side hustles not just for the money, but also to compensate for limited control in their traditional jobs. Credit: Photo by cottonbro studio on

One thing that’s become clear in the past few tumultuous—and for many, traumatic—years is that it’s easy to feel like there is no control in our lives. Control is a basic psychological need that helps people feel like they have agency, from how they live to where they work. One area where people have tried to wrestle back control is around work.

As a Rice University business school professor and author, I’ve examined through my research, teaching and readership the complex relationships between employees and their employers for nearly two decades. The aftermath of the pandemic is the latest iteration of a timeless negotiation between labor and management over control that took on added significance these past few years.

The pandemic accelerated a development that began years ago when workers realized they needed to take on more responsibility for directing their careers. This major shift reflects a potentially exciting but also unnerving reality for millions of workers.

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