What’s it: Autonomy refers to the degree to which employees have freedom and independence in carrying out their roles and making decisions about their work. Giving autonomy is one way to motivate. Employees have greater respect for the company because they trust and value them by not only giving them more responsibility and control for their work. But, the company also gives them more flexibility to self-actualize and organize their work life.
Why is autonomy important?
Autonomy in the workplace is important to increase employee satisfaction. The company gives them more opportunities for employees to organize their work lives. Thus, they feel motivated to carry out their daily routines and develop their abilities.
Higher satisfaction and motivation can lead to higher productivity. By having greater influence over the work, employees have more involvement in their roles and are more responsible for their results. So, they work harder to get the best results. Then, they seek to develop problem-solving and better performers to gain a higher position and a greater sense of accomplishment.
Where does autonomy apply?
Companies with a decentralized organizational structure give more autonomy to employees. Lower-level employees and management have more flexibility to manage their own lives. Meanwhile, upper management takes more roles in more strategic aspects such as target and strategy planning.
On the other hand, under a centralized and bureaucratic organizational structure, the company supervises more. Thus, employees have less autonomy and participation.
Company culture and leadership style are other factors. Autonomy is common under a democratic environment with autonomous leadership, where the leader gives more freedom and authority to employees to make decisions relevant to their position. In addition, leaders also provide resources and facilities to support them in carrying out their roles effectively. They encourage employees to develop themselves, organize their work lives, and develop their own problem-solving.
On the other hand, such opportunities are hard to find under authoritarian leadership. Leaders take a dominant role in making decisions, managing work, and supervising employees directly.
What are the advantages of autonomy?
Higher involvement and motivation. Employees become more responsible for their own work and results. The company gives them the freedom to work their way. As a result, they control their success, allowing them to try their best.
Higher productivity. Since having greater responsibility for their own success, employees are eager to perform better and more efficiently. So, by doing so, they can achieve success in their roles and careers.
Moreover, autonomy boosts not only individual productivity but also the business as a whole. For example, managers can have more time to take on roles in strategic planning and organizing resources instead of spending time supervising and controlling employees.
Satisfy the need to be appreciated. For example, employees feel the company values them by giving them the freedom to organize their work. In addition, the company recognizes and trusts them to develop themselves and live their own working lives, including problem-solving.
Encourage more creativity. Each employee often has a unique approach to completing tasks and solving problems on the job. And autonomy allows them to do so. As a result, they can develop creativity and actualize their abilities. As a result, innovation can thrive because there is more creativity in the business.
Increase retention. Employees are happy with their work and enjoy their work life. So they don’t want to leave it because they probably won’t find it anywhere else.
Train leadership qualities. Giving employees the space to manage themselves and their own work lives encourages independent thinking, problem-solving and creative thinking. They are less regulated, so they become leaders themselves.
Promote work-life balance. Employees self-manage their work lives, including when and how they get work done. So, they can prioritize routines according to their needs.
What are the disadvantages of autonomy?
Unclear direction. Autonomy does not always lead to better performance. For example, some employees may be confused and frustrated. They feel as if management is letting them work aimlessly. This is because management does not provide clear directions, including targets to be aimed at, what work to do, boundaries for decision making, and criteria for success.
Manager’s latent reluctance. Employee performance determines how successfully the manager does his job. When giving an employee more freedom, he risks their success to the employee. For this reason, he tends to be reluctant to grant autonomy. It’s in his interest to make sure employees work the way he wants them to, which means they need more control than freedom.
Employee unpreparedness. Allowing employees to organize and be responsible for work requires companies to equip them with adequate resources and training. Otherwise, it is difficult to get the desired result. Unpreparedness is likely to make employees perform not by the company’s demands. Then, increased stress and demotivation are more likely to occur when unprepared.
Resistant to external input. Employees are too focused on managing their own work lives, making them difficult to think outside the box. They assume they know more about themselves and ignore external viewpoints. Thus, it may make them resistant to external insight or input, even from their leaders.
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