Independence and being in control of our own destiny are natural human desires. But who knew how much they influenced us in the workplace?
Research has shown that “job autonomy has positive work outcomes: greater work satisfaction, and less intent to transfer and intentions to leave” according to the authors of a study conducted in Taiwan, that surveyed 1,380 staff across 230 community health centres.
Other studies have highlighted that employees with higher responsibility over their line of work correlated with reduced turnover rates, amongst nursing assistants. Another study found that autonomy helped to reduce negative emotions amongst customer service employees during stressful situations at work.
According to Quarts, Steve Maier, a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Boulder, found that stressors we don’t have control over are far more damaging to health than stressors we feel we have input in. This was supported by a study of British civil servants, which found less incidents of coronary heart disease amongst workers in higher ranks.
Assigning candidates more control over their work can help to recruit and retain good talent. Research conducted using more than 2,000 people across three continents found that “people were nearly two and a half times more likely to take a job that gave them more autonomy than they were to want a job that gave them more influence,” according to a report in New York Magazine. This preference for autonomy was also mirrored in teamwork too, if all members had the same goals.
However, with collective goals to reach, the amount of autonomy that should be given to employees is a tough decision for managers. David Rock, Executive Director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, advised in Psychology Today to give a "sense of autonomy" to workers, but not to overwhelm them with responsibility in order to meet targets.
He said: “Instead of defining the exact process someone has to follow, try defining the end result really clearly, and outlining the boundaries of what behaviours are okay, then let people create within this frame. Autonomous decisions are decisions people will get behind.”