Employees Value Workplace Autonomy

By: Marie Donlon

Handing employees the reins in terms of control of their workflow is likely to result in a more competent and connected team of high-performing employees who are better motivated, engaged and even more loyal, according to research from the University of Melbourne.

Publishing their findings in the journal Motivation and Emotion, when employees are given autonomy over their work, workplace well-being improves and employees will flourish, according to the data.

"We found better workplace wellbeing and motivation when employees were not reliant on external events like rewards or sanctions," said Melbourne Graduate School of Education study author Gavin Slemp.

"Our study showed that autonomy support leads to positive outcomes like intrinsic motivation, wellness, engagement and more committed and loyal employees, no matter the national culture," Dr. Slemp said.

"We explored these leadership behaviors in studies that had accumulated more than 30,000 employees from all over the world and results were similar no matter the location."

Researchers concluded that employees who are self-motivated don’t generally need rewards as the reward is already there in the shape of autonomy.

"These practices have a positive influence on employee work motivation, performance and psychological functioning. Employees are less likely to suffer from burnout," Dr. Slemp said.

"They might seek out new challenges and learning opportunities or take steps to develop relationships with peers. Decades of research document the positive effects of satisfying these three needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness — and autonomy support is an important contributor."

The study is published in the journal Motivation and Emotion.