5 Practices to Foster an Autonomous Working Environment

As a leader in a company, you should want to empower your employees. Whether you are the CEO or manage a team of two, your leadership is going to have a dramatic impact on your team’s effectiveness and effort.

No one wants to be micromanaged. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to foster an environment that promotes autonomy. 

What is autonomy? 

Well, within the context of workplace culture, it is having the freedom to shape your work environment to perform to the best of your ability.

This doesn’t mean isolating from colleagues, never asking for help, or doing whatever you, whenever you want. 

Why is it important? 

Employees would rather have freedom over their work, than more control. A recent study from the Sage Psychology Journal showed that “gaining autonomy quenches the desire for bower, but gaining influence does not.” 

Research also shows that when employees are given more freedom within the confines of their domain, their job satisfaction rises. It is also shown to increase motivation and happiness, with decreased employee turnover. Both organizations and workers benefit by allowing more freedom in the workplace.

Here are 5 ways to increase the autonomy of your employees: 

  1. Don’t be overly critical when mistakes are made 

Mistakes are going to be made, and errors are too often labeled as failures. When an employee makes a mistake, it’s more than likely that they are putting in a good amount of effort. Psychologist Hans Schroeder found that errors are more closely related to “effort and rebounding,” rather than a lack of trying. 

As a manager, it’s important that your employees feel empowered to make mistakes. If they are too worried about avoiding mistakes, they’re not going to be as productive as they should be. 

These are also great learning moments. When employees are comfortable making mistakes, they will be more transparent with you when they occur. This gives you the opportunity to analyze what went wrong, and help them adjust moving forward. 

  1. Ask for their input 

Your team wants to be heard. Giving your team autonomy means you need to understand the limits of their capabilities. In order to understand these limitations, you have to ask. Their input will also give you valuable perspectives into your business. They may have insights into what some of the weaknesses and gaps on your team might be. 

It’s also key that you do something with the information they give you when you ask for input. If for example, you were to send out a survey on the state of company culture with no follow-up action, it sends a message to your team that you don’t take their feedback seriously. 

  1. Build trust (it must be a two-way street) 

Trust ties into everything. Autonomy can’t exist in your organization without trust. A recent study from Entrepreneur, looking at feedback scores on employee engagement showed that “when an employee feels that she is trusted by her manager, she is far more likely to be engaged than when that trust isn’t present.”

Micromanaging is an easy way to disintegrate trust within your organization. If your employees don’t feel that you trust them, they will experience lower job satisfaction and will be more likely to move on to new opportunities. 

  1. Allow “ownership” of their activities and projects

People want to feel valued. When an individual contributor on your team feels that the work that they did is actually yours or the companies, it becomes more difficult for them to see the meaning in it. 

This does not mean that your team should have an “all me” attitude, but it does mean that you need to properly attribute credit when it is due. Your employees want to be recognized when their work has a meaningful impact on the business. 

  1. Provide them with the necessary tools 

An easy way to lower engagement is to have out of date technology that doesn’t allow them to perform their jobs effectively. Setting your people up with the right tools will help them achieve their goals, quotas, etc., making them much more productive.  

Providing them with up to date technology also builds trust. It shows that you are willing to invest in them and their goals. The more equipped your team is with the proper tools, the less hand-holding they will need!