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5 Signs an Employee Can Handle More Autonomy at Work

5 Signs an Employee Can Handle More Autonomy at Work

There’s an old saying that says if you love something, you should set it free. For leaders in the workplace, the equivalent of this saying is giving an employee greater autonomy. To be clear, autonomy is “the degree to which the job provides substantial independence and discretion to the individual in scheduling the work and in determining the procedures to be used in carrying it out.” 

Simply put, giving an employee more autonomy means giving them greater freedom; and freedom is highly valued by today’s workforce. In fact, a report conducted by LinkedIn and Citigroup found that almost half of all employees surveyed would turn down a 20% pay raise if it meant retaining more control over how they do their work. 

Not to mention, organizations benefit from more autonomous employees too! As one study found, autonomy at work fosters: 

  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Proactive behavior and personal initiative
  • Creativity
  • Enthusiasm and commitment
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Out-of-the-box thinking
  • Entrepreneurial behavior

If you want to encourage these kinds of behaviors in your employees and are considering granting them greater autonomy, look for the following signs first to know if they're truly ready.

5 Signs To Give An Employee Greater Autonomy In the Workplace

  1. You Trust Their Judgment
  2. Their Track Record Is Solid
  3. They are Highly Accountable
  4. They Respect Boundaries
  5. They Ask for Help

5 Signs to Give Greater Autonomy in the Workplace - Niagara Institute


Do you know what your leadership style is? If not, take this quiz to find out!


1. you trust their judgment

The first and arguably most important is the trust you have in your employee’s judgment. Do they ask the right questions before taking action? Do they seek feedback or input? Do they stop and think through the consequences? These are all signs of an employee whose judgment you can trust and who will do well with a greater level of autonomy.


2. their track record is solid

An employee who is ready for more autonomy at work should meet or exceed, your expectations on a given task or project, every single time. These employees deliver consistently and can be counted on. Granted no one is perfect and there may have been some mistakes along the way. No matter, you should be confident that if you assign them something, it is going to be done on time, on budget, and to the best of their ability.


3. they are highly accountable

Employees who take their responsibilities seriously often hold themselves highly accountable for their actions and the outcomes of those actions. If something goes wrong or they make a mistake, they do not pass off the blame or try to escape its consequences. They are quick to own it and even quicker to put processes in place that minimize the chances of it happening again.


4. they respect the boundaries you set

An employee who can handle more autonomy at work is one who is respectful of any boundaries or parameters you set for them. Setting boundaries is critical for you as the leader to do as it can prevent a situation from getting out of hand, an employee getting in over their head, or a decision being made that otherwise should not have. To ensure none of this happens when you grant an employee from autonomy, make sure to clarify when they should tap into you and that if they aren’t sure, asking is never a bother, in fact, you encourage it.


5. they aren't shy about asking for help

An employee who you can trust with more autonomy is one who has historically raised their hand when they encounter a problem or a conflict at work they felt was beyond them. Asking for help from a leader is not a sign of weakness or inability, but rather of self-awareness and mindfulness, both of which contribute to the success of a more autonomous employee.



Higher organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and job performance are all some of the known benefits of granting employees greater autonomy at work. But did you know that one study found that job autonomy could further promote an employee’s self-development? This is incredibly important as “employees are valuable resources to promote the sustainable development of organizations. If employees continuously update their knowledge and improve themselves, it means that the knowledge base and human resource base of the organizations are always refreshed and updated.” 

Now that you know the benefits of autonomy at work are so far-reaching, use the listed signs to know when your employee is ready and also to develop up and comers to this point.

Do You Know Your Leadership Style? Take This Quiz and Find Out Now

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