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  • Kick Ass Zombie Hunter

Let Employees Do It Their Way

One way and no U turn signs with row of palm trees on either side.

From a young age, it’s clear human beings value autonomy. Anyone with kids has, without a doubt, heard the phrase, “I can do it myself.”

However, many of our workplaces forget this basic human need, despite the fact that autonomy is one of the most important intrinsic drivers of threat and reward in the brain.

What does this mean?

It means when we are given choices in the way we do our work, we feel good. We are more engaged with the work we do and more committed to the organization.

When we are not given choices or have those choices taken away from us, we don’t feel good. It activates the fight-or-flight response in our brains – narrowing our focus and impacting everything from decision-making and memory to collaboration and creativity. We become disengaged and less committed to the organization.

Autonomy means allowing people to work in a way that best suits them and their strengths – allowing them to exercise their skills, decision-making, and creativity in their own unique way. This could mean how they do their work tasks, who they do those tasks with, or even how they decorate their workspace. Opportunities to provide people with choices are everywhere in our organizations.

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean free reign. Workplaces that provide high levels of autonomy cultivate the right environment for it to work.

Create a Framework

High autonomy organizations have a strong purpose, priorities, and principles that employees work towards and by. Leaders provide them with clear objectives, outline best practices, and provide guidance.

Train for Competence

Choice is of little use if people don’t feel confident exercising it. High autonomy organizations build employees’ skills and abilities and work with them to increase their confidence. They also provide them with the tools and resources they need to succeed.


Leaders in these organizations understand the importance of autonomy to engagement and motivation. They not only provide opportunities for autonomy to be exercised but set expectations for employees to do so. They also recognize employees when they do, even if the results weren’t as expected.

Psychological Safety

Letting people make their own decisions means more opportunities for mistakes and failures. High autonomy organizations require high levels of psychological safety, so employees feel comfortable coming forward when they are stuck, need help, or have made a mistake.

People wither when they are contained and controlled. They thrive when they are trusted and supported to do their best and given good reason to do so.



Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being no autonomy and 10 being high autonomy, how much autonomy do you feel you have at work?

  2. What impact does autonomy have on how you feel at work and the quality of your work?

  3. Where would you like to have more autonomy at work?


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