In his new book Drive, Daniel Pink advocates a work environment that promotes autonomy, or “acting with choice”. As background, he summarizes a Cornell University study of 320 small businesses.
Of the companies in the study, half granted autonomy and the other half used “top down” command and control. The businesses with an environment of autonomy grew four times faster than the control-oriented businesses. Not only that, the companies with greater autonomy had about one-third less employee turnover than the more controlling businesses.
From a Biblical point of view, this makes sense. For example, God delegates authority to humanity in Genesis 1:26, “… let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Reaching Your Full Potential at Work
With autonomy, we can also better express our God-given gifts at work. This idea is echoed in 1 Corinthians 12:12-16, “…the body is a unit, although it is made up of many parts; and though all the parts are many, they form one body…if they were all one part, where would the body be?”
Autonomy further allows different perspectives to be considered, which generally leads to better decision making. We find this idea in Proverbs 15:22, “…plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
In addition, greater autonomy at work leads people to feel more trusted, and eager to prove their worthiness of that trust. Consider Proverbs 25:13, “…like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters.”
Controlling and Stifling?
Are you an employer who might be too controlling? How can you establish a culture of greater autonomy in the organization you help to lead?
Growing and Developing?
Are you an employee confronted with a control-oriented work environment? How can you “plant seeds” for more autonomy by talking with your leadership?