Job Autonomy

How Job Autonomy Enhances Positive Work-related Outcomes

Job autonomy, among the five job characteristics Opens in new window, may be described as the extent to which a job allows freedom, independence, and discretion to schedule work, make decisions, and choose the methods used to perform tasks (Morgeson and Humphrey, 2006).

In other words, Autonomy reflects the degree to which jobholders have freedom, independence, and decision-making authority in their jobs. This implies that employees with job autonomy will have more freedom to determine how they do their jobs themselves.

The concept of job autonomy first came to prominence from the work of Hackman and Oldham (1976). They mentioned that the five job characteristics (variety, identity, autonomy, significance, and feedback) motivate employees to achieve better job performance.

A sense of autonomy is the bedrock of motivation towards employee engagementOpens in new window. A number of HR professionals believe it provides a degree of self governance and gives the employees the freedom and empowerment to deliver excellent on-the-job performance, which translates into organizational productivity Opens in new window and business performance.

Hackman and Oldham (1976) suggested that employees can have higher motivation in autonomously designed jobs than in regulated jobs.

Similarly, findings show that job autonomy enhances employee intrinsic motivation through recognizing a wider range of skills and knowledge as important for their jobs. Piccolo and Colquitt (2002) reported that job autonomy mediated the relationship between transformational leadership and intrinsic motivation.

Impacts of Job Autonomy on Employees' Performance

Job autonomy plays an important role in enhancing employees’ performance in organization, because it creates a sense of responsibility among employees.

Humphrey, Nahrgang, and Morgeson (2007) applied meta-analysis study found that perception of job autonomy is consistently positively related to intrinsic motivation and work performance.

It is believed that when job autonomy increases, employees exhibit the self determination on performing their tasks and demonstrate better job performance.

When employees are highly autonomous in their work roles, their success depends on their own capabilities and their desire to complete the task. Therefore, they tend to feel greater responsibility for the success or failure of their efforts and, in general, greater job satisfaction. When there is low autonomy, employees tend to feel less accountable for the outcomes of their work.

Consider, for example, organizational trainers who teach a seminar that prepares participants to pass a national certification exam. These trainers may have little latitude in selecting the material to be covered in the course and often must employ a course design that is prescribed by the testing agency. They have little autonomy in conducting their jobs.

In contrast, consider trainers who teach a management development seminar that is intended to help participants learn more about their own management style.

These trainers are free to determine both the material to be covered and the methods by which it should be delivered. They are likely to feel more personal responsibility for their work than the trainers who deliver a prepackaged training seminar.

Tyagi (1985) found that job autonomy has positive impact on salesperon’s work performance. Eisenberger, Rhoades, and Cameron (1999) also found a positive relationship between self-determination perception and job performance.