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Autonomy Keeps Employees Happy, Study Finds


Contrary to popular belief, having a difficult job doesn’t make employees unhappy. Having someone dictate how they do that difficult job is what bothers employees most, a new study finds.

Employee satisfaction is tied directly to how much freedom employees have to perform the job their own way, the research showed.

“If workers were required to seek approval for every action and decision they made, they would be inefficient and may even miss time-sensitive opportunities,” writes study leader Greg A. Chung-Yan, professor at Ontario-based University of Windsor. “They would also feel constrained by the necessity to seek approval and this might negatively impact innovation.”

In other words, employees succeed on the job based on their own initiative, and by using their own set of skills and creativity, they will feel more personally invested in the company.

The findings, published this month in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, are not surprising, according to Maynard Brusman, psychologist and an executive coach at San Franciso-based Working Resources.

“People are more likely to be happy at work if motivation comes from within,” Brusman tells BusinessNewsDaily. “They will perform better, engage more, and be more committed if what they do comes from core of who they are.”

Brusman said that finding employees who are interested in what they do and allowing them to approach the job from their own perspective – while still working toward the company’s overall goals – will work better than the ‘carrot and stick’ approach.

Chung-Yan acknowledges that while employee independence makes for happier employees, everyone still has to focus on the company’s core mission.

“The need for workers who can and will adapt to their work environment is nothing new, and proper selection and retention of top talent will continue to be a priority for organizations in the foreseeable future,” Chung-Yan writes. “However, employers will also need to attend to the structural, organizational and procedural features of work to ensure that unnecessary constraints are not impeding important discretionary behaviors workers must enact to adapt and thrive in their workplace.”

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.