Want to Motivate Your Workers? Give Them Autonomy!

What do you think motivates people to do a good job? What would motivate you? Money? Sure most of us would say that. What about autonomy, the freedom to do the job the way we want? What about the value of doing a job creatively?

The freedom to do my job the way I envision it has made me more productive
than I've ever been in my professional life. I can't tell you how much I love it!

Daniel Pink, author of Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, writes about how intrinsic motivation is quite fragile. You can kill the love of a job by making it a drudgery. On the other hand, if you liberate a worker from the burden of rules and scripts you might be surprised by their jump in productivity.

His best example of high performance through autonomy is Zappo's, the online shoe company. Listen to this quick interview, aired on Morning Edition on NPR, and hear how their telephone operators became top-rated in the industry for customer relations.

If you're
an employer or worker, what is your opinion on this?


  • Very interesting Dr. Aletta! I learned in a leadership class that money only motivates a worker for 3 paychecks, then it’s back to the same ‘ol same ‘ol. A boss needs to constantly think of creative ways to motivate folks to keep from falling into mediocrity….

  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    This point is very true in the non-profit workplace. The pay is usually lower than the for profit workplace for most jobs yet those who work for a non profit usually believe in what they are working for and it makes for a very cooperative and happy place to work regardless of the pay. The rewards come from the good being done not the paycheck.

  • jmele

    At the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, we have believed this for a long time. The American workplace has changed – workers are no longer paid to work finite tasks during specific times during the day. We’re paid to be creative problem solvers and to do a competent job. We should be managed accordingly – allowed the flexibility to define our jobs, as well as guidance in supervision to grow productively.

  • Yes, and I don’t think it has to be crazy, whacko creative, just some room to wiggle, don’t you think?
    I had a job once that allowed me to work out of a home office. It worked great until a new Board President I answered to wanted to know what I did every minute of the day. I tried to work with him, but his distrust and micromanaging killed my motivation, so I quit.
    He could have used your leadership course.

  • Dear SD,
    What an excellent example of non-monetary compensation! Not-for-profits are the unsung heroes of our communities. It makes sense that they would be good places to work when like minded join forces to do good. Thank you for pointing that out.

  • So what you are saying is that old-fashioned rule-bound management comes from the manufacturing assembly line, by the piece kind of work we used to do. That model of work is obsolete, as is the management style that went with it. Thank you for sharing this observation. It sounds like you and your organization could have written the book “Drive” a long time ago. I hope you’ve been successful in implementing needed change for your workers.


Leave a comment


Email(will not be published)*


Your comment*

Submit Comment

© Copyright Explore Whats Next - Designed by Pexeto