A recent trend has popped up at work, and it might sound surprising to some employers.
Although many employees desire a degree of power in the workplace, they would overwhelmingly prefer autonomy.
In other words: a position that allows you the freedom to do (within reason) what you want to do and how you want to do it is much more appealing to employees than a role which involves managing a team of underlings.
In one experiment by the University of Cologne, half of the participants were asked to imagine that they already held a high-autonomy role, and were being offered a high-power job where they would be managing a team of subordinates. The other half were asked to imagine the scenario the other way around: already managing a team, they were being offered the chance to trade that for more freedom.
The vast majority of people chose autonomy. 74% of subjects turned down the promotion to a position of power, and 62% accepted the promotion to a more autonomous role. Putting it simply, people were almost two and a half times more likely to a take a job that gave them more freedom.
It’s true that humanity has always been attracted to power, which of course reflects itself in the workplace. Individuals often express a desire to take on a more powerful role at work. However, they become less interested in this when they remember the enjoyment they get from working autonomously.
So how can we, as leaders, take this on board? Take it as a reminder: if you want to engage with your team, trust them to do their jobs. They value the freedom more than you expect.