Declare Your Own Autonomy in Business and at Work


“Carrots & Sticks are so last Century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.”

– Dan Pink, Drive

In the course of my work as an HR Practitioner, the lack of autonomy for individuals working within an organization’s culture can be a nonstop source of strife, professional stagnation and substandard morale.

However, autonomy in business and at work is not a one-way street.  Autonomy is not bestowed as a privilege by the leadership of an organization alone. Autonomy can also be created by each individual in an organization – autonomy is not necessarily a privilege of organizational hierarchy. It is an act of professional creativity, discomfort, risk and ultimately, self-empowerment. It is situational leadership in action. And while organizations place limits on us all – for if autonomy is poetry, organizations will, more often than not, only allow us to write the poetry of autonomy in the rigid boundaries of iambic pentameter. But within those boundaries, we can create and lead autonomy where there has been none before, and bring ourselves and others in from the margins.

Some past examples of autonomy in my own experience include but are not limited to:

  • Driving regular project updates to my immediate supervisor, rather than waiting for them to ask me for an update, almost eliminating the need for any micro-managing;
  • Understanding the needs of my organization (e.g., HR serves an organization by saving money), by developing then executing money-saving initiatives such as in-sourcing recruitment and the drafting of complaint responses;
  • Volunteering for and successfully executing initiatives that directly contributed to bottom-line savings and organizational success outside of my stated job description (while meeting / exceeding my stated job description).

How will you declare your autonomy to the mutual benefit of you and your organization, in business and at work?

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