The effects of autonomy on job satisfaction

Job satisfaction, a key factor for employee productivity and business growth, is a topic frequently studied in disciplines such as psychology, sociology, economics and management sciences. A study by Eurofound, “Measuring Job Satisfaction in Surveys”, found that the degree of personal autonomy that is perceived is often the most important and positive prognostic factor of job satisfaction. Conceptual autonomy can improve four different aspects of job satisfaction: commitment, participation, performance and motivation in the workplace.

Facets of autonomy

The studies have recognized three types of autonomy at work that can positively influence job satisfaction: the work method, work schedules and work criteria.

The autonomy of the work method refers to the degree of freedom that employees have in their work, such as the type of spreadsheet software they prefer to use. The working autonomy of work programming refers to the level of control that employees have in the programming, the sequence or the calendar of their work activities, such as the option of working from home versus attendance at the workplace. Criteria autonomy indicates the extent to which workers can choose to modify the standards used to evaluate performance. For example, employees can choose whether “deadlines” or “accuracy” better explain their work performance.


An employee with a degree of freedom in the workplace is more likely to remain committed to the organization. The commitment, also known as the organizational behaviour of citizenship, is linked to an employee of an organization, thus reducing the likelihood of job rotation. A committed employee is more likely to find the interests of the organization personally significant and perceives organizational well-being as a measure of job satisfaction.


While commitment joins the employees of an organization, motivation is a force that induces the action of employees. The autonomy in the workplace tends to improve the motivation of employees to perform the tasks assigned. At the heart of the motivation, the process is goal setting. Active motivated employees set goals for themselves in the workplace, and this sense of autonomy will likely strengthen their job satisfaction.


Involvement in work may seem similar to work motivation. Conceptually, the labour implication is not only the energizing force to complete the assigned tasks, but it is also the degree to which a person identifies psychologically with his work or the importance of the work in his self-image. Involvement with work refers to one’s identity and feeling of self-esteem. Autonomy at work is positively correlated with the involvement of employees. An employee with a degree of freedom is more likely to internalize their work life, perceive their work as an element of their global identity and obtain a higher level of job satisfaction.


It is a widely accepted concept in labour-management studies, including the Eurofound document, that autonomy in place of work improves performance and productivity. More evident in marketing and sales, but applicable to all careers and fields, is the fact that performance is often a significant predictor of the evaluation of an employer’s business. The greater the autonomy, the greater the performance at work, and the greater the comfort and confidence of work. This perception of a sense of security in employment and the potential for employment growth results in greater job satisfaction.

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