Will you risk not empowering your employees

Ole I Iversen

Employees who have a say in how they do their jobs are happy and perform better. They are also more satisfied with their boss, according to a study.


Employees who experience participation, influence and flexibility in their work situation - job autonomy - are more motivated, happier and do a better job. This is well-documented in research.

Despite this, many managers choose micro-management, follow-up and control to make sure that the work gets done. This is counter-productive, kills motivation and can lead to higher turnover.

I have conducted a study among 482 Norwegian managers and their subordinates. The findings left no room for doubt, and confirm what others have discovered. There is a strong and distinct link between the employees’ perception of job autonomy and their internal motivation to do a good job.

More satisfied with the boss

The employees were also asked to evaluate their boss on key leadership abilities that separate outstanding leaders from average leaders.

The model contains expertise in areas including information management, leadership, interpersonal competence and business sense.

Managers with employees who have a high degree of perceived job autonomy received consistently better assessments on all of the 20 skills included in the leadership competence model.

It is not all that surprising that employees that are highly motivated are satisfied with their boss. But it is noteworthy that they give them top scores in all areas. Even good leaders usually have some weaknesses.

A leader’s most important task

This could mean that job autonomy either directly or indirectly also affects how satisfied employees are with their manager. If so, this means that job autonomy is even more important than previously believed.

If you want your staff to view you as a good leader, you should delegate responsibility and tasks, and be ready and willing to offer support and assistance, if necessary.

One of a leader’s most important tasks is to organise the work so that employees experience job autonomy, for example by being empowered to make independent decisions, organise their own working day, choosing approaches and the sequence in how they solve their tasks. Are you willing to risk not doing this?

Iversen, O.I. (2017: Employees Perceived job autonomy and Rating of Superior’s Managerial Competencies. Study presented at the annual conference of the European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP), held from 17-20 May 2017 in Dublin, Ireland.

This information article was previously published on Ole I. Iversen’s professional blog on 18 May 2017.

Text: Adjunct Associate Professor Ole I. Iversen with BI Norwegian Business School.

Published 23. April 2018

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