Freedom in the workplace

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Danielle Blanch, Reporter

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A recent study has found employees who are given responsibility and freedom at work are more likely to thrive.

The research, conducted partly by Curtin University Researcher Dr Amy Tian, determined that empowering employees with leadership increased productivity, creativity and a willingness to take on extra work.

Dr Tian said in a statement, “Increasing competition in the business landscape, economical shifts and technological developments have brought with them changes in organisational structures.”

“Alongside efforts to maximise efficiency, many employers are flattening their hierarchies and therefore expanding the responsibilities of lower level employees and the complexities of their work roles,” she said.

Dr Eyal Gringart, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at ECU, told ECU Daily, “There is evidence in Organisational Psychology that teaches us that empowerment of employees, generally speaking, leads to a better outcome in many ways.”

Dr Gringart said the study is subjective to a particular environment, “If you are sitting in a production line, and your job is to fit a particular screw on a particular bolt, and that’s what you do all day, thinking creatively is not what’s generally going to happen, or be encouraged.”

Autonomy in the workplace gives an employee the freedom to make decisions for themselves.

But sometimes the pressure to be held accountable if things go wrong can cause unnecessary stress. “What social psychological research has found already is that when you give people choices they can have difficulties in their own psychological wellbeing,” said Dr Gringart.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice, explores the argument that choice can make you blame yourself for failure and question decisions before you make.

His point is that this is where autonomy can fall short, if you have full responsibility for your actions, only you can take the blame if they fail.

According to a study by Scwartz and Hazel Rose Markus, “Even when choice can foster freedom, empowerment, and independence, it is not an unalloyed good. Too much choice can produce a paralysing uncertainty, depression and selfishness.”

Dr Gringart explained that autonomy is great to the point where a person feels that they are meaningful and empowered, but beyond a certain point the employee may feel burdened, threatened and unsure of whether they’re doing a good job.

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About the Writer
Danielle Blanch, ECU Reporter

Danielle is a Fashion Stylist by day and a Lifestyle Blogger by night. A recent 5-year stint in Melbourne fuelled her love of fashion, coffee, culture...

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Freedom in the workplace