Workplace Autonomy (Part 2)

I recently coached an executive who was referred to me because his micromanaging ways were driving his team members nuts. It was clear from the start of our sessions that his view of the world and that of his team members were quite different. The executive felt he was being helpful and supportive. Team members were demoralized because they felt the boss was meddling in their work and limiting their freedom to do the job the way in which they felt was best.

I pulled out a copy of Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, and suggested to my coachee that he administer Pink’s Workplace Autonomy Audit, in order to determine differences between his perception and those of team members when it comes to autonomy issues. Pink’s instructions:

Ask everyone in your department or on your team to respond to these four questions with a numerical ranking (using a scale of 0-10, with 0 meaning “almost none” and 10 meaning a “huge amount”.)


1. How much autonomy do you have over your tasks as work—your main responsibilities and what you do in a given day?


2. How much autonomy do you have over your time at work—for instance, when you arrive, when you leave, and how you allocate your hours each day?


3. How much autonomy do you have over your team at work—that is, to what extent are you able to choose the people with whom you typically collaborate?


4. How much autonomy do you have over your technique at work—how you actually perform the main responsibilities of your job?

Pink recommends calculating the total of all four questions and a separate calculation for task, time, team and technique. That is recommended to help detect a problem in one particular area.

As you might expect, there was a huge gap between what my coaching client thought was the amount of freedom he was granting and what his team members were telling him. It was a tough pill to swallow, but was a real eye-opener that served as a catalyst for positive change in the way my client managed his team

It will take a bit of courage for many people to administer the Workplace Autonomy Audit. If you do, and subsequently determine there are some areas that need to be addressed, its time for some heart-to-heart internal conversations.

The first step in achieving the right level of autonomy is to determine how much actually exists. Then, it becomes a question of how important is more autonomy for your team, and developing strategies to get there. I’ll write about that in my next post.