7 Ways to Encourage Employee Autonomy


Steve Jobs once said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice.” The public and private sectors are filled with people who seek opportunities to innovate programs, reinvigorate team goals and design award-winning systems to bring their organization closer to the leading edge of their market share, but rarely get the chance to share their concepts.

Often, when the cool projects or big ideas are set in motion only the chosen few staffers are selected to participate in groundbreaking achievements. This may leave out people who may have great ideas. After a while, this becomes an office culture mentality. Yet that may be changed when we start to “right-size” our thinking. This also includes opening up the door to the quiet few in your team so they can actively engage and participate in work discussions. We need to remember that the loudest voice in a meeting is not the only contributor to the group’s advancement.

So what happens when employees are not afforded the forum to share their wisdom? They tend to feel disconnected from the team, exhibit symptoms of low morale and disenchantment with their workplace.

Don’t get me wrong, there will always be the “Team A” players who leadership regularly picks to head up the highly visible projects. There will also be members of the team who will try crack that glass ceiling so their ideas can be heard by leadership and other employees. So how does one balance the scale? Consider using some of the tips below to encourage your staff to find and use their voice.

7 Ways to Encourage Employee Autonomy

  1. Bring enthusiasm back into the work place. Challenge your employees to come up with great ideas and strategies to advance the organization’s mission.
  2. Host a creativity session to identify new opportunities for the staff to lead instead of regular staff meetings to discuss predictable business topics.
  3. Move your innovation meetings outside of the office so it can also serve as a team building session that will encourage creativity for everyone.
  4. Encourage employees who rarely have an opportunity to speak up during meetings to contribute to the agenda items and lead discussions regarding their passion projects.
  5. Remind the “stage hog” employees who drone on in meetings about their personal success to be brief so that other team members can have the chance to voice their opinions.
  6. Remind your team there are no bad ideas. Consequently, when you make the office a safe space to be different, it will create a “buffer zone” for employees to speak up.
  7. Reward your staff for making an effort. This does not always mean they want money or time off, however nice it may be to receive both types of recognition. Heartfelt, genuine gratitude in the office goes a long way for making dedicated employees feel appreciated. It starts with a simple thank you and like a rock cascading across ariver, it sends ripples across an organization.

Tracey Batacan is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Thanks, and keep sending team building ideals. Printing and putting in the Managers box. Last year a team environment was built in our department due to lack of employees. Got a new Manager and all the team efforts down the drain.

Tracey Batacan

Joyce, I appreciate your comments. I will continue to share team building opportunities in future blog posts. I completely understand how organizational changes, especially in leadership can potentially derail team building progress. I also know that the self-aware leader needs their team to support the organizational goals and that starts with people power.