What Is Autonomy in Management? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Autonomy Defined
  • 0:31 Examples
  • 0:57 In Favor of Autonomy
  • 1:51 Not In Favor of Autonomy
  • 2:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shauna Kelley
In this lesson, we will learn about autonomy in management, what it is, and how it plays out in the workplace. We will also discuss its implications and look at some examples.

Autonomy Defined

Autonomy in management basically means allowing a great deal of freedom to make choices in the workplace. A manager who grants an employee autonomy generally outlines the goal of a project but allows the employee to decide the best way to achieve that goal. This manager has the same level of interest in the outcome of the project as a manager who is more involved, but he or she simply chooses to let the employees work more independently.


Imagine you work in a restaurant, making pasta sauce. One chef you work with insists on being involved in every step of the process, down to selecting the tomatoes. Another chef doesn't get involved until it is time to taste the sauce. Does the second chef just care about the sauce less? Maybe not. Perhaps the second chef's management style relies on giving employees autonomy.

In Favor of Autonomy

There are many reasons autonomy in the workplace works well. It may be appropriate for a manager to grant autonomy for the following reasons:

Reason number one: Studies have shown that having autonomy makes employees feel more valued and trusted, and when employees feel more valued and trusted, their output improves.

Reason number two: It can be more efficient to allow employees to work more independently. In our example, instead of selecting tomatoes, our second chef might be creating a new special or ordering supplies for next week.

Reason number three: Autonomy encourages creativity. What if, through making the sauce on your own, you experimented with a new ingredient? What if that new recipe helped make your restaurant the hottest one in the city? You might never have stumbled upon that recipe had you not been granted some measure of autonomy.

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