At every level within an organization, particularly if they are an executive, member of the C-suite or a senior manager, each employee wants the freedom to do their job independently, meaning unrestricted — having the capacity to do things with minimal guidance, but with a great deal of support. While autonomy is a crucial aspect and contributes to engagement, it also has disadvantages.
What are some of the disadvantages of autonomy that aren’t necessarily discussed? Based on my professional experience, it is something that everybody wants; however, not everyone has the capacity to effectively handle the autonomy they're given. The more freedom that we experience, the more choices are available to us, and with an abundance of choices comes a great deal of responsibility. So how does that responsibility affect your employees and the organization?
Many organizations and key personnel only focus on their daily choices because on the surface, they appear to serve the company’s overall mission and purpose, which means that we often overlook the choices that are not made. It is very important to highlight and create awareness around the fact that the choices that are not made are just as important as the choices that are made. It’s easy to get caught up in the bigger picture and to stay stuck in the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality.
Take a second to consider the choices that you are not making today as an HR professional, CEO, executive or senior manager. Maybe you are delaying a long-overdue conversation with one of your high-potential employees because you fear losing them and they add a significant amount of value to the organization. Or maybe you are stalling on leaving your job because it guarantees stability and comfort, so you choose to just show up, even though you're disengaged most days. Or maybe you are still trying to decide how to introduce a robust diversity and inclusion program. Whatever it may be, the choice that you are not making is not only affecting you, but the organization as well.
The impact of the choices that are not made could, in fact, have consequences. These can range from "minor" problems such as a lack of trust and respect, to stressed and disengaged employees, all the way to major problems such as potential lawsuits or discrimination claims.
Personal responsibility is one of the primary burdens of freedom. Many individuals can’t bear the weight, and they defend poor choices with denial, displacement and blaming. What are those nonchoices within your organization? What measures do you have in place to ensure that you or your employees can bear the weight effectively without causing any harm?
Within every organization, there is an opportunity to evolve and transform, but it begins with looking at the core habits that are embedded within the culture. Just because it appears good doesn’t always mean it is good. We are our choices, and accountability is key. Don’t wait until tomorrow to do what you can do today.