Increasing Job Meaning and Employee
Motivation with Greater Job Autonomy
Some of the problems in the workplace include a lack
of job meaning and a lack of job motivation. It may be
challenging to try to motivate employees to increase their
job performance, or to increase the perceived meaning of
the work. There are many possible solutions to these
One possible solution to both problems may be to
allow employees to have greater job autonomy. Having
greater freedom to make decisions in one's job may be
important for a sense of meaning in one's work. If a person
feels that his or her job is more meaningful, he or she may
be more motivated.
Greater autonomy may foster greater meaning in our
work because we can be more authentic at work. In my
book, Finding Meaning (3rd ed.), I state:
Greater autonomy may allow us to be more
authentic. We may have different values than our
supervisor. Consequently, we may have different
ways of getting tasks done. Greater autonomy may
allow us to get tasks done in a manner that is more
consistent with our values (Bell, 2007, p. 57).
A Sense of Purpose
Greater autonomy may also foster greater meaning in
our work because our work seems to have greater purpose.
I state in Finding Meaning (3rd ed.), that "Greater
autonomy may lead to a greater sense of purpose in our
work. Greater autonomy may result in a greater perceived
responsibility for our work, which in turn, may lead to the
belief that our work is more purposeful." (Bell, 2007, p. 57).
Greater autonomy at work may partly involve being
able to determine work schedules. Being able to determine
work schedules may increase work-life balance. Work-life
balance can be viewed as not having conflicts between one's
personal life and work. Employees who have greater
work-life balance may perceive their work as more
Jang, Park, and Zippay (2011) found that scheduling
control was positively associated with job satisfaction.
Because this finding is correlational, one cannot make
causal conclusions. There may be other explanations for the
finding. Nonetheless, it is possible that greater scheduling
control may increase job satisfaction, which in turn may
increase job motivation.
In short, leaders in organizations could strive to find
ways to increase job autonomy for employees. This may
increase job motivation and job meaning.
Bell, B. (2007). Finding Meaning (3rd ed.). Portland,
Oregon: Blue Fox Communications.
Jang, S. J., Park, R., & Zippay, A. (2011). The interaction
effects of scheduling control and work-life balance
programs on job satisfaction and mental health.
International Journal of Social Welfare, 20, 135-143.