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
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.