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Three Ways To Boost Productivity With Autonomous Motivation

By Marc Nickell

Date Published: Oct 4, 2021

The success of your business depends on the team of people who work in your office. Their productivity is directly related to the efficiency of the company. In short, highly productive employees contribute to your increased success. How can you strengthen the likelihood of having highly productive employees? One way to boost employee productivity is to understand autonomous motivation.

Let’s start with the premise that your employees want to be successful in their work as much as you want to be successful in your business. Creating a work environment where employees are easily motivated to succeed, which then contributes to your success, is building a win-win situation for both you and your employees.

Three Ways To Boost Productivity With Autonomous Motivation

What Is Autonomous Motivation?

Autonomous motivation is embedded in self-determination theory (SDT), developed in the 1970s by psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. In a nutshell, SDT is based on the idea that humans are best motivated to do tasks by intrinsic factors instead of extrinsic rewards.


Self-determination theory analyzes motivation through three essential psychological human needs: autonomy, relatedness and competence.


According to Ryan and Deci, autonomy is the most critical in driving intrinsic motivation. This feeling of independence drives people to do their best work and is at the heart of autonomous motivation. The more autonomy a person feels, the more motivated they become.

Extrinsic Versus Intrinsic

Extrinsic is an outside factor that plays on a human being. Intrinsic is an internal factor that plays within a human being. The culture of an organization is built within. Autonomous motivation activates these intrinsic factors. Employees have an inner drive to do their work and do it well.

Intrinsic values touch on how a person feels about their work and not just how much compensation they receive. Being paid fairly is important, but being paid more does not always correlate with being more productive. Money is not the only factor that motivates people to complete tasks. Other factors are at play encouraging workers to be successfully productive and will create a better culture within the organization.

Intrinsic Definition

Intrinsic is an internal factor that affects human behavior. These factors are psychological in nature and come from within a person.

Common intrinsic motivations in the workplace include:

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  • Pride in work.

  • Feeling respected and trusted.

  • Personal growth and learning.

  • Feeling work is enjoyable.

  • A sense of accomplishment.

  • Expanding competence and contribution.

  • Feeling a part of a productive team.

  • Choice in work projects.

How Do You Activate This Internal Drive?

As human beings, our desire to be independent begins from a very young age. If you have ever watched a baby working hard to pull up on furniture, take those first few steps or even say those first few words, you are witnessing intrinsic motivation. This type of motivation doesn’t stop once you know how to walk and talk. Your desire to be independent continues throughout your life. As a leader, you want to activate this independent drive within the work environment you set up.

How To Enhance Autonomy In The Work Environment

There are three fundamental ways to develop autonomy in your office: fostering relevance, providing choice and allowing for criticism and independent thinking.

Fostering Relevance

When something is relevant to us as human beings, it means that it is important to us. We care about it. We want to achieve it. We have a reason to do it. Fostering relevance allows each employee to contribute to the success of your organization in a way that is important to each of them.

For example, it can be difficult for an employee to get excited about implementing a new process when its importance does not feel relevant to what the employee contributes. Not all employees do the same job, so each will see the importance of the new process in a different way.

As a leader, it’s valuable to create an environment where relevance is fostered for each employee. A place where an employee sees the new process as important to what they do as an individual and is tied to their personal achievement.

Providing Choice

Promoting a feeling of choice in your work environment can encourage autonomy within your employees, especially if their choices are tied to their personal growth and success. None of us likes to feel that we have no choice, especially in something as important as the work we do. We all want to perform tasks at work we find interesting.

This is not to say that every employee in your business gets to choose only the tasks they enjoy. There will always be the “not-so-enjoyable” tasks that need to be completed no matter the workplace or the job, but providing even small choices for each employee within the parameters of their job gives them a feeling of control. This feeling of control supports a feeling of autonomy.

Allowing For Criticism And Independent Thinking

This last way of developing autonomy in your office is two-fold. The core is for you as a leader to listen and accept criticism from your employees. It is not always the easiest of tasks, but it is important. An employee that feels safe expressing feedback on a colleague or problems they are encountering with you as a leader is an employee that also feels safe to think independently.

Fear of repercussions not only shuts an employee down to express criticism but also shuts them down when expressing solutions to problems that hold your organization back from success. Allowing space for criticism also allows for creative and innovative thinking. Feelings of autonomy grow in an employee who feels they can think independently on the job.

The Work Environment In Your Organization

Your office and employees are unique. Learning about your employees and what stirs them intrinsically can go a long way in creating a win-win environment. A place where your employees succeed in their work and you succeed in growing your company. Autonomous motivation can boost your employees’ productivity and, in turn, boost the success of your business.


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Priority Management is a worldwide training company with 55 offices in 15 countries. We have successfully trained more than two million graduates in Priority workshops. Our programs help companies and people be more effective and manage their workflow in and out of the office by providing tools, processes and discipline. Simply put - A Better Way To Work! Clients range from Fortune 500 companies, small-to-medium businesses and government/military employees.

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