The Innate Drive for Autonomy

by | Nov 7, 2023

A decade-long research project known at the Whitehall Studies followed 10,000 British employees comparing health outcomes to different pay grades.Sheena Lyengar cited this study in her best-selling book, The Art of Choosing.Contradicting the stereo-type of the hard-charging boss who drops dead of a heart attack at 45, the studies found that although the higher-paying jobs came with greater pressure, employees in the lowest paying grades, such as a doorman, were three times more likely to die of coronary heart disease.The researchers traced the cause for this differential to an unlikely source–the degree of control employees had over their work.Lack of control spawned frequent low-grade stressors that wrecked the health of the blue-collar workers.The researchers concluded that most people have an innate drive for autonomy and feel stress when it’s not met.Since your recruiting prospects are going to have this drive, start asking questions like these during interviews:New agent prospects: In your current job, do you feel like you have control over your destiny? (Why not?)Experienced agent prospects:  Do you feel like your efforts to grow are being frustrated by the people and systems in your office?By doing so, you’ll be dangling the autonomy carrot.To high-performers who are stuck in dead-end jobs or stressful situations, autonomy appears irresistible.



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