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ROWE Helps to Build Positive Relationships

by Beth on April 14th, 2010


Leaders build positive relationships by showing their followers that they trust them.  People who feel that their leaders trust them have higher levels of performance, are more likely to help their colleagues, and have greater job satisfaction.  In fact, being aware that their supervisor trusts them has a greater effect on subordinate behavior and attitudes than the trust they have in their supervisor.


One of the very best ways to show people that you trust them is to give them autonomy.  Managers who try to control their subordinates undermine positivity by demonstrating a lack of trust.  In addition to making people feel trusted, autonomy also helps to create a positive work experience by directly influencing people’s positive emotions.  Autonomy is one of the key dimensions of psychological well-being.  We have a strong need to control our lives and to make decisions based on our interests and values.  So having autonomy increases our positivity.

Because autonomy is related to our well-being, a lack of autonomy at work has negative consequences.  The most stressful jobs are those with high demands and low levels of control.  Demanding jobs don’t lead to stress if the individual has autonomy to decide how to meet the demands.  It is the lack of control combined with high job demands that causes stress.


You can give your people more autonomy by implementing ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) in your workplace.  Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson came up with the concept of ROWE while working as HR professionals for Best Buy.  ROWE is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence.  They decide when, where, and how to work.  The only thing that matters is that they meet their objectives.  More than 3,000 Best Buy employees work in a ROWE and not only are they happier, their productivity has increased by an average of 35% and turnover rates in some divisions are down by 90%.

More and more companies are adopting ROWEs and are discovering similar results.  In fact, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has started a pilot ROWE program.  That’s right, even the federal government is getting on board so that government workers will have the freedom to decide how to get their work done!

How much autonomy do your employees have?  Do you trust them to get their work done?  Would you be willing to implement ROWE where you work?  I’d love to hear what you think!

  1. Katherine permalink

    I have found this to be so true in my workplace. When employees are allowed to plan their own solutions and are trusted to implement them, the results are usually very good.

    I think that a couple of things help in a results-based work environment.
    1) Roles should be well-defined. I work on projects as part of a team and when the deliverables for each member are specified, it allows people to move forward with their work without stepping on other people’s toes. If two people think they should both be working on the same area of a project, it’s hard to allow them autonomy without needing someone above to step in and divide responsibilities. This should be done up front.
    2) Goals should be concrete. Results-only work is great, as long as the end results are clear to the employee. I think sales personnel are more accustomed to this type of environment because it’s easy to set sales goals, e.g., you need to sell $10,000 of product this month. So they are generally given more liberties about when and where they do their work. For service-based work, defining the results can be more difficult. Managers have to set clear expectations and define project tasks that can be measured.

    Great post, Beth!

  2. Beth permalink

    You are so right! Autonomy will never work if goals aren’t clear and specific. Thanks for your input!

  3. Francesco Frova permalink

    The day Spain will implement it, there will…

    No, I can’t even finish this phrase. I am not going to live long enough to see it happen!

    I so totally agree with your post! Unfortunately, as far as I know this models are implemented only in Sales Units – or by Entrepreneurs (companies’ owners).
    It will come a day, though…

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