Problematizing the Tension between Autonomy and Control at the workplace. 

One of the most challenging things to a leader is managing and balancing the tension between 'autonomy and control' at the workplace. 

If a leader control over every detail issues (micro-management) in the workplace, subordinates of the leader lose their interests in works and avoid any self-directed actions or decision-makings to achieve mutual goals.  

Vice versa, if a leader do nothing but wait things to be done by subordinates, (Lassez-faire), the leader fails in achieving targeted goals because subordinates tend to be deviated from the goals.  

However, is this tension between autonomy and control a real problem at the workplace? 

In this section, I want to address the issue of tension between autonomy and control at the workplace by using several 'heuristics for thinking about social phenomena or questions' that are introduced by Jaccard and Jacoby (2010, see the appendix1) as a framework. Two interview results (24 participants from diversified employee groups and 9 engineers at a R&D team in Korea), and my personal knowledge and experiences are used for application of those heuristics. 

Heuristic 1: Analyze your own experience. 

When I worked as a business strategy consultant at a large consulting firm, I had two bosses. One was an associate consultant and the other was a partner. The partner was not easily accessible because he was busy to work other projects in multiple-sites. He was seldom to have communication with my consulting team, and frequently avoided give a direction for my team. My consulting team had got little attentions from the partner, and the team needed to be very self-directed. One day, when my team had a critical problem with a client, the partner came to my site and he bursted out for the problem. But my team members could not understand the reason why he exhibited his negative emotions to us because we had little guidance from him about the consulting project. 

On the other hand, I usually worked with an associate consultant who was newly hired from a prestigious consulting firm. He joined my project as his first one at the consulting firm, and was highly motivated to show his competencies. He was very precise and exact person. Whenever I bring an idea, the associate consultant focused on pointing out every single typo; line matching; grammar error; and table alignment rather than my idea. He also tried to managed almost every single behavior of mine and tried to fix it. For example, I had to change my mobile phone to a newer and prestigious model because he urged me to change it to show privilege of business consultant to client. 

I was disengaged from the consulting job not because of hard working but because I was sick and tired about 'no-direction but blaming' of a partner and 'micro-management for nothing' from an associate consultant. 

Heuristic 2: Use a case study. 

A junior engineer was very upset about a director's refusing to sign on a training request form sheet. A few weeks ago, the junior engineer's direct supervisor (a part leader) had gotten a letter of training opportunity for engineers from head quater(HQ), and the part leader recommended the junior engineer for the training program. Human resource and engineering department of the HQ admitted the junior engineer to training program, and sent an invitation. The part leader and the junior engineer made a training request form, and bring it to the director. 

The director asked "why do you (the junior engineer) need to participate the training problem for nothing in these busy days?" Part leader replied that "He (the junior engineer) need to learn about designing a product and analyzing critical technical issues from experienced engineers at HQ." The director claimed that "what can you learn from the training program?Only from practical experiences, engineers can learn 'real stuffs'. You must stay your place and try harder to do your work rather than going to the program." The part leader and the junior engineer had to come back to their cubicle with nothing from the director. 

However, the part leader sent an Email with the situation to HR department of HQ, and a HR manager of HQ send an official invitation to the president of the branch company. In consequence, the junior engineer could come to the training program but the part leader and the junior engineer suffered from the director's unsupportive manners. The junior engineer became very disappointed with his job, and he felt he is quite disengaged from his work. 

This case indicate that a leader's disagreeable control can significantly reduce employee's work engagement.  

Heuristic 7: Analyze paradoxical incidents.

From interview results, a paradoxical relationship is identified. In short, managers demand higher self-directed work engagement to their subordinates while employees want to more autonomy and support from leaders. 

 From employee's side

  From manager's side

Quote1: “We do not have any decision making power for our works because our boss decides almost everything. We hesitate proposing any ideas but conduct only descending works from our boss.” (A mid-level manager at a manufacturing company)

Quote2: "The most critical complaints from project leaders in this organization is that we have little autonomy but full responsibility." (A project leader at a manufacturing company)

Quote3: "The most supportive thing to achieve high performance is leader's support and decision-making for resolving a conflict between teams. Since controlling other teams is over my authority, only leader who have a sufficient power can make a progress." (A mide-level manager at a Telecommunication company)

 Quote1: "People who formulate a work by himself, fully engage at the work, and accomplish it with others is the most valuable resource to achieve high performance"  (A director of a manufacturing company)

Quote2: "Employees must devote themselves into the goals that their team have to accomplish. And then, they should be evaluated not by descending order but by their own achievement" (A manager at a shipbuilding company). 

Quote3: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink" "Employee's self-directed participation and engagement is the most important thing to achieve high performance. Therefore, manager's leadership is critical" (A manager at an automaker)

 Keywords: Decision-making power, Autonomy, Facilitating group conflict , Support from leader

 Keywords: Self-directed, Engagement, Leadership

In more detail, employees and managers indicate that positive autonomy and positive control help them to achieve higher performance in the workplace.  For example, if employees have a flexibility in learning, work design, goal setting, networking, and information sharing, they would like to have higher engagement in their work resulting in higher performance. Employees, however, want to get positive control from their managers and organizations such as clear goal setting, clear and detail order, and more communications. On the other hand, employees indicate that negative control is the most problematic (grounded 16) to achieve high performance. Many employees describe that performance evaluation results are highly subjected to the quality of relationship with managers, and they also complain about attribution problem of their personal contribution to work performance. For example, employees argue about their individual performance cannot be separated from teamwork and collaboration with other teams since they are working in team structure in large organizations. Even in a small organization, the subjective performance evaluation is problematic. A sales person described that his personal achievement in sales is not fully attributed to him but the success is frequently attributed to 'organizational success'. Managers or leaders' myopic and spontaneous order discourage employees to have higher engagement in their work. 

In summary, employees think the negative control from their managers or leaders is most influential to engagement in their work, and they indicate that positive control with sufficient autonomy are essential in achieving higher performance. There seems a certain 'tacit agreement' between employees and managers that are formulated along with dynamic interactions. If the tacit agreement is kept well, employees would like to engage their works until the agreement is broken by their managers or leaders. 

Positive (+) Autonomy (6)

Positive (+) Control  (11)

  • Self-directed learning
  • Self-directed work design
  • Self-directed goal setting
  • Information sharing
  • Job flexibility
  • Networking
  • Reminding strategic goal
  • Clear and detail order
  • Timely feedback/evaluation/decision-making
  • Facilitating group conflict
  • Providing learning & development opportunity
  • Advice/mentoring

 Negative (-) Autonomy (2)

Negative (-) Control (16)

  • No assistance to correct a mistake
    No control
  • Focus on self-interest
  • Focus on team-interest
  • Disagreeable evaluation
  • Spontaneous order
  • Short-term goal orientation
  • Unsupportive attitude
  • Ignoring manpower request
  • Lack of communication/information sharing 

How does HRD, management, and psychology literature theorized these social phenomena of tension between autonomy and control in the workplace? In the next part, I will review concepts and theories in HRD, management, and psychology literature that are related with the tension between autonomy and control in the workplace basing on my interview results. 

Concepts and Theories for Problematizing

The tension between autonomy and control at the workplace has emerged as a critical issue as a research theme. 

What solid theories can explain the role of 'tacit agreement' between leaders and subordinates with the regards of employee's work engagement and balancing autonomy and control? 

In this section, several theories that are related to 'autonomy and control'; 'work engagement'; 'tacit agreement'; and  'leadership' are explored. 

First, tacit agreement refers to "implied or inferred (agreement) without direct expression" (see, This tacit agreement between leader and employees can be addressed by the psychological contract theory. 

Psychological contract is "the mutual belief, perception, and informal obligations between employer (supervisor/leader) and employee. It sets the dynamics for the relationship and define the practicality of the work to be done. It is distinguished from the formal written contract of employment what, for the most part, only identifies mutual duties and responsibilities in a generalized form" (source: Tacit agreement between leader and subordinate in the workplace can be acknowledged with the 'the mutual belief, the mutual perception, and informal obligations' between agents, and it is commonly active in unwritten contract form. Psychological contract dynamically changes over time and situation, and it is highly influenced by leadership and personal psychological states. For example, violation of the psychological contract of a leader creates cost of losing trust; increasing uncertainty; and occurrence of conflict, resulting in employees' 1) disengagement from work and 2) misalignment with strategic goals. 

Second, psychological contract is viewed as a job resource in job demands-resources (JD-R) model (Hakanen and Roodt, 2012, in the book of work engagement by Bakkaer and Leiter).  The origin of JD-R model can be traced back to the demand-control model (DCM) of Karasek (1979). According to DCM model, job stress is caused by high job demands and low job control. Referring to the quotes from employee side from interviews (conducting only descending works from supervisor; little authority but full responsibility; unable to control other teams), the DCM model is quite compelling to understand the employee's disengagement from work for their job stress when the balance is broken. However, DCM model has several weaknesses to address the complex reality of working organization (Bakker and Demerouti, 2007). Bakker and Demerouti extended the DCM and suggested the job demand-resources (JD-R) model considering the complex nature of works across contexts. JD-R model is a heuristic model that includes two specific sets of working conditions, job demands and job resources, in its prediction of employee well-being, regardless of occupational group. 

Job demands represent "the characteristics of the job that potentially evoke strain, in case they exceed the employee's adaptive capability" (Bakker et al, 2007, 275). More specifically, the job demands refer to :"those physical, social, or organizational aspects of the job that require sustained physical and/or psychological (i.e., cognitive and emotional) effort on the part of the employee, and are therefore associated withe certain physiological and/or psychological costs" (Demerouti et al, 2001, p. 50). Examples of job demands are time and work pressure, the emotional demands, an adverse physical work environment, role ambiguity, role conflits, and role overload. 

Job resources refer to "working conditions that provide resources for individual employees". More specifically, job resources are "those physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of the job that may (a) reduce job demands and the associated physiological and psychological costs, (b) are functional in achieving work goals, and (c) stimulate personal growth, learning and development (Demerouti et al., 2001, p. 501). Job resources may be located on the following levels: 

  1. Organizational level: salary, career opportunities, job security
  2. Interpersonal and social relations: supervisor and co-worker support
  3. Organization of work: role clarity, participation in decision making
  4. Task: performance feedback, skill variety, autonomy

In general, JD-R model proposes that high job demands and a lack of job resources drive employees' disengagement from works and burnout (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007). 

Parzefall and Hakanen (in press) integrated psychological contract approach and the JD-R model with focusing on perceived contract fulfillment as the resources that employees expect the employer or leader to provide. When psychological contract is fulfilled by the leader, employees have a better quality of relationship with the leader, higher work engagement, more positive attitude toward work, and lesser turnover intention. 

Third, personal resources such as optimism, self-efficacy, resilience, and hope (core constructs of positive organizational behavior - calling psychological capital)are influential to work engagement as well as job resources (Sweetman & Luthans, 2010, in the book of Bakker & Leiter). Work engagement is defined as "a positive, fulfilling, affective-motivational state of work-related well-being that can be seen as the antipode of job burnout (Bakker & Leiter, 2010). Specifically, Schaufeli et al., (2006) theorized the engagement as a higher-order core factor comprising three interrelated constructs: vigor, dedication, and absorption. Vigor is defined as consisting of high levels of willingness to invest energy into the work at hand, coupled with the mental resilience to persevere even in the case of difficulties, Energy is the underlying bipolar dimension with vigor at one end, and emotional exhaustion at the other (Gonzalez-Roma et al, 2006). Dedication in the context of the JD-R model is described as "being strongly involved in one's work and inspiration, pride, and challenge" (Schaufeli et al., 2006, p.3). Absorption in work can be though of as being fully engrossed in, and in a mindset enabling full concentration in that work (Schufeli et al., 2006). At the positively deviant end of the absorption spectrum, individuals experience the flow, whereby time passes quickly and one has difficulties with detaching oneself from work (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). The influence of the three psycap constructs (hope; self-efficacy; optimism) on work engagement has been supported with an empirical study of Dutch technician study (Xanthopoulou Bakker, Demerouti, and Schaufeli, 2007). 

The general work engagement model is presented in above figure. In short, research shows that job and personal resources (PsyCap) are predictive of work engagement. Job demands moderate the resources-engagement relationship. Indeed, a central assumption in the JD-R model is that resources become more salient and gain their motivational potential when employees are confronted with high demands (Bakker * Demerouti, 2007; Hakanen & Roodt, 2010). Engagement is positively related to performance. The model proposes that those who are highly engaged and perform well will mobilize more personal resources or psychological capital, and more job resources like autonomy, social support, and career opportunities. 

Fourth, openness is an important antecedent to a relational transparency (Luthans, 2010, p. 97), and this transparency leads to trust in leader-follower relationship, resulting in building psychological contract (Rousseau, 1995). Once established, psychological contract evolves from a common understanding by words to a willingness to trust by actions (Luthans, 2010). This dynamics of psychological contract indicates the importance of leaders's authenticity in formulating and sustaining the psychological contract. 

Authenticity is defined as "owning one's personal experiences (e.g., thought, emotions, needs, wants, preferences, or beliefs) (Harter, 2002). In addition to owning one's personal experiences, authenticity also involves a acting in accordance with the true self (expressing true thoughts and beliefs and acting accordingly). People are neither completely authentic nor inauthentic, but are best described as existing on a continuum from more to less authentic (Erickson, 1995). Authentic leadership is centered around empathy and a leader's values or character. If the leader understands their subordinates, they can inspire subordinates by cultivating a personal connection and leading them to share in the vision and goals of the team. Authentic leadership is a root construct and foundation that serves as a pont of departure for other forms of leadership such as transformational or transactional leadership. In detail, a transformational or transactional leader can be more or less authentic, but the authentic leader is not defined as being a particular style of leader per se (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Luthans and Avolio, 2003). Kernis (2003) suggests four components of authentic leadership: self-awareness, unbiased processing, authentic action, and relational transparency. 

According to recent research on the relationship between authentic leadership and trust, authentic leadership has positive relationship with trust in leadership (Clapp-Smith, 2009) and group trust (Walumwa, 2011) that are related with psychological contract. In addition, authentic leadership has positive relationships with group psychological capital (Walumbwa, 2011). 

In summary, job resources, including autonomy or psychological contract, and personal resources positively related with work engagement, and this relationship is moderated by job demand. Authentic leadership may help building a better psychological contract between employee and employer resulting in a higher perceived job resource. 

Heuristic 9: Use analogies and metaphor. 

A candle metaphor can give us more solid understandings about the tension between autonomy and control at the workplace. 

Exploring a cave with a candle

Let's imagine that you light up a candle to explore a dark cave. You have only one chance to light the candle up with a match. You should keep the candle light alive to explore and to escape the cave. Unfortunately you have only one candle, and it will last long about an hours. But you may feed wax to the candle, and you can enlarge the time of candle burning with according to your efforts of feeding and aligning the wick. The cave is very rough and dark, even worse sometimes chaotic winds occurs abruptly from everywhere in the cave. How do you explore and escape from the cave with a candle, and how can you keep the candle light alive in the chaotic situation? 

The candle metaphor resembles with running a business in recent chaotic and uncertain environment (external factors). Job demands such as work pressure, emotional, mental, and physiological demands as well as role challenges increases as the business environment gets more chaotic. In order to survive and explore a new business opportunities, organizational leaders must acquire sustainable and positive outcomes (exploring and escaping a cave). Organizational outcomes are come from group and individual performances (the candle light). Employee's engagement in goals, strategy, teamwork, and their personal efforts is critical to draw sustainable and high performances (the frame). Job resources such as social support, learning and development opportunity, job control, and manpower are fundamental resources for employee engagement (the wax). Personal resources such as positive psychological resources (self-efficacy; hope; optimism; resilience - psychological capital) and positive emotion realize job resources as employee engagement (the wick). Organizational leaders, generally executives; specifically functional leader (team leaders; project leaders), need to 1) make a balance between autonomy (flexibility to change) and control (moving forward), and 2) create resources (feeding wax and aligning wick). 

Heuristic 11: Apply deviant case analysis. 

JD-R model and the candle model help us to understand the tension between autonomy and control to a certain extent. However, the model has a foundation assumption: job resources are given by supervisor, coworker, and organization rather than they are cultivated by individuals. For example, job control or autonomy is viewed as a power of control that is delegated or empowered by supervisor or organization. 

However, can individuals cultivate and enhance power of control of their works - increasing autonomy or job control with certain efforts? 

Here is a deviant case that is constructive for an employee and his organization. 

A R&D engineer (let's call him as 'S') who works for a subsidiary company of a multinational corporation in Korea conducts several tests of electric motor samples that are built by himself to find a root cause of an uncomfortable noise. 

'S' did not tell the test to his Korean supervisors nor to his co-workers because he wanted to avoid unnecessary control over his exploratory tests (such as extra paper work, dispute with unionized sample shop workers, or time delay for approval) before getting solid data. 

Frequently, the engineer designs and conducts extra tests by himself though it is not requested by his supervisor or others. He focuses on his work of solving the uncomfortable noise problem because he feels good whenever he can give a constructive solution for others. 

'S' is recognized as a highly capable and self-directed worker not only by his supervisor but also by his internal and external customers. Although his self-directed extra works are not  financially rewarded by the organization, he just wants to make influences on decision makings with his solid data. 

Clock is running to midnight, but his secret experiment is going on. 

This deviant case shows a critical tension between the employee's: compliance to organizational rules and creativity. Specifically, the case reveals the local R&D engineer' and the local R&D manager's dilemma between compliance to HQ's control and autonomy for meeting local customer's demand.  

The case, specifically, indicates that an individual cultivates job control power or autonomy through engaging and performing self-directed work under his local supervisor or coworker's conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement. 

Another case can show that how expatriated technical coordinator to a local branch helps balancing the HQ's control and autonomy for meeting local demands in an MNC.  

An engineer "U" - an expatriated technical coordinator from HQ in mother country of an MNC - makes a telephone conference with his former colleagues to consult about a technical problem with his mother tongue in a local branch company in Asia. 'U' requests a technical review and a simulation for several alternative designs of an electric motor for a car of a local customer. 

The local customer have argued about the uncomfortable noise to the company about a year. Local engineers had tried to address the local customer's demand of reducing noise, but they were not able to change the design of the motor because it was globally standardized one. Whenever local engineers request solutions for the local customer's demand, HQ rejected or ignored the local request because the noise level of the motor is not problematic in other global customers. 

The engineer "U" was educated that he needed to respect local demands and culture when he was in the HQ training program for expatriating employees. He listened the local customer's voice carefully, and reported the problem to HQ's R&D center. "U" collected the local customer's test results and he conducted several extra tests with local engineers under the unwritten permission both from HQ R&D and the local company's leadership.  "U" recognized the noise problem needed to be addressed though it came from an extraordinary mounting design of the local customer. 

Several days later, HQ R&D gives an official permission of a special design change for the problematic electric motor. The engineer "U" and local engineers, then, start changing a design of the motor for the local customer. 

Compared to the local engineer 'S' case, the expatriated engineer 'U' proceeded extra tests with ease because he could acquire unwritten permission with ease before legitimizing the technical problem within the MNC. 

How to understand this unique autonomy cultivation phenomena in a local R&D of a large MNC? 

Here are two examples for understanding the autonomy and control phenomena in a large MNC. Can you pleas answer the following examples?  

Example 1. Do you keep the speed limit in highway? (for example, I-57's speed limit is 55 miles/hour). 

As an experienced driver, I usually drive around 65 ~ 70 miles/hour in I-57 because every other cars drive with the speed. Moreover, the police does not take any action when I drive around the speeds. Therefore, I believe that the speed limit of the the highway is around 70 miles/hour though the "written speed limit is 55".

Example 2. What will do when you have to coach a student driver in the same highway with 55 miles/hour speed limit? 

I definitely instruct the student driver to keep the speed limit because the student need to learn the regulation. Moreover, I have no confidence in the novice driver's skills. Therefore, I would not take any risk from breaking a rule. 

Acquiring the unwritten permission from people in an organization resembles the transformation from novice driver to experienced driver.  

Once an individual gets onboard on a team or an organization, he or she is treated as novice driver and gets a lot of conscious or unconscious control from people. He or she commonly gets a tons of feedback, comments, critiques, appraisals both in verbal, non-verbal, or written forms. This process is an initial socialization process. The individual needs to overcome this first socialization process to get involved in the team or the organization. Every Individual may have different process of socialization because of different situations, social interactions, and personal characteristics similar to experiences of driving oneself. However, the outcome of the initial socialization is equifinal - improved autonomy within the team or the organization. 

In order to make a solid understand about the tension between autonomy and control in the workplace, four quadrant model is presented. 

Quadrant IV is the domain of high consciousness of people and low permissiveness to an individual. This domain is characterized as high control over an individual with strong intention. Newly coming individuals or novices experience this domain of control. For example, a newly hired engineer will be given written job descriptions, process manuals, and manual books for his or her job in R&D. The newly hired employee may be evaluated by strict manual and written rules because a supervisor or coworkers want to avoid any risks from him or her by breaking an official rule in the organization. Subsidiary organization in an MNC may place in this domain as well because HQ want to averse any local risks which may harmful for whole global organization's central policy or practice. 

Quadrant I is the domain of high consciousness of people and high permissiveness to an individual. this domain is characterized as high activation of 'tacit agreement' and 'social norm' that expand individual autonomy. Highly experienced people in a team or an organization may place in this domain for their credibility and history. Like the engineer 'S' in a subsidiary R&D, people in this domain can get conscious-permission from others in his organization because of his continual contribution on technical problem solving history. Self-directed work design, high engagement in the work, and sustainable work performance are the characteristics of people in this domain. However, the broadness of this domain is highly socially constructed. As indicated in the case of engineer "U", an individual who come from HQ can cultivate this domain with relatively ease because he already had the sufficient credibility, legitimacy, and good social relations with key decision-makers. 

Quadrant II and III are not addressed in this article since these domains are related with unconsciousness of people. These domains are needed to be explored in a more solid body of knowledge about unconsciousness. For example, emotion display is frequently unconsciously activated by supervisors or coworkers. Several research found out that habitual display of negative emotions of supervisor affects to employees's creativity in an organization (Brundin, E., Patzelt, H., & Shepherd, D. A. (2008). Managers' emotional displays and employees' willingness to act entrepreneurially. Journal of Business Venturing, 23(2), 221-243. )

In summary of deviant cases, employees can and have to cultivate autonomy within an organization to improve their job performance via high work engagement. Specifically, employees need to expand the domain of conscious-permissiveness to realize autonomy. The tension between conscious-control and conscious-permissiveness is significantly problematic in MNC organizations because of communication and legitimacy problem between HQ and Subsidiary organizations. 

Research Topic: 

Through problematizing process of the tension between autonomy and control in the workplace, the author pointed out the tension between central control of HQ and subsidiary autonomy for addressing local demands is very significant in MNCs. Two deviant cases reveals that subsidiary employees facilitate the tension by cultivating and realizing the autonomy under the conscious-permissiveness of local organizations. In the perspective of HRD, a few interesting research topics emerge: 

A research inquiry in the perspective of international HRD: 

What competencies(and How) do MNCs need to develop for subsidiary employee's to make a balance between compliance of central control of HQ and meeting local demands? 

A few research questions for the problem. 

1. How subsidiary employees acquire conscious-permissiveness within the local organization or from HQ? 

2. What skills are needed to be developed to help subsidiary employees to acquire conscious-permissiveness within the local organization or from HQ? 

3. What individual factors are influential to cultivation of conscious-permissiveness? 

4. What social factors affects to subsidiary employee's development of conscious-permissiveness? 

5. What is the role of leadership in developing subsidiary employee's development of conscious-permissiveness? 


A Conceptual Model will be developed with literature review on micro-political power issue in international management. 


Twenty-Six Heuristics for thinking about phenomena or questions in a way that might get new insights and ideas. 

1. Analyze your own experience. 

2. Use case studies. 

3. Collect practitioners' rules of thumb. 

4. Use role playing. 

5. Conduct a thought experiment. 

6. Engage in participant observation. 

7. Analyze paradoxical incidents. 

8. Engage in imaging. 

9. Use analogies and metaphor. 

10. Reframe the problem in terms of the opposite. 

11. Apply deviant case analysis (outlier). 

12. Change the scale. 

13. Focus on processes or focus on variables. 

14. Consider abstractions or specific instances. 

15. Make the opposite assumption. 

16. Apply the continual why and what. 

17. Consult your grandmother-and prove her wrong. 

18. Push an established finding to the extremes. 

19. Read biographies and literature, and be a well-rounded media consumer. 

20. Identify remote and shared/differentiating associates. 

21. Shift the unit of analysis. 

22. Shift the level of analysis. 

23. Use both explanations rather than one or the other. 

24. Capitalize on methodological and technological innovations. 

25. Focus on your emotions. 

26. What pushes your intellectual hot button? 

Jaccard & Jacoby (2010) Theory Construction and Model Building Skills: A Practical Guide for Social Scientists (pp. 48 - 67). 

Appendix 2: Authentic Leadership 


Among the three major approaches in  leadership study (leader-focused; contingency-focused; follower-focused), contingency-focused leadership approach is seemed as the most relevant one to address the dynamics. Specifically, there has been a high degree of interest paid to three novel approaches that have recently emerged. The first is transformational leadership, which posits that there are certain leadership traits that inspire subordinates to perform beyond their capabilities. the second is transactional leadership, which is most concerned with keeping subordinates in-line with deadlines and organizational policy. But transactional leader fills more of a managerial role and lacks lack qualities necessary to inspire subordinates and induce meaningful change. Authentic leadership is centered around empathy and a leader's values or character. If the leader understands their subordinates, they can inspire subordinates by cultivating a personal connection and leading them to share in the vision and goals of the team. 

The working definition of authentic leadership development (ALD) is 'the process that draws upon leaders' life course, psychological capital, moral perspective, and a highly developed supporting organizational climate to produce greater self-awareness and self-regulated positive behaviors, which in turn foster continuous, positive self-development resulting in veritable, sustained performance' (Avolio & Luthnas, 2006, p.2). 

Appendix 3: Measuring Psychological Contract Issue

According to Freese and Schalk (2008), the use of psychological contact measurements of Freese and Schalk (1997)'s extended list of items; Psycones (2008)'s measures for violoation and overall evaluation; Rousseau (1990)'s short list of items; Rousseau (2000)'s extended list of items are recommendable because these instruments are combine several scales to assess the content and evaluation the psychological contract. In addition these instruments have multi-language version and they have been used in different contexts in different countries. However, the relationship between 'perceived organizational obligations and perceived employee obligations' is still a research area that needs further attention. Especially, further examination of the factor structure of these questionnaires and use in different cultural contexts is needed to further improve psychological contract measurement. 

Freese, C., & Schalk, R. (2008). How to measure the psychological contract? A critical criteria-based review of measures. South African Journal of Psychology, 38(2), 269-286. 

Recommended Psychological Contract Instruments

1. Rousseau (1995)

2. Freese and Schalk (1997)

[7 point scale: 1 = 'much less than expected' to 7='much more than expected']

Please indicate to what extent the organization meets your expectations concerning X?

3. Rousseau (2000)

[5 point scale: 1 = 'not at all' to 5 = 'to a very great extent']

(1) To what extent has the organization implicitly or explicitly promised to provide X?

(2) Overall, how well does your employer fulfill its commitment to you? (single item)

(3) In general, how well does your employer live up to its promises to you? (single item)

[1='not at all obligated', 5= 'very obligated']

(4) To what extent have you promised, implicitly or explicitly to provide each of the following ()

(5) Overall, how well have you fulfilled your commitments to organization?

[5 point scale: 1 = 'not at all' to 5 = 'to a very great extent']

(6)Overall, how well have you fulfilled your promises to organization? 

4. Psycones (2005)

[6 point scale: 1='No', 1='Yes, but promise not kept at all' to 7=[Yes, and promise fully kept'. 

(1) Has your organization promised or committed itself to ...? 

(2) Have you promised or committed yourself to ... ?

[5 point scale: 1='not at all', to 5='totally']

Looking overall at how far this organization has or has not kept its promises and commitments, to what extent do you agree with the following statement? 

I feel... 

(3) Happy

(4) Angry

(5) Pleased

(6) Violated

(7) Disappointed, 

(8) Grateful. 

Appendix 4: An extreme case of destructive conscious-permissiveness (ignorance). 

Mr. Kim (48 years old) - an employee at an office of department of justice in Seoul, Korea - had suffered from the significant insomnia for work stress and depression from his work. His doctor diagnosed the root cause of his insomnia and health problem came from  'overloaded work'. Mr. Kim needed to complete 3~4 court works in a week, and he frequently worked more than 14~16 hours a day. His work continued to weekend. For several years, he got only 4 days off from his work. Work stresses of Mr. Kim caused abnormal physiological conditions such as dizziness, faint, and high blood pressure and so on. Mr. Kim requested more 'man power' to resolve his abnormally high workload, but his supervisor and organization (consciously) ignored his request though it is a significant violation of labor law. Nothing has changed, and blief, trust, hope, or promise between Mr. Kim and his organization has totally broken. Mr. Kim, then, committed a suicide on May 23, 2012 by firing a coal in his car, parking in the court house. 

Although Mr. Kim's case is an extreme one, but this cas is not much different from Korean workers life. According to Ministry of Employment and Labor of Korea (MOEL), the average annual work time of Korean workers is 2,193 hours per year - the world longest work hours in the world. Reports of 52 hours / week work hour limitation law violation to MOEL has increased almost every recent years, and the MOEL expects that there are huge numbers of 'hidden cases' in Korean workplace. 

Reported violation of limitation of overwork (Korean Ministry Of Employment and Labor, 2012). Note: The top line is the violation of 52 hours/week limitation (Section 53), and the lower line is the violation of 40 hours/week limitation (Section 50). The author assumes that the small number of violation of section 50 exhibits the 'social tacit agreement' of violation of the section 50 is generally accepted by Korean people. 

Korean workers are significantly suffering from abnormally high working hours, but this violation of written labor law are consciously ignored by supervisors and organizations, Consequently, Korean workers escape their work through death. 

source: Fatigued society: Korean workers overwork problem.

Research Questions:  

1) Does higher 'conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement' help employees to have high work engagement and to achieve high performance? 

2) How do employees build and acquire 'conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement' that help enhancing their autonomy or job control power within an organization? Is it good or bad for work engagement and performance? 

3) What is the effect of organizational HR policy (e.g. centralization vs. decentralization) to 'conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement' level between employees and supervisor/coworker?

In order to understand roughly about these question- especially the third question, we'd better to visit several cases of institutionalization of time off for creativity.

Institutionalization Cases 
of 'Conscious Permissiveness or Tacit Agreement'. 

The engineer 'S' conducted the secret and self-directed experiments under the 'conscious permissiveness or tacit agreement'. But several companies have institutionalized 'time off program' for innovation. 

Google launched the "20 percent time" policy may18, 2006. The 20 percent time enables engineers to spend one day a week working on projects that aren't necessarily in their job description. Google engineers can use the time to develop something new, or if they see something that's broken. 

(Official google blog:

Innovative products such as Gmail, Google News, Google Earth, Gmail Labs and even Google shuttle buses are come from the 20 percent time. Practically, there is not budget nor decision-making authority to realize a new idea from 20 percent time. But an idea creator builds up a 'grouplet' that accept and elaborate the idea within organization. Engineers at google, anyhow, get the chance to apply their passion to their company and create innovation. 


Another case is 3M's "15 percent time" for employees time off to explore their own project. In 1974, 3M scientist Art Fry invented the Post-It Note during his "15 percent time," a program at 3M that allows employees to use a portion of their paid time to chase rainbows and hatch their own ideas. 3M launched the 15 percent program in 1948, and it is extended to everyone, not just the scientists, in the company. Many companies have tried to emulate the 'Time off program' but failed because they remained conservative about supporting the new idea. And experts agree that this kind of nudging HR practice probably works best at companies where there's a high level of creative competitiveness; that is, where impressing peers is just as important as the innovation itself. For technical people in 3M, having a chance to unhinge their "inner geeks" is the most passionate and engaged event.

Matthew Bebbington, a K12 school tacer at Wilmslow High sSchool in Cheshire, implemented the 'time off program' idea and organized a school "innovation day" program in his school. The 80 students involved (aged 11-15) in the program and they were captivated by the experience of controlling their own learning and creating their own projects for the day. He reported that participating student were 100% engaged in their works, and draw unexpectedly high quality of outcomes and learning. Matthew believes that providing a chance to self-directed work time is a vital tool in engaging student in their learning.

In short, the Time Off HR policy help employees to have higher autonomy in their work, and it encourages employees to have higher work engagement and performances. 

However, these cases are all implemented at R&D function in HQ countries. We don't know much about the time off policy is acting in branch companies of the MNCs in different countries. In addition, many of R&D functions do not apply the time off policy. 

How do R&D engineers and managers in local branches adjust and meet local demands without  the time off policy? 


Posted by Jeonghwan Choi

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