Why Autonomy Isn’t Trust

Autonomy and independenceAndre Durand, the founder and CEO of Ping Identity, knows a few things about transparency and trust in the workplace. He knows enough that Fast Company asked him to write a blog about it. But I think he missed the mark in his attempt connect trust to autonomy.

“When you ask someone, ‘What type of working relationship do you prefer?’ and they reply, ‘I want to work someplace where I’m trusted,’ they’re really asking for autonomy and independence,” Durand wrote. “Don’t we all want to control our immediate circumstances? Don’t we all want independence over our work—and to be free from micromanagement?”

We might want to feel in control, to operate with independence, and to be free from micromanagement, but it’s an oversimplification to say “trust me” means the same thing as “give me autonomy.”

There are many people who want to be trusted by their bosses or organizations who are happy working in teams or don’t necessarily want to be left alone. They want to be respected. They want to be empowered to make decisions, even decisions that don’t work out. And they want to be valued. You don’t have to have autonomy to be trusted in those ways. Sometimes more trust is required of someone working with others than someone working all alone.

It’s an oversimplification to say “trust me” means the same thing as “give me autonomy.” Trust is a shared event. tweet

In my experience, trust is always a shared event. It’s an on-going collaboration, and, as Durand goes on to say in his article, it’s strengthened by transparency. When a culture is built on real transparency, mutual trust develops, and people are more productive, both when working autonomously and when working collaboratively in groups.

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