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Employee Discretion | A New Management Approach | 2024 Reveals

Employee Discretion | A New Management Approach | 2024 Reveals


Astrid Tran 28 Feb 2024 6 min read

Allowing your employees to make decisions about their tasks is a growing trend in leadership and management. Another way to look at it would be as a cultural trait of businesses that value individuality and freedom of choice, also known as employee discretion.

Both lower-level managers and individuals benefit from this notion. They will have greater room to grow in their capacities and expertise, as well as a heightened sense of accountability for every task, no matter how big or small it is.

Any evolution or change, though, needs time to demonstrate, especially for fully grasping the advantages while facing difficulties in the real world. Note that not every kind of business can make good use of this technique with a good approach and understanding.

The significance of managerial freedom and its problems in business management will be examined in this article. It also provides some viewpoints from experts on how to encourage employee discretion in the workplace.

Employee Discretion Meaning
Employee Discretion Meaning – Image: Freepik

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What is Employee Discretion?

According to Collins dictionary, discretion is the power or right to decide or act according to one’s judgment; freedom of judgment or choice. Likewise, employee discretion refers to the allowance for individuals to make responsible choices, judgments, or decisions within their jobs.

In terms of employee discretion, the flexibility and freedom that affect how work is performed—a practice that has changed throughout capitalism—is of utmost vitality. It is the area where they take part in the collaborative and innovative aspects of their roles.

People can work just like a machine if discretion were nonexistent. Maintaining discretion in the workplace allows employees to preserve independence and accountability in even the most demanding, alienating, and tightly regulated professions.

There are many examples of employee discretion at work, for example:

  • Using personal judgment and experience to choose the best way to tackle a challenge.
  • Managing workload and determining the most efficient order of completion.
  • Choosing software, organizational methods, or learning resources that optimize your performance.
  • Employing creativity and resourcefulness to find more efficient or effective ways to work.
  • Offering personalized service and exceeding expectations through individual initiative.
  • Employing discretion within established parameters to secure mutually beneficial agreements.
  • Using discretion and judgment to navigate complex situations and speak up when necessary.

Why is Employee Discretion Important?

It is hard to deny the benefits of the concept of discretion in managing employees and supporting their professional development. If you are still not sure whether it is time to make adjustments to management by employing employee discretion, here are a few key points to look at.

Improve decision-making skills

Employees in a company or organization are considered to have sole discretion when it comes to choosing when and how to carry out specific tasks or aspects of the job based on their knowledge and judgment. Companies expect professionals to be able to locate and assess the data required to determine the best course of action. This is known as professional discretion.

The company also expects them to be able to make decisions that they feel are right and solve difficult problems, called discretionary action. Professional discretion can take many forms, such as operating within the parameters and jurisdiction of their job description and independently granting exceptions to a company’s return policy to appease disgruntled clients. Moreover, employee discretion allows for more agile and responsive actions in situations where immediate decisions are required.

Guarantee high job performance

A high-performing workplace is where employees are encouraged and rewarded for their discretionary actions and work ethics that are consistent with the organization’s vision, mission, and core values. This kind of culture can be advantageous to the company and its workers, resulting in improved employee engagement and retention, enhanced innovation and creativity, and higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, strengthening collaboration and teamwork while boosting reputation and competitive advantage.

Deliver customer service excellence

Customer service is one of the best examples of freedom of decentralization while guaranteeing maximum adherence to business laws.

For instance, a worker in a retail setting may observe that a customer is having trouble locating what they need. Staff members take the time to inform consumers, respond to their inquiries, and ensure that they are satisfied before simply pointing them in the aisles. This extra effort shows discretionary effort and improves the customer experience. Adhering to strict protocols can occasionally cause customers to feel uneasy and turn away from the brand.

Manage money appropriately

A business has both variable and fixed expenses. Discretionary costs are expenses related to which management has the authority to make subjective decisions. Examples of these costs include entertainment costs, instant bonuses, and preventive maintenance. Often, cutting discretionary costs can be achieved without significantly hurting a business’s bottom line. Employees will therefore maximize company costs while still guaranteeing reasonableness and savings if they manage it well using their own experience.

For instance, many jobs in the business world, like banker, trustee, and executor, involve managing other people’s assets and exercising discretion on behalf of clients. Workers with fiduciary duties should manage company or client assets responsibly.

Employee Discretion and Challenges in Management

“Employee discretion is the enemy of order, standardization, and quality” (Theodore Levitt, Marketing for Business Growth, 56). 

Let’s analyze the example below. In a Walmart meeting, managers asked employees not to make their own decisions in handling fabric under any circumstances. At checkout, the staff will cut the fabric a few inches longer than what the customer requested to ensure it doesn’t get shorter. Managers were told that excess fabric was costing stores an average of $2,500 per year (per store). Employee discretion has been replaced with a policy that employees will cut the exact length purchased.

Avoid Vague Policies

Employees are frequently forced to make decisions in business systems without clear policies or procedures, especially when handling exceptions (e.g., resolving customer complaints). Workers make mistakes and waste time when a course of action is unclear or uncertain, which costs the company money!

Build Concrete Systems

These days, it’s common to hear people discuss how to empower workers’ discretionary by giving them the authority they need to complete tasks. On the other hand, the employee’s level of skill and dedication to the company has a significant impact on the results. Those with more skill use discretion more effectively than those with less or no skill.

Jim Collins said, “A culture of discipline involves a duality,” and we agree. It gives people freedom and responsibility within the parameters of that system, but it also demands that they adhere to a consistent system (“Good to Great”).

How To Promote Employee Discretion In the Workplace?

Discretionary effort reflects more on commitment, perseverance, and one’s ability than it does on a worker’s “choice,” despite the word’s tendency to give that impression. Employees must, in essence, decide to increase their commitment to a task after comprehending its “why.” The best outcomes will therefore be produced by providing employees with a clear understanding of their work and how their decisions affect it, in addition to their own experience.

Additionally, think about implementing rewards and recognition that will enable you to engage your team with a wide selection of individual rewards to help promote and nurture a culture of appreciation and recognition that will inspire employee discretionary effort. Motivate staff to give their all every day at work by showing them that managers and fellow employees value their contributions. This will boost employee engagement.

🚀 AhaSlides is a great tool to help you appreciate your employees’ contributions to your company. With a professional and customizable template, you can make all your meetings, presentations, reports, and employee recognition unique and impressive.


How do you show discretion in the workplace?

Examples of autonomy in the workplace include going beyond regular work hours to enhance the quality of work without being asked, participating in additional training to gain more skills, or creating more content. more than required.

Managers can freely coordinate employees on a project based on their understanding of the project as well as the employees’ abilities.

What does worker discretion mean?

If someone in a position of authority uses their discretion or has the discretion to do something in a particular situation, they have the freedom and authority to decide what to do.

However, this means good skills, a higher sense of responsibility, and pressure to maintain quality work.