Employee Empowerment And Personality Attributes
This paper attempts to establish a link between the personality attributes of Machiavellianism, self-esteem, risk-taking propensity along with type A personality and workplace empowerment. The papers hypotheses state that there exist definite links between the above co-relates of an individual, and how empowered he or she feels at the workplace. The paper also links employee empowerment to innovative behaviour, and states that innovative behaviour is a function of empowerment.
Typically, there are 3 phases which associates an employee with an organization: Employee Attraction, Employee Retention and Employee Exit. Empowering employees at the first 2 stages would enable the organization to retain the employee, develop a positive connect between the employee and the organization, and enable him or her to contribute to overall organization success. Empowerment calls for a substantial increase in the influence that employees have in an organization. In the knowledge-based emerging economy which is globally connected through Information Technology, decentralized decision-making plays a significant role.
This paper studies the variables associated with Machiavellianism, self-esteem, risk-taking propensity, type A personality and workplace empowerment, along with some of the tools developed to measure these attributes. It then attempts to create a model by connecting the common variables of these personality co-relates with those of workplace empowerment, hence explaining the impact that these co-relates have on how empowered an employee feels. The paper also examines the impact of employee empowerment on innovation. The scope of this paper is restricted to creating the hypotheses, and further empirical research can be undertaken to prove/disprove them.
That the term ‘empowerment’ is so widely used today in ‘progressive’ management circles suggests not just manipulative intent but an awareness that even in periods of deep recession the boundaries of workplace control continue to be challenged by workers striving to attain a measure of power, security and dignity.
- James W. Rinehart
Empowerment is one of the critical issues confronting the managers in the process of transforming organizations. Theoretically it is accepted as democratizing function with the employee involvement and commitment as key factors.
Employee Empowerment was referred to as a "process of enhancing feelings of self-efficacy among organizational members through the identification of conditions that foster powerlessness and through their removal both by formal organizational practices and informal techniques of providing efficacy information." (Conger & Kanungo, 1988).
An empowered person or a team has a better control over his/her surroundings and more specifically the work area. Conger and Kanungo (1988) popularized this concept and gave it relational as well as motivational dimensions. More specifically, Employee Empowerment was referred to as a "process of enhancing feelings of self-efficacy among organizational members through the identification of conditions that foster powerlessness and through their removal both by formal organizational practices and informal techniques of providing efficacy information." Thomas and Velthouse (1990) approached the concept in a structured manner. They developed the empowerment process in terms of changes in cognitive variables that determine motivation in workers. Conceptually, empowerment was made more precise by identifying it with a type of motivation i.e. 'intrinsic task motivation' and a set of task assessments that provide this motivation. The proposed model also attempted to capture the interpretive processes through which the workers arrive at these assessments. Empowerment hence was viewed by these two authors as a motivational construct and how to achieve this motivation.
Bowen and Lawler (1992) focused on empowering management practices including delegation of decision making from higher to lower organizational levels, increasing access to information and resources from higher to lower levels.
Spreitzer (1995) defined Employee Empowerment as a motivational construct manifested in four cognitions-meaning, competence, self-determination and impact. Meaning implies the value of a work goal or purpose, judged in relation to an individual's own ideas or standards. Competence or self-efficacy is an individual's belief in his or her ability to perform activities with skill. Where competence is a mastery of behaviour, self-determination is an individual's sense of having choice in initiating and regulating actions. Impact is the degree to which an individual can influence strategic administration or operating outcomes at work.
Menon (1999) dwelt on three major psychological facets of power and defined psychological empowerment as a cognitive state characterized by a sense of perceived control, perceived competence and goal internalization. Perceived control includes beliefs about authority, decision-making, latitude and availability of resources, autonomy in scheduling etc. The second dimension of perceived competence reflects role mastery, which in addition to successful completion of assigned tasks also requires coping up with the non-routine tasks. The goal internalization dimension captures the energizing property of a worthy cause or exciting vision provided by the organization leadership.
By itself, employee empowerment has no specific definition. It is an essentially contested concept. It depends on what we think, not only in factual terms and in particular cases, but also in sweeping historical, political and theoretical terms (Doughty).
According to Doughty, employee empowerment could represent any of the below fundamentally contradictory schools of thought, each with its own set of assumptions, perceptions, judgements and reflections:
It could be a strategy by the management to placate their employees and lull into them a false sense that they matter and play an important role in the workplace
It could be an important concept in organization psychology which has the potential to build an efficient and flexible workplace by increasing job satisfaction and self actualization of the employee
The first group (opponents) argue that the basis of any human relationship is dominance and control. Individual satisfactions and personal frustrations are inevitable in any structural relationship. This group of the view is that any move or process to ‘empower’ employees at the workplace is merely cosmetic in nature and would only subdue or mask any oppression, but not address or eliminate it altogether.
The second group (proponents) argue that workplace atmosphere, productivity and motivation will improve by bringing people together and giving them more responsibilities. Their perspective is that employee empowerment is intended to reduce mental anguish, existential angst and emotional fatigue that workers experience when:
They are denied considerations as individuals
They are treated with less respect than what they think they deserve
Their experience is discounted and their opinions are dismissed
They are subjected to constant monitoring
They have no say in their routine and they are micromanaged
Employee empowerment promotes shared responsibility between the organization and the employees, which creates a culture of mutual respect, trust and bonhomie thereby resulting in a positive organizational culture. Thus, employee empowerment is a means to increase the collective efficiency of the workplace and at the same time enhance the employee’s quality of working life. Employees who are content and feel empowered will be proud of their work.
The creation of a contended, competent and perhaps even enthusiastic organization depends on both its leadership and its subordinate staff being persuaded of the efficacy of employee empowerment in a corporate culture and possessing the will to see it through (Doughty).
Measuring Employee Empowerment
There is a dearth of tools to measure employee empowerment. However, some attempts were made, which are as under:
Spreitzer (1995) developed an instrument based on the four cognitions proposed by the Thomas Velthouse model. These four dimensions of meaning, competence, self-determination and impact reflect an active orientation to the work role. The 12 item tool considered empowerment to be a continuous variable and a motivational construct specific to work domain and not global in nature.
Leslie (1998) created and tested a Worker Empowerment Scale (WES) in an attempt to fill the perceived gap created by lack of earlier instruments to empirically measure changes in the perceived sense of empowerment among staff and to measure differential levels of empowerment. An original pool of 51 items was tested and reduced to 24.WES with 18 items was validated and divided into 3 subscales of 6 statements each, namely; empowerment and personal work orientation, empowerment and control of work environment and empowerment and work relationships. The WES provided a tool that could be used for a quick assessment of workers' perceived empowerment.
Menon (1999) used an original pool of 60 items to measure psychological empowerment in three cognitive areas; sense of perceived control, perceptions of competence and internalization of goals and objectives. The questionnaire included items from existing scales to measure centralization, delegation, consulting, global self-esteem, job involvement and citizenship behaviour.
Konczack (2000) determined that Thomas and Velthouse multifaceted construct of empowerment and the Spreitzer measures did not adequately provide a means to measure leader behaviour that encouraged empowerment. They proposed seven dimensions of leader empowering behaviour i.e. delegation of authority, accountability, encouragement of self-directed problem solving, information sharing, skill development and coaching for innovative behaviour. LEBQ when compared with Spreitzer empowerment scale reported that with the exception of the competence component, the correlation coefficients between LEBQ and the empowerment components were moderate to large.
Cloete, et.al. (2002) validated a 90 item Employee Empowerment Questionnaire (EEQ) using an instrument developed by Scott and Jaffe (1992) as the base. The original instrument was based on the following dimensions or qualities: clarity of purpose, morale, fairness, recognition, teamwork, participation, communication and healthy environment. Since the metric properties of Scott and Jaffe instrument were found to be inadequate, Cloete and others developed a more comprehensive EEQ. Gender, age, length of service, qualifications and mother tongue were also included.
A Partial Nomological Network
Self - esteem
Risk taking propensity
Type A personality
The above figure depicts a partial nomological network of employee empowerment. An employee’s perception of being empowered is shaped by personality attributes; and empowerment in turn shapes innovative behaviour. We now get into the hypotheses regarding the various antecedents and consequences of the above network.
Antecedents of employee empowerment
In the actions of men ... from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means.
- Niccolo Machiavelli (1531)
Machiavellianism is the belief that people will resort to persuasive, manipulative behaviour in order to achieve their goals (Machiavelli, 1513/1952). The term ‘Machiavellianism’ usually has a negative perception. It defines the extent to which individuals hold a cynical view of human nature and has internalized manipulative traits. High mach individuals are opportunistic, and use guile and deception in their interpersonal affairs. They tend to be politic, impersonal, and exploitive. They generally are unconcerned with conventional morality, have low ideological commitment, and exhibit a lack of emotional involvement with others. Low machs as opposed to high machs, tend to open themselves emotionally to others and take others' needs and concerns as their own. They are more likely to become emotionally involved with other people and with sensitive issues. They also are more apt to adhere to norms of fair play and reciprocity (Christie & Geis, 1970).
Machiavellian individuals are willing to sacrifice ethics in order to obtain their objectives. According to Calhoun’s (1969),
‘A definition of the twentieth century Machiavellian administrator is one who employs aggressive, manipulative, exploiting and devious moves in order to achieve personal and organizational objectives. These moves are undertaken according to perceived feasibility with secondary consideration (what is necessary under the circumstances) to the feelings, needs and/or rights of others’
So far, research on the relation between Machiavellian orientation and behavioural outcomes has been substantial. High Mach individuals tend to manipulate more, persuade other more than they are persuaded when compared to low Machs (Ramanaiah et al., 1994). Thus, they tend to be distrustful of others and as such, may act in an unethical way. Research suggests that Machiavellian orientation can predict unethical employee actions (Andersson & bateman, 1997). Gemmill and Heisler (1972) studied 150 managers working in a large manufacturing firm in the Northeastern section of the United States and found a positive relation between Machiavellian orientation and job strain, and formal control. However, the relation with job satisfaction was negative, with no relation to upward mobility. A recent study by Chung C.Liu (2008) concluded that managers can predict employees' knowledge sharing willingness based on the employees' Machiavellian orientation, and that Machiavellian orientation and Knowledge sharing willingness are negatively related.
Yet, with all the negative implications towards Machivallian orientation, we find that more High Machiavellian individuals are chosen as leaders since they are very effective in manipulating others and tend to be very skillful in finding a satisfying environment that fits their values and beliefs (Gemmil and Heisler). However, Hambirk and Bradon (1988) argued that Machiavellian oriented CEO's will apply a hierarchical and centralized organizational structure that will grant them power. As such, they prefer employees who are dependent (Zaleznik and Kets de Vries, 1975). According to McGuire & Hutchings (2006), although Machiavellian thinking ignores the importance of integrity and honesty in their pursuit for power, this thinking plays an important role in understanding and managing change in a complex business environment. Leaders and teams should seize this way of thinking because it improves their dealing with change and all the related variables a business faces. This thinking also provides a precious guide for leaders and managers when facing challenges and barriers while negotiating especially when it relates to accepting or rejecting organizational change. Lau and Shaffer (1999) based their study on social learning theories and stated that personality traits such as self mentoring, self esteem, locus of control, Machiavellianism, and their correlations are determinants of career success. They found that Machiavellian orientation is a predictor of job performance, and subjective and objective career success.
Age and Machiavellianism: Prior studies indicate that Machiavellianism is negatively related to age. In the original study, college students had significantly higher Mach scores than both adults in general and college-educated adults (Christie and Geis 1970). Younger marketers were found more Machiavellian than older marketers (Hunt and Chonko 1984), and younger managers were more Machiavellian than older managers (Gable and Topol 1988). Pratt et al. (1983) suggest that Machiavellianism and age are closely related and older individuals may be more philosophically reflective and consistent in their moral beliefs.
Gender and Machiavellianism: Prior research shows mixed results between Machiavellianism and gender. In studies involving the general population, females generally tended to score lower on the Mach scale than males (Christie and Geis 1970). However, female marketers were found to be more Machiavellian than male marketers (Hunt and Chonko 1984). No significant differences were found between male bankers and female bankers (Corzine et al. 1999), or between male undergraduate business majors and female business majors (Rayburn and Rayburn 1996).
Education and Machiavellianism: Research also shows mixed results between Machiavellianism and education. Although less educated adults tended to score higher on the Mach scale (Christie and Geis 1970), no significant difference in Mach scores was found among the educational attainments of marketers (Hunt and Chonko 1984). Christie and Geis (1970) explain the negative relationship as the result of less educated adults being more willing to reveal socially undesirable characteristics. However, when social desirability was held constant in the analysis, a positive correlation resulted. Furthermore, Siegel (1973) found that M.B.A. students had higher Mach scores than business managers with less education.
Machiavellianism, Codes of Professional Conduct, Job, and Career Satisfaction: In occupations where Machiavellian-type skills are useful or encouraged, it is likely that high Mach individuals will be more satisfied with their daily activities and careers, in contrast to occupations that discourage these abilities. However, professional standards of behaviour may inhibit and/or prohibit Machiavellian-type behaviours (e.g., manipulation, opportunism).
Less ethical behaviour
The most frequently used and popular instrument to measure Machiavellianism is the Mach IV scale, developed by Christie and Geis (1970). This a 20 point, Likert-type instrument, with statements that address an individual’s morality, views and tactics in order to measure Machiavellian orientation. Scores could range from 40 to 160, with 100 being the theoretical neutral.
Christie and Geis (1970) developed the original Machiavellianism scale used almost exclusively in studies of the trait. The Mach IV scale was developed from seventy-one items based on Machiavelli’s writings, The Prince and The Discourses. The 20 scale items represent the essence of the Machiavellian trait; nine statements categorize Machiavellian tactics, nine statements address personal views, and two statements characterize abstract morality. Christie and Geis (1970) use the scale in 38 separate studies to evaluate how ‘‘high’’ Machs differ in attitudes and behaviours from individuals scoring low on the scale.1 Generally, individuals scoring ‘‘high’’ on the scale manipulate more, win more, are persuaded less, and persuade others more than those scoring lower on the scale.
Machiavellianism and employee empowerment
High Mach people demonstrate behaviours such as being highly aggressive, manipulative, and exploitative. They do not care much for ethics and operate in a highly individualistic manner. Moreover, gender plays a crucial role in determining Machiavellianism. Individuals with high mach personalities are charming, charismatic and supremely self- confident. They are sometimes two-faced, and very opportunistic. As a result of these, there does not seem to be much correlation between Machiavellianism and employee’s perception of feeling empowered. Although common variables such as confidence exist, it does not seem to appear that high mach employees feel more empowered.
H1: There is no significant correlation between Machiavellianism and employee empowerment
Probably one of the most central constructs in psychology, self-esteem refers to a person’s evaluation of or attitude towards himself or herself. It is an indication of an overall feeling of self-worth that influences an individual’s functioning (Tafarodi & Swann, 1995). Some psychologists have attempted to classify self-esteem into various sub-types, such as domain-specific self-esteem (Harter, 1999), contingent self-esteem (Crocker, Luhtanen, Cooper, & Bouvrette, 2003), stable self-esteem (Kernis, 2005) and so on. In one o the earliest formulations of defining self-esteem, James (1890/183) defined self-esteem as the degree to which the self is judged to be competent in life domains. Cooley (1902/1964), argued that self-esteem stems not only from self-evaluations but also the perceived evaluations of others. For decades, global self-esteem was seen to be practically equivalent to mental health (Pyszczynski, Greenberg, Solomon, Arndt, & Schimel, 2004). Part of self-esteem’s appeal is its link to positive states such as happiness and optimism (Lucas, Diener, & Suh, 1996; Lyubomirsky, Tkach, & DiMatteo, 2006), as well as its negative link to dysfunctional states such as depression and anxiety (Harter, 1990). Additionally, Deci and Ryan (1995) have proposed that some people possess ‘true self-esteem,’ a self-determined and autonomous way of evaluating oneself that is not dependent on particular outcomes or social approval. Similarly, Kernis (2003) has proposed the concept of ‘optimal self-esteem’ which is founded on stable and non-contingent self-evaluations.
(1890) defined self-esteem as a summary evaluation that reflects a ratio of our "pretensions" divided by our "successes" (p. 310). Self-esteem reflects a "baseline" feeling of worth, value, liking, and accepting of self that one carries at all times regardless of objective reality. Cooley (1902) postulated that the self is determined and judged by the perception of others. Mead (1934) saw the self as a product of interactions in which the individual experiences him- or herself as reflected in the behaviour of others. Rogers (1951) referred to self-esteem as the extent to which a person likes, values, and accepts him- or herself. Unconditional, positive self-regard is dependent on the unconditional positive regard of significant others (Rogers, 1959). White (1963) described self-esteem as a process developing from two sources: an internal source of a sense of accomplishment and an external source of affirmation from others. Maslow (1968) defined self-esteem as "the desire for strength, for achievement, for adequacy, for mastery and competence, . . . and for independence and freedom" (p. 45).
Rosenberg (1965, 1979) and Coopersmith (1967) each developed a theory of self-esteem as a significant personality construct based on empirical methods. Both reached similar conclusions. Concerned with the development of a positive self-image during adolescence, Rosenberg (1965) considered self-esteem to be global, a unidimensional phenomenon, an attitude toward a specific object, the self According to him, attitudes about every characteristic of the self have an evaluative dimension that results in a self-estimate of that characteristic. Each element of the self is actually rated and judged against a self-value that has developed during childhood and adolescence. Feedback from others, particularly significant others, is an important element of self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1979). Yet self-esteem is also unconditional in the sense that the person respects (or does not respect) him- or herself in-dependent of qualities or accomplishments (Rosenberg, 1985).
Coopersmith (1967) researched pre-high-school children and saw self-esteem as a more complex phenomenon involving self-evaluation and manifestations of defensive reactions to that evaluation. Self-esteem consists of two parts: subjective expression and behavioural manifestation. Coopersmith (1967) attempted to address both true self-esteem (manifested in those who actually feel worthy and valuable) and defensive self-esteem (manifested in those who feel unworthy but who can-not admit this threatening information). Coopersmith's (1981) definition included a decision of personal worthiness, a judgmental process inwhich "performance, capacities, and attributes" are examined according to personal standards and values that develop during childhood. It focuses on the "relatively enduring estimate of general self-esteem rather than on specific and transitory changes in evaluation" (p. 5).
These two theorists were followed by others, who reiterated, extended, or refined these basic elements. Fitts (1972) suggested that self-esteem is primarily a result of the judgments of significant others, thus supporting Coopersmith's (1967) view. Wells and Maxwell (1976) categorized existing definitions as attitudinal toward the self as the object of attention; as relational between different sets of self-attitudes; as psychological responses toward the self; and as a function of personality, a part of the self-system. Gecas (1982) pointed out a distinction between self-esteem based on a sense of competence, power, or efficacy and self-esteem based on a sense of virtue or moral worth. Competency-based self-esteem is related to effective performance and is associated with self-attribution and social comparison processes. Self-esteem based on self-worth, or virtue, is grounded in values and norms of personal and interpersonal conduct. Sense of worth may be strongly affected by sense of competence and vice versa (Gecas, 1982). Pope et al. (1988), echoing James's (1890) original work, defined self-esteem as the evaluation of information within the self-concept that arises from the discrepancy between the perceived self and the real self. Frey and Carlock (1989) also recognized self-esteem as an evaluative term and discussed the components of competence and worthiness as interrelated. Mruk (1999) considered self-esteem as an interaction between worthiness and competence and conceptualized a self-esteem matrix indicating a continuum of competent or effective behaviour.
High internal locus of control
High sense of self worth
High degree of self respect
Many scales are available for measuring self-esteem, and different investigations have used different ones, which compounds the difficulty of comparing results from different investigations (especially if the results are inconsistent). Blascovich and Tomaka (1991) reviewed multiple measures and found them of uneven quality, giving high marks to only a few (such as Fleming & Courtney’s, 1984, revision of Janis & Field’s 1959 scale, and Rosenberg’s, 1965, global self-esteem measure). In essence, self-esteem scales ask people to rate themselves in response to questions such as “Are you a worthwhile individual?” “Are you good at school or work?” “Do people like you?” and “Are you reliable and trustworthy?” When researchers check self-esteem measures against the so-called lie scales (also called measures of social desirability, because they assess tendencies to give distorted, even unrealistic answers just to make a good impression), they conclude that self-esteem scores are somewhat contaminated by people’s efforts to make themselves look good. These measures also obscure needed distinctions between defensive, inflated, narcissistic, and socalled genuine high self-esteem. (We discuss different varieties of high self-esteem in the next section.) Unfortunately, there is no objective criterion against which to compare self-reported self-esteem, because of the nature of the construct: Self-esteem essentially consists of how a person thinks about and evaluates the self. In the case of intelligence, for example, self-ratings can be compared against objective performance on intellectual tests, and the results can (and often do) show that people’s selfreports of their own intelligence are wrong. But there is no known basis for saying that certain people really have more or less self-esteem than they think they have. To overcome these measurement problems, some researchers measure implicit , or unfakeable, self-esteem by using a variety of subtle methods, such as reaction times to good and bad thoughts that can be paired with the self (Greenwald & Farnham, 2000). Though promising, this research has only recently begun, and it therefore does not play a significant role in this review. Despite the potential pitfalls of explicit (i.e., self-report) measures, the fact that scores on different scales are positively correlated (e.g., Greenwald & Farnham, 2000) is an indication that they can be used with some confidence. Even more significantly, the Rosenberg scale, which is by far the most popular among researchers, has been shown to be highly reliable (e.g., if a person completes the scale on two occasions, the two scores tend to be similar). As a measure of global self-esteem, this scale is unidimensional (Gray-Little, Williams, & Hancock, 1997; Robins, Hendin, & Trzesniewski, 2001). Indeed, its reliability is so high that a single item (“I have high selfesteem”) may be sufficient (Robins et al., 2001).
Usually, a straightforward method is used to measure self-esteem where an individual is asked to rate himself or herself in different areas of life. Weights are allocated depending on the relative importance of each area, and an aggregate score is calculated.
Rosenberg’s (1965) self-esteem scale is one of the most popular and widely used methods for measuring self-esteem. This consists of a questionnaire of 10 items, each of which requires responses on a 4-point scale.
Another scale used for measuring self-esteem is Vonk’s scale (Vonk et al., 2008). This measure also assesses self-esteem using various brief statements such as ‘I have confidence in myself’, and ‘I wish I were different’.
Paradise and Kernis (1999) developed an instrument to measure contingent self-esteem, and Crocker et al. (2003) developed a measure that distinguishes domains of contingency on which people base their self worth.
Self –esteem and employee empowerment
There seems to some linkage between self-esteem and employee empowerment. Employees with high self-esteem are very confident of their abilities to handle difficult situations at the workplace. Moreover, they are very confident about their abilities to make a positive difference to the organization. They take responsibility for their actions, and also operate with a high degree of autonomy, due to their internal locus of control. Because of their high sense of self-worth and self respect, they feel that they are making a significant contribution to the organization. They are also more satisfied with their work, and feel empowered to take decisions which will impact the organization on multiple levels.
H2: There is a positive correlation between employee self-esteem and employee empowerment
Risk Taking Propensity
Important decisions take place under conditions of uncertainty and risk. Decision making cannot be reduced to a routine function, and hence the link between personality attributes and decision making is very relevant (Kamalanabhan, Sunder & Vasanthi, 2008). Hence, a number of researchers have focussed their attention on risk taking propensity of managers and entrepreneurs (MacCrimmon & Wehrung, 1984; Sunder & Kamalanabhan, 1993).
Propensity for risk taking has important implications for modelling risk behaviour and for gaining practical insights into the motives underlying individual choices. A better understanding of risk behaviour could result in better risk management programmes within organizations.
A number of theories of risk propensity have been published, the most detailed of which has been the modelling set out by Sitkin and Pablo (1992). In this framework it is suggested that the two key inputs to risk taking are risk perception and risk propensity, with risk propensity conceptualized as a confluence of dispositional tendencies, cognitive inputs and past experience.
The literature relating to risk propensity has multiple themes (Nicholson, Soane, Fenton-O’Creevy & Willman, 2005). One theme connects risk propensity to expected utility theories, more specifically prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979). This states that risk taking is asymmetric about a reference point; people will be risk averse when they perceive themselves to be in the domain of gain, and risk seeking in the domain of loss. Individual risk taking is relatively inconsistent across situations i.e. a person will take risk in some circumstances, and avoid risk in some other circumstances. Simple semantics, such as choice being presented as a loss rather than a gain, cold prompt a behavioural change.
Another theme is that individual difference factors could influence risk taking behaviour. Personality plays a major role in determining risk behaviour. Certain findings (Highhouse & Yuce, 1996) seem to contradict prospect theory. These findings say that risk taking in situations of gain, and risk aversion in situations of loss, are due to individual differences in perceptions of opportunity and threat i.e. risk propensity is characteristic of an individual rather than a function of the situation.
Another approach considers risk propensity in terms of variance in within-individual risk measure (Weinstein & Martin, 1969; Salminen & Heiskanen, 1997). Empirical findings in this domain suggest that people do not have generalized tendencies to take or avoid risk. However, a small number of people could be categorized as consistent risk seekers, or consistent risk averters (MacCrimmon & Wehrung, 1986)
The third stream of thought proposes a combination of situational and individual approaches to risk propensity through consideration of individual responses to different risk domains. (Fagley & Miller, 1997; Weber & Milliman, 1997). According to Weber and Milliman (1997), and subsequently Weber et al. (2002), although the degree of risk perceived in a situation can vary according to the characteristics of the situation, attitude to perceived risk (the degree to which people find perceived risk attractive) remained stable across situations for a significant portion of their sample. It is possible to be risk seeking in some areas of one's life and risk averse in others while having a relatively consistent view of risk.
Weber et al. (2002) suggests that both general (e.g. sensation-seeking) and domain-specific (e.g. perceived risk) risk propensities are possible.
Knowledge (the lesser the knowledge, the more the risk taking propensity)
Personality type (type A are more likely to take risks)
Need for control
Focus on immediate actions and outcomes
Self esteem (people with high self esteem are more likely to take risks)
High internal locus of control
High sense of self worth
High degree of self respect
Measuring Risk Propensity
A variety of instruments and techniques have been used by researchers to determine risk taking propensity. The most popular among them is the Choice Dilemma Questionnaire (CDQ). It was used by Stoner (1961), and popularized by Kogan and Wallach (1964). It measures risk–taking of an individual as a sum of scores of twelve items. The CDQ has been used in studies for risky shift phenomenon (Burnstein, Miller, Vinokur, Katz & Crowley, 1971), risk value hypothesis (Brown, 1965; Levinger & Schnider, 1969), the influence of age on risk-taking (Vroom & Pahl, 1971), cultural effects on risk-taking (Carlson & Davis, 1971) and in studies attempting to identify differences between groups of managers and entrepreneurs (Brockhaus, 1980).
The CDQ is not without its critics. Shaver and Scott (1991) say that the CDQ never underwent any validity and reliability testing. MacCrimmon and Wehrung (1984) point out that the CDQ tests individuals for situations on which they have no experience. Higbee (1971) wonders whether the CDQ can measure risk propensity in complex situations. Vroom and Pahl (1971) say that the correlation between the items in the CDQ is poor.
Nicholson, Soane, Fenton-O’Creevy and Willman (2005) created a new scale to measure risk propensity, titled Risk Taking Index. This scale assessed overall risk propensity in terms of reported frequency of risk behaviours in six domains: recreation, health, career, finance, safety and social.
Risk taking propensity and employee empowerment
Employees with a high propensity of risk taking are more likely to feel empowered. They are competitive, have a high internal locus of control, and are achievement oriented. Moreover, gender also plays a crucial role in risk taking propensity. Females are generally considered to be more risk averse as compared to males. They proactively seek challenging assignments, and would feel empowered if the organization allows them to take up such assignments. People with a high propensity to take risks also possess high self-esteem. They are confident about their ability to handle the outcome of the risk, and they also are optimistic that their risk will pay off. Hence, it appears that risk taking propensity is directly linked to empowerment.
H3: There is a direct correlation between risk taking propensity and employee empowerment
Type A Personality
Personality characteristics influence empowerment at the workplace. Both the manager’s and the employee’s personality plays an important part in workplace empowerment. The types of work environment, level of job position, and personality characteristics are the important variables that affect managerial effectiveness in an organisational environment. This is exactly why personality tests are used in screening of job candidates to avoid potential mismatches. Friedman and Rosenham (1966) defines the Type A personality as “an action emotion complex that can be observed in any person who is aggressively involved in a chronic incessant struggle to achieve more and more in less time and if required to do so, against the opposing efforts of other things or other persons”. The Type A personality is characterised by feeling a chronic sense of time urgency and by an excessive competitive drive. Type A behaviour is a life-style or general orientation to life, characterized by a high degree of ambition. These individuals are constantly striving to attain material things or achievements in the shortest period of time. Type A individuals continually feel the need to prove themselves and often channel their ambitions into an area that is important to them at the moment. Society often glamorizes Type A individuals because of the corresponding success attributed to this behaviour. Some of the more outstanding characteristics of Type As include:
Always in haste
Feeling of impatience
Obsessed with success
Persistent inability to cope with leisure time.
People with Type A behaviour pattern are action-oriented individuals. They are constantly struggling to achieve the highest amount in the least possible time (Friedman & Rosenman, 1974), are more competitive (Smith & Brehm, 1981), seek more challenges (Ortega & Pipal, 1984; Smith & Brehm, 1981), set high performance standards for themselves (Snow, 1978; Ward & Eisler, 1987), prefer to work alone (Dembroski & MacDougall, 1978), work harder and longer, and report being stressed more often (Howard, Cunningham & Rechnitzer, 1977).
At the same time, studies have shown that Type A individuals do not always outperform others. Fazio, Cooper, Dayson and Johnson (1981) reported that Type As performed less well on complex tasks and on tasks that that require slow and careful responses. They have trouble relinquishing control, and like to control task even when their partners are more competent (Strube & Werner, 1985). They also seek short-term and immediate results that form a basis of comparison of their performance with others (Friedman & Rosenman, 1974).
The need to assert and maintain control is at the heart of Type A behaviour pattern (Glass, 1977; Smith & Rhodewalt, 1986). This makes them hard-driving, competitive and often hostile.
Type A individuals set increasingly more difficult goals; ambitions are pushed higher and higher, always beyond their reach. Type A individuals believe they are struggling against others in a fight to the top. Type A individuals will compete even with themselves when there is no one else in the immediate environment with whom to compete. The more difficult the job, the harder Type A individuals work to meet the challenges. These individuals have trouble leaving their tasks at the office as work has a high priority in their value structure and they engage in overtime. They often gauge their success by the number of achievements to their credit.
Speed is another dominant characteristic of Type A individuals, who move quickly or may appear tense and energetic. They tend to be chronic hurriers; to wait in line becomes an intolerable task. A predominant feeling among these individuals is that they should use each moment to its fullest advantage and not waste any time. The primary characteristics of the Type A behaviour pattern are a chronic sense of urgency, free-floating or easily aroused hostihty, ambitiousness, and immoderation. Secondary behaviours implied by this description include impatience, competitiveness, and aggressiveness, all of which appear to represent interaction among the primary behaviour components.
Need for control
Focus on immediate actions and outcomes
Measuring Type A behaviour
A short measure for Type A behaviour based on the work of Sales (1969) and Vickers (1975) was created by Li-Ping Tang. Each item of this brief, self-completed, 9-item scale consists of a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from very true of me (7) to not at all true of me (1).
The most popular tool for measuring Type A behaviour is the Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS)-Form C. This is primarily designed for working adults.
Type A personality and employee empowerment
Typically, type A personalities have a very high achievement orientation. They are highly ambitious, and are loyal to the workplace. They demonstrate a high degree of competitiveness and impulsiveness. Gender is an important determinant of personality type. Such individuals are also challenge seeking, and have a high internal locus of control. They are highly individualistic in nature and very ambitious. Because of some overlap with the variables of empowerment, such as loyalty, persistence and intrinsic motivation, there seems to be some correlation between type A employees and their perception of feeling empowered.
H4: There exists a linkage between type A personality employees and their feeling of empowerment
Consequences of employee empowerment
In their research, some scholars have suggested that supportive, participative, vision-setting, democratic, and collaborative management styles are effective in encouraging innovation (Schin and McClomb 1998; Van de Ven 1986). Jung, Chow, and Wu (2003) also suggested that empowerment was positively related to support for innovation, whereas they found a negative relationship between empowerment and organizational innovation. They explain this unexpected finding in terms of cultural characteristics of their sample, concluding that high power distance may be one of the reasons because employees in such an environment may feel confused when left alone to figure out what they need to do and how to accomplish their goals in terms of innovativeness. There are several specific key practices aimed at building innovative behaviours; among those are empowerment and involvement. Empowerment should make people feel they possess a certain degree of autonomy and power in decision-making, feel less constrained by rule-bound aspects, and self-effective in enacting their work; combined, these features enable people to be innovative (Spreitzer 1995; Amabile and Grykiewicz 1989). Further, Ford and Randolph (1992) proposed that empowerment was very important to enhance innovative performance. Key attributes of empowerment, such as open communication, information sharing, participation in decision-making processes, shared vision, and common direction, are also the key elements in fostering innovation (Ahmed 1998). Moreover, Brunetto and Farr-Wharton (2007) also suggested that important outcomes of empowerment, such as mutual trust and increased collaboration, are important factors for innovation in SMEs. Empowered individuals have been shown to take more a proactive approach toward shaping and influencing their work environment (Spreitzer, Kizilos, and Nason 1997). As such, empowerment is expected to be positively related to organizational innovation (Damanpour 1991). For instance, Amabile (1988) has found that having a sense of control over what to do and how to do one’s work enhance individuals’ capacity for innovative behaviour. Moreover, in a research conducted in Australia, Knight-Turvey (2006) found that empowerment and innovation were strongly linked. Also, according to another recent research, there exists a strong positive relationship between participative management practices and innovative culture in small businesses (Gudmunson, Tower, and Hartman 2003; Ogbonna and Harris 2000; Claver et al. 1998). Innovative behaviour implies creation of something new or different. According to Woodman, Sawyer and Griffin (1993), innovative behaviours are change-oriented because they involve creating a new product, process, service or idea. Innovation is usually a function of intrinsic task motivation (Redmond, Mumford & Teach, 1993). Empowered individuals are less constrained by technical or rule-bound aspects of work. This is because they feel that they have an impact and are autonomous (Amabile, 1988). Empowered individuals also are more self-efficacious. Hence, they are more likely to succeed in innovative work (Amiable, 1988; Redmond et al., 1993). In order to stimulate and manages change in organizations, psychological change is important (Conger & Canungo, 1988). Individual flexibility, which contributes to innovative behaviour, is also linked to empowerment (Thomas & Velthouse). In entrepreneurial organizations, empowerment and innovative behaviour were inextricably linked (Kanter, 1983).
H5: Employee empowerment is positively related to innovative behaviour
This paper has put together some of the various researches that has occurred over the years in the areas of Machiavellianism, self-esteem, type A personality, risk taking propensity, employee empowerment and innovation. The paper has tried to establish definite links between these attributes and employee empowerment, as also inter-linkages among the attributes themselves. It has also listed some of the tools that can be used to measure these attributes. Further empirical research may prove/disprove the various hypotheses that have come about as a result of this literature review. Employee empowerment is an important context in today’s dynamic organizational environments, and due attention must be paid to analyze its antecedents and consequences, many of which are beyond the scope of this paper.
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