Effects of Empowerment, Respect and Trust in the Workplace

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Research Paper: Empowerment and Respect

Abstract

For most of the history of the world there was not a job that was considered to be management, in fact, no one would know what management was until roughly the 19th century. It was in this century that management became formalized and it would further develop over the next 150 years and will continue to develop for more years to come. There are many ways that management can be described, but the main definition for management is the process of dealing with or controlling things or people.  Is it just controlling someone by telling them what to do though?  Peter Drucker states that management is about human beings, management is a way that makes us stronger, more effective, and makes our deficiencies irrelevant.  Still, management is much more than making people effective, people do not respond well to being told what to do when they are not treated the way they would like to be treated.  Personal experience will show that employees whom are treated unreasonably will be less productive than those whom are treated fairly, or the way they expect to be treated.  So, while managers do have the power to “boss” their subordinates around, it can be done so in a way that the subordinates feel respected.  A managers’ delegation of work brings trust to the manager and employee relationship, and it brings a sense of empowerment to the employee.  Through various studies and scholarly papers and theories, I will prove that managers that treat their employees with respect and empower their employees, have more productive organizations than the organizations that do not implement these basic human values.  Though management is still relatively new to our society, we have years of organizational growth that can be accredited to management by way of style, structure, and culture. 

The Effect of Respect in the Workplace

Respect is admiring an individual for the qualities they possess and the achievements they make.  It has numerous levels that can be applied and taken many ways.  Respect is something that is earned, yet it is not always given, it is a nicety that we all would like from our peers, superiors, and subordinates.  Dr. Niels Van Quaquebeke, a professor of management at Kühne Logistics University studies the effect of interpersonal respect in an organization between employee to employee, and employee to supervisor.  Quaquebeke coins the term “interpersonal respect” and accredits it to the classic work values we all expect from an organization.  As I stated earlier there are numerous forms of respect and Quaquebeke breaks interpersonal respect down to two types; recognition respect and appraisal respect.  What is recognition respect? 

“This kind of respect is somewhat similar to the ‘golden rule’ which states that all people deserve to be treated how one would want to be treated oneself.  It is not about a personal appreciation or favoring, but about following a clear set of convention, which give people equal rights – even though they are individuals and as such different.”

(Quaquebeke, 2009)

In other words, it is a type of respect that is expected of all people.  In almost all cases respect is much like trust, in that it must be earned, however, there is a general consensus that everyone is to respect each other no matter who they are.  For example, in the military, superiors are to be respected even if you do not fully trust that one individual, you are merely respecting the authority.  In a business management sense, employees must respect their managers title regardless of the person that fulfills it.  This is the same in the reverse role, that managers must respect their subordinates even if they do not like them as an employee, it is only proper.  Appraisal respect however is much different; “It acknowledges positive differences and rewards them with status…Thus, in an organizational setting, appraisal respect might become evident in a supervisor who acknowledges work or performance…”  (Quaquebeke, 2009) This is much different than recognition respect, in fact it is its opposite.  This type of respect is given to employees that are deserving of it based on the performance of their work.  Does this mean that managers must only treat their employees with respect if they are good performers?  No, that would lead to inequality in the workplace as most organizations have one or two rock star employees on a single team.  The lower performing individuals would naturally further decline in work performance based on their lack of feeling important to the organization.  Therefore, it is imperative for managers to use both types of respect so as to not portray unbalance in their staff.  Quaquebeke performed two separate surveys with random employees of an organization, the first having more men and the second, more women.  Tenure in both surveys was an average of 14-15 years.  The sample subjects were to place a one to five importance value on statements that surrounded 19 facets of the workplace that ranged from; having job security, to respect for managers, to managers respect for employees.  The results showed that employees having respect for their managers was far less important that managers having respect for their employees.  Similar to Quaquebeke’s two types of respect, Nicholas Clarke also discusses recognition respect long with appraisal respect, however, Clarke states that the most important form of respect in an organizational setting is recognition respect.  In his article, Mutual Recognition Respect Between Leaders and Followers: Its Relationship to Follower Job Performance and Well-Being, Clarke says, “Recognition respect is conveyed through the idea that we have respect for an individual’s rights and has as its basis, a recognition of one’s humanity (Kant 1964).  This captures the idea that individuals are owed respect by virtue of their intrinsic worth or dignity.  It suggests all humans should be regarded as autonomous moral agents with integrity, and treated as such.” (Clarke, 2017) Solidifying what Quaquebeke says about recognition respect, we all need to treat each other with respect on the basis that we are all the same.  Absolutely respect the title or position, but we are all human and thus we all deserve the same respect.

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In 2015, Quaquebeke works with Catharina Decker, who wrote, Getting Respect from a Boss You Respect: How Different Types of Respect Interact to Explain Subordinates’ Job Satisfaction as Mediated by Self-Determination.  In these works, the different types of respect are not labeled as recognition respect and appraisal respect, but as horizontal and vertical respect.  Though they have different names they are quite similar in that horizontal respect is to treat an individual with dignity, and vertical respect is honoring an individual’s merits.  In this study Decker hypothesizes, “that (a) leaders’ horizontal respect for their subordinates fundamentally speaks to subordinates’ self-determination and (b) that the message of respectful leadership is enhanced by the vertical respect subordinates have for their leaders.”  (Decker, 2015) The result of the study performed shows that leaders who are respectful leads to employee self-determination and high job satisfaction.  Employees will feel more satisfied with their work when their leaders or managers show them respect.  Kristie Rogers argues in her article, Respect in Organizations: Feeling Valued as “We and Me”, that there are also two different types of respect; generalized and particularized respect.  “…generalized respect is the sense that ‘we’ are all valued in this organization, and particularized respect is the sense that the organization values ‘me’ for particular attributes, behaviors, and achievements.”  (Rogers, 2014) Again we see that there are quite a few similarities in the types of respect that are discussed by Rogers, Quaquebeke, and Decker; stating that all workers of an organization are to be respected and other individuals are to be respected for what they bring to the table.  Why is it important though that we have two different types of respect, is it not enough to just respect the hard workers?  Adam’s Equity Theory portrays the reason why we need to have both types of respect in any organization.  Reginald Bell, author of The Relevance of Scientific Management and Equity Theory in Everyday Managerial Communication Situations, uses both Frederick Taylor’s scientific management concepts and John Adam’s Equity theory to teach managers how to deal with employees’ feelings of inequity.  He states,

“Adams asserted that when people feel distress from inequity they may react in one or all of the following ways.  First, they may restrict their inputs to a level they believe is consistent with the outcomes they receive.  Second, they may meet with their supervisors to verbally negotiate a better deal-meaning they will struggle to find a balance between work and reward.  And/or third, they distress of feelings of inequity may cause some employees to quit the organization.”

(Bell, 2012)

The idea behind Adam’s theory is, if there is a feeling that not everyone is treated with the same level of respect, those individual’s will then become difficult to deal with and less productive.  Looking back at Roger’s argument of feeling valued as the “we” here would help alleviate the employee who feels appreciated less than the rest of the organization.  Remember that Decker states that employees who feel their leaders treat them with respect become self-determined.  Decker continues to say, “A person feels self-determined when she/he experiences herself/himself to be acting autonomously.”  (Decker, 2015) This along with respect is yet another way that a manager needs to treat their employees. 

Employee Empowerment

What is it to be empowerment?  Empowerment is defined as the authority or power given to someone to do something.  This is somewhat along the lines of delegation, where a manager will delegate work to an employee trusting they will get the assignment done.  What does this have to do with the respect that a manager gives to an employee?  It is addressed in Spence Laschinger’s article, Using Empowerment to Build Trust and Respect in the Workplace: A Strategy for Addressing the Nursing Shortage, how respect and employee empowerment can impact the productivity of a person in an organization.  Managers greatly affect the feelings of their employees in an organization, they can make all the decisions themselves leaving the employee feeling like they have to ask permission for everything in their job tasks or they can give their employees the power of autonomy, where they can decide for themselves what needs to be done to finish the job.  Laschinger states,

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“Work settings that are structurally empowering are more likely to have management practices that increase employees’ feelings of organizational justice, respect, and trust in management…When the work environment is empowering and employees perceive a climate of justice, respect, and trust, it is reasonable to expect that they would experience greater job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.” 

This statement parallels the research founded by Decker in her statement of horizontal respect creating employee self-determination.  If self-determination is the process by which a person is in control of their own life, Decker is stating that these employees that receive the respect they need and look for from their managers become empowered.  It is not just in the United States that these work values of respect and empowerment are put to use, but they are also strong in the Japanese culture.  Fukuhara, wrote an article, A critical interpretation of bottom-up management and leadership styles within Japanese companies: A focus on empowerment and trust, that firms up the fact that respect and empowerment from manager to employee creates stronger organizational trust and a stronger employee that has more job satisfaction that from one who does not receive the respect from their manager, or a different level of respect than the rest of the workers in the organization.  In section 2.1, Theoretical framework of empowerment, of Fukuhara’s article, it is suggested that the origin of job empowerment is job enrichment.  Job enrichment is when a manager will give additional responsibilities to a worker that typically are to be done by the manager.  This “enrichment” gives the employee greater job satisfaction.  “Conger and Kanungo (1988) noted that empowerment is closely associated with both relational and motivational constructs.  Empowerment as a relation concept refers to power and control and is discussed in terms of delegation of authority and participative management in managerial literature.”  (Fukuhara, 2016) As said earlier, a managers’ delegation of work will bring a worker a sense of empowerment, and it is highly beneficial to that manager in that they have a lesser workload to work on other big picture ideas for the organization.  Also from the article it is stated that empowerment is associated with motivational constructs.  It is then possible to say that employees with a sense of empowerment become motivated to do more because they want more.  Behaviorally, humans want everything, that is to say we will continue to strive for more because more means more power.

Organizational Trust

Trust and respect are two work values that go hand in hand with one another, regardless of the type of respect.  Trust is necessary for respect to be shown, and respect is given when there is trust.  J. Firth-Cozens writes in his article Organisational trust: the keystone to patient safety, “If managers can maintain open and honest communication when times are bad as well as when they are good, then their staff can gradually learn to do the same.” (Firth-Cozens, 2004) What is learned from this?  Open communication builds a bond between a manager and their staff, regardless of what information is being shared.  When employees feel they are left behind or out of the loop when managers are discussing change, they immediately lose that organizational trust and respect that Laschinger also speaks of in his quote on employee empowerment.  Broken trust is poison to the relationship between manager and employee; a manager should never be dishonest to any employee. 

Alongside trust in an organization is fairness.  What is fairness and how does fairness relate to organizational trust?  Whether you are still a lower level employee or in management within an organization, we all remember that feeling at some point that it was not fair that management did not have the same amount of work you had, and you made less money than them.  This feeling is caused not by the work itself, because the two positions are completely different both with their own level of stress.  The feeling is derived from the leader or manager not treating their subordinates with fairness.  In The relationship between transformational leadership and followers’ perceptions of fairness, by Eliane Bacha, leadership is dissected and finds that leaders need to have character, ethics, and values.  Values are much of what we are discussing in this paper on how a manager should treat people.  In her article she states, “Leaders with integrity always encourage open and honest communication, particularly in discussions that concern decision making.”  (Bacha, 2013) This statement actively brings all values that a manager must have together into one sentence.  Integrity is described as doing the right thing even when no one person is looking.  Open and honest communication is what creates the organizational trust between manager and employee.  Involving employees in decision making is important as it brings them that sense of empowerment, that the work they do is reflected in the actions of the organization.  Bacha also discusses individualized consideration, “Transformational leaders treat each follower individually and takes into account the needs of every employee.  This allows followers to be happy, satisfied, and motivated to work.” (Bacha, 2013) When management takes time with every employee individually they will begin to feel more appreciated rather than just a person in the team.  An appreciated employee feels respected and is motivated to work, therefore they will act autonomously and have higher satisfaction in their job and not be so willing to leave. 

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Conclusion

How should a manager treat their staff? The stance that I take is, in a variety of ways.  A manager needs to be ethical, hold work values to a high standard, be trustworthy, respect the person individually and for their performance, and they should empower them as empowerment creates autonomous free-thinking individuals.  These work values are what creates a strong manager, and what motivates the employees to be the best they can be.

References

  • Bacha, E., & Walker, S. (2013). The relationship between transformational leadership and followers’ perceptions of fairness. Journal of Business Ethics, 116(3), 667-680. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1507-z
  • Bell, R. L., & Martin, J. S. (2012). The relevance of scientific management and equity theory in everyday managerial communication situations. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 13(3), 106-115. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.jbu.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1021381509?accountid=27685
  • Clarke, N., & Mahadi, N. (2017). Mutual recognition respect between leaders and followers: Its relationship to follower job performance and well-being. Journal of Business Ethics, 141(1), 163-178. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2724-z
  • Decker, C., & Van Quaquebeke, N. (2015). Getting respect from a boss you respect: How different types of respect interact to explain subordinates’ job satisfaction as mediated by self-determination. Journal of Business Ethics, 131(3), 543-556. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2291-8
  • Firth-Cozens, J. (2004). Organisational trust: The keystone to patient safety. Quality & Safety in Health Care, 13(1), 56. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/qshc.2003.007971
  • Fukuhara, Y. (2016). A critical interpretation of bottom-up management and leadership styles within Japanese companies: A focus on empowerment and trust. AI & Society, 31(1), 85-93. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00146-015-0585-8
  • van Quaquebeke, N., Zenker, S., & Eckloff, T. (2009). Find out how much it means to me! the importance of interpersonal respect in work values compared to perceived organizational practices. Journal of Business Ethics, 89(3), 423-431. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-008-0008-6
  • Rogers, K. M., & Ashforth, B. E. (2017). Respect in organizations: Feeling valued as “we” and “me”. Journal of Management, 43(5), 1578-1608. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0149206314557159
  • Spence Laschinger, H., K., & Finegan, J. (2005). Using empowerment to build trust and respect in the workplace: A strategy for addressing the nursing shortage. Nursing Economics, 23(1), 6-13, 3. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.jbu.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/236934609?accountid=27685

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