The need for the employee empowerment

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Empowerment is the process of enabling or authorizing an individual to think, behaves, take action, and control work and decision making in autonomous ways. It is the state of feeling self-empowered to take control of one's own destiny.

When thinking about empowerment in human relations terms, try to avoid thinking of it as something that one individual does for another. This is one of the problems organizations have experienced with the concept of empowerment. People think that "someone," usually the manager, has to bestow empowerment on the people who report to him.

Consequently, the reporting staff members "wait" for the bestowing of empowerment, and the manager asks why people won't act in empowered ways. This led to a general unhappiness, mostly undeserved, with the concept of empowerment in many organizations.

Think of empowerment, instead, as the process of an individual enabling himself to take action and control work and decision making in autonomous ways. Empowerment comes from the individual.

The organization has the responsibility to create a work environment which helps foster the ability and desire of employees to act in empowered ways. The work organization has the responsibility to remove barriers that limit the ability of staff to act in empowered ways.

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Employee involvement and participative management are often used to mean empowerment. They are not really interchangeable.


The manager of the Human Resources department added weeks to the process of hiring new employees by requiring his supposedly "empowered" staff members to obtain his signature on every document related to the hiring of a new employee.

John empowered himself to discuss the career objectives he wished to pursue with his supervisor. He told his supervisor, frankly, that if the opportunities were not available in his current company, he would move on to another company.

The Influence of Empowerment and Job Enrichment on Employee Loyalty in a Downsizing Environment

Maintaining survivors’ loyalty in a downsizing environment is a difficult problem for management practitioners. Theorists have suggested that empowerment and job enrichment are mechanisms that allow survivors to cope with the stress of downsizing. This study examined the relationships between managerial empowerment behaviours, perceptions of job enrichment, and loyalty behaviours with employees who have survived downsizing in an organization. Results showed that empowerment does not have a direct effect on loyalty but affects loyalty indirectly through job enrichment. The results are discussed in terms of their implications for theory and practice.

Important factor for employee empowerment

Employee Involvement


Employee involvement is creating an environment in which people have an impact on decisions and actions that affect their jobs.

Employee involvement is not the goal nor is it a tool, as practiced in many organizations. Rather, it is a management and leadership philosophy about how people are most enabled to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of their work organization.

My bias, from working with people for 40+ years, is to involve people as much as possible in all aspects of work decisions and planning. This involvement increases ownership and commitment, retains your best employees, and fosters an environment in which people choose to be motivated and contributing.

How to involve employees in decisionmaking and continuous improvement activities is the strategic aspect of involvement and can include such methods as suggestion systems, manufacturing cells, work teams, continuous improvement meetings, Kaizen (continuous improvement) events, corrective action processes, and periodic discussions with the supervisor.

Intrinsic to most employee involvement processes is training in team effectiveness, communication, and problem solving; the development of reward and recognition systems; and frequently, the sharing of gains made through employee involvement efforts.

Employee Involvement Model

For people and organizations who desire a model to apply, the best I have discovered was developed from work by Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1958) and Sadler (1970). They provide a continuum for leadership and involvement that includes an increasing role for employees and a decreasing role for supervisors in the decision process. The continuum includes this progression.

Tell: the supervisor makes the decision and announces it to staff. The supervisor provides complete direction.

Sell: the supervisor makes the decision and then attempts to gain commitment from staff by "selling" the positive aspects of the decision.

Consult: the supervisor invites input into a decision while retaining authority to make the final decision herself.

Join: the supervisor invites employees to make the decision with the supervisor. The supervisor considers her voice equal in the decision process.

To round out the model, I add the following.

Delegate: the supervisor turns the decision over to another party.

Employee empowerment challenges

Today's newsletter prompted my thoughts about employee empowerment, a strategy and value that I support. I've sought ideas for effective implementation my entire consulting career. In my core beliefs, when managers and employees experience the power of employee empowerment, they want to live that way, too. The challenge is in the details.

Many companies talk about employee empowerment as their desired relationship with their employees. But employee empowerment is much harder to carry out in the daily work environment. Not every employee can contribute to every decision and there is always a manager or director you report to who may have a different vision for a program or project.

Overall company decisions may influence your work area and even your daily tasks. The current economic situation may also infringe upon your feelings of empowerment as company leaders make decisions with which you disagree - or worse, without you - for the good of the overall company. It's a wonder to me sometimes, how any company gets empowerment right. These are some of the factors that make empowerment difficult:

Managers need to release power to employees. This is hard when you're still responsible for the results - or maybe you just like being in charge and making all of the decisions. Some managers feel safer in charge.

Employees miss deadlines, plan and work on pet projects and neglect the contribution you most need from them. Excuses and "not my faults" can drive you crazy.

Boundaries of decision making are the biggest challenge. Where does my decision making leave off and yours begin? Unfortunately, rather than addressing this persistent issue in empowerment, most organizations navigate this problem hit-or-miss. This leaves employees unwilling to make decisions, unempowered when their decisions are over-ridden, and managers who ask, "Why won't the people who report to me act empowered?" Right.

Okay, those are some of my thoughts about employee empowerment. What is your experience of employee empowerment from a managerial or employee point of view? Is

Top 10 Principles of Employee Empowerment

The Credo of an Empowering Manager

Looking for real management advice about people? Your goal is to create a work environment in which people are empowered, productive, contributing, and happy. Don't hobble them by limiting their tools or information. Trust them to do the right thing. Get out of their way and watch them catch fire.

These are the ten most important principles for managing people in a way that reinforces employee empowerment accomplishment, and contribution. These management actions enable both the people who work with you and the people who report to you to soar.

1. Demonstrate You Value People

Your regard for people shines through in all of your actions and words. Your facial expression, your body language, and your words express what you are thinking about the people who report to you. Your goal is to demonstrate your appreciation for each person's unique value. No matter how an employee is performing on their current task, your value for the employee as a human being should never falter and always be visible.

2. Share Leadership Vision

Help people feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves and their individual job. Do this by making sure they know and have access to the organization's overall mission, vision, and strategic plans.

3. Share Goals and Direction

Share the most important goals and direction for your group. Where possible, either make progress on goals measurable and observable, or ascertain that you have shared your picture of a positive outcome with the people responsible for accomplishing the results.

4. Trust People

Trust the intentions of people to do the right thing, make the right decision, and make choices that, while maybe not exactly what you would decide, still work.

5. Provide Information for Decision Making

Make certain that you have given people, or made sure that they have access to, all of the information they need to make thoughtful decisions.

6. Delegate Authority and Impact Opportunities, Not Just More Work

Doesn’t just delegate the drudge work; delegate some of the fun stuff, too. You know, delegate the important meetings, the committee memberships that influence product development and decision making, and the projects that people and customers notice. The employee will grow and develop new skills. Your plate will be less full so you can concentrate on contribution. Your reporting staff will gratefully shine - and so will you.

7. Provide Frequent Feedback

Provide frequent feedback so that people know how they are doing. Sometimes, the purpose of feedback is reward and recognition. People deserve your constructive feedback, too, so they can continue to develop their knowledge and skills.

8. Solve Problems: Don't Pinpoint Problem People

When a problem occurs, ask what is wrong with the work system that caused the people to fail, not what is wrong with the people. Worst case response to problems? Seek to identify and punish the guilty. (Thank you, Dr. Deming.)

9. Listen to Learn and Ask Questions to Provide Guidance

Provide a space in which people will communicate by listening to them and asking them questions. Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown up people what to do. People generally know the right answers if they have the opportunity to produce them. When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, "What do you think you should do to solve this problem?" Or, ask, "what action steps do you recommend?" Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process.

10. Help Employees Feel Rewarded and Recognized for Empowered Behaviour

When employees feel under-compensated, under-titled for the responsibilities they take on, under-noticed, under-praised, and under-appreciated, don’t expect results from employee empowerment. The basic needs of employees must feel met for employees to give you their discretionary energy, that extra effort that people voluntarily invest in work.