This type of empowerment refers to empowerment on an organizational level. It refers to the concrete transference of power to the employee through policies and direct actions that provide the employee with greater resources and channels through which to exercise their power. This may be in the form of voting rights on key company decisions, or it may mean an open-door policy from management.
Three concepts are associated with empowerment: information sharing, autonomy within certain boundaries, and team accountability (Seibert, Silver, & Randolph, 2004). An empowered organization allows the employee to share their ideas and to have input into personal and team goals. It also means accountability to other team members for performance. These three principles represent an empowered organizational structure.
Empowerment was seen as the answer to authoritative workplaces that stifles creativity and that alienated workers (Wilkinson, 1998). This old style of management created workers who were adverse to their positions and that protested individually and collectively (Wilkinson, 1998). It created an environment that created a front between the managers and the workers. This is not viewed in opposition to an empowered workplace, where employees feel that they are an important part of the work landscape. Empowerment was viewed as the answer to the unproductive, authoritarian workplace (Wilkinson, 1998).
In a study that examined Chinese hotel chains that were managed by expatriate employees from the UK. This study found that although the UK managers were more receptive of employee empowerment than Chinese managers, the attitude of the host country still prevailed among all levels of the hotel chain (Littrell, 2006). This study demonstrates the impact of national culture and corporate culture on the ability to accept empowerment of the employees. Empowerment is not compatible with every situation and in every cultural context.
Empowerment involves congruence between a person's beliefs and their work environment (Spreitzer, 1996). When these two factors are coordinated, the employee has feelings of competence and satisfaction with their job. However, when a person's expectations about their work environment do not match their expectations, then a feeling of empowerment will not occur. Many factors must be in place for an employee to experience empowerment. The following will explore these factors and their impact on the employee and on the organization.
Managerial empowerment differs from a feeling of empowerment. When an employee is given greater power within the organization through managerial structures, they may or may not experience a feeling of psychological empowerment. Psychological empowerment differs from structural empowerment. This type of empowerment refers to a feeling that is experienced by the employee that makes them feel powerful (Seibert, Silver, & Randolph, 2004).
It is possible for an employee to feel empowered in a managerial atmosphere that does not encourage empowerment. It is also possible for an employee to fail to feel empowered in a managerial context that encourages individual empowerment. To be empowered is different from feeling empowered (Parker & Price, 1994).These are two different concepts that literature often fails to distinguish. This research focuses on psychological empowerment more than managerial or structural empowerment.
The level of psychological empowerment experienced by and employee is a function of their psychological make-up. There are many factors outside of the organization that can affect an employee's sense of psychological empowerment. Among these are personality traits, level of self-esteem, and the person's locus of control (Seibert, Silver, & Randolph, 2004). When these traits are favorably combined with a managerial style that is empowering, an employee is likely to experience a sense of psychological empowerment.
When extending empowerment to lower levels of the organization, every member of the organization must act as an entrepreneur (Sundbo, 1999). However, not every member of the organization may have the personality to take on the risks associated with this position. Some are workers because they do not like making decisions and having responsibility. When they are placed in a position of power that is beyond their level of comfort, they may experience stress. Therefore, psychological empowerment can be seen as having different outcomes, according to the personality of the person.
Impact of Empowerment
Psychological empowerment is positively related to positive work-unit production (Seibert, Silver, & Randolph, 2004). Employees that were found to have a greater sense of empowerment also demonstrated a greater sense of satisfaction with their job. A correlation has also been found between psychological empowerment and individual job performance (Seibert, Silver, & Randolph, 2004). These results are suspected to be related to intrinsic motivation to perform well in the work environment (Seibert, Silver, & Randolph, 2004). However, it may be noted that empowerment alone will not result in increased productivity. Ability and opportunity may represent confounding variables in this case.
According to Laschinger, Finegan, Shamian, & Wilk, (2004) employees that are psychologically empowered must be provided with the information that they need to make decisions in order to true empowerment to occur. It is not enough for the worker to feel empowered: they must be fed the correct structural environment in order for empowerment to occur.
Empowerment has been shown to have a positive impact on the organization that can be measured in material terms. Low levels of empowerment have been associated with mental distress and chronic disease (Holdsworth & Cartwright, 2003). Likewise, other studies have found an association between high levels of empowerment and lower sickness rates, absence and turnover (Holdsworth & Cartwright, 2003).
Theses studies suggest that empowerment is the cure for any organization. However, this is only under the assumption that the organization is able to achieve empowerment. In order to recognize the benefits of empowerment, an organization must be able to achieve empowerment. There are many a factors that can help or hinder an organization's ability to achieve empowerment. The following will explore some of these factors.
Conditions for Successful Empowerment
National culture may play a role in the likelihood that relationships will form between employees and employers (Seibert, Silver, & Randolph, 2004). In the case of China, past business culture did not promote the conditions that were favorable for empowerment, but rather discouraged it with authoritative, hierarchical business structures. Now the business atmosphere in China is changing and managerial styles reflect a greater sense of managerial and structural empowerment.
In order for empowerment to occur, the employee must have a feeling that their job has meaning and that they are doing something worthwhile (Holdsworth & Cartwright, 2003). The same study also found that a feeling of confidence in one's own ability to do their work well is also necessary for empowerment. Self-Determination is another factor that is important in empowerment. Self-determination in the job setting means the worker has a choice in how to do their work (Holdsworth & Cartwright, 2003). The final factor found in the study was that the employee must feel that they are having an impact in the company. They must feel that their tasks are moving forward (Holdsworth & Cartwright, 2003).
In an environment that increases psychological empowerment in employees, workers must receive increases in their level of authority in respect to their work outcomes (Savery & Luks, 2001). Employees must feel that they are receiving a reward for their efforts. This reward does not have to be monetary, but can be in the form of greater empowerment. This creates a positive cycle that can only lead to higher levels of productivity.
The degree of job involvement is positively linked to both intrinsic and extrinsic job satisfaction (Hirschfield,2000). The amount of involvement refers to a persons' feeling of concern and preoccupation with their work environment (Hirschfield,2000). The employee will feel a connection to the workplace and will spread this feeling of connection to the rest of the workers (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997).
In order to have an empowered workplace, organizations must have a strong strategic vision (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997). Without a unified vision, it is difficult for the multi-level managerial system to function. Everyone must know where they want to go and have a plan to get there. Staff development interventions were found to be successful in changing managerial attitudes to one that was more favorable for empowerment (Deci, Connell, & Richard, 1989).
Empowerment requires a certain attitude from management as well as staff. The manager must be an empowered individual to understand and apply the concepts of empowerment (Block, 1987). According to Block, they must be willing to let go of some of their power and authority. Becoming an empowered leader requires a high level of trust in one's employees and their ability to do their work. The self-managing team needs a strong leader, rather than a manager, if they are to meet their full potential (Block, 1987).
Tolerance for Uncertainty
Uncertainty is the result of spontaneous change and is a part of our existence (Clampitt & Williams, 2000). A degree of uncertainty exists anytime that there is a change. Sometimes the level of uncertainty is minimal, as the results can be predicted based on past events. However, sometimes the level of uncertainty can appear…