Employee Empowerment in the Organization

Employee Empowerment in the Organization.

Employee Empowerment in the Organization


Empowerment within the organization is seen as an important approach to leadership and one that gives employees some autonomy and decision making. The definition of empowerment has elicited wide debate and the reason for this has been due to the close association between empowerment and management. Tulloch (1993) defined empowerment as ‘authorizing’ and ‘giving power to.’ The definition by Tulloch has been regarded as one of the original definitions of empowerment and this has led to the wide usage of the term ‘power’ in defining empowerment. Pastor (1996) moved from the usage of ‘power’ and defined empowerment as a dynamic process. According to Pastor (1996), empowerment is an evolution that takes place when there is an interaction between two or more people either professionally or personally.  

Employee involvement, participation, and empowerment are key components of best practices associated with high-performance work paradigm. As regards empowerment, most employers have conceded to the fact that empowerment in the organization creates the essence of commitment, loyalty, and conscientiousness that are some of the features of soft HRM.  Such benefits of empowerment are aligned to the basis of the high-performance paradigm that refers to the managerial approach focusing on labour management approaches and reinforcing production practices to push for performance outcomes (Hughes, 2008, 4). The essay that follows discusses the reasons behind organization’s empowerment of employees, the approaches used in empowerment, and the effectiveness as well as the ineffectiveness of these approaches.

Why organizations empower employees

Empowerment in the organization contributes to the improvement in the quality of work that in turn translates to increased productivity. The contribution of empowerment to the quality of work in the organization comes from the fact that it brings in an increased sense of responsibility and the need to have quality outcomes. Giving the employees more discretion and responsibility means they have a contribution to the organization’s success and will work towards this success by increasing the quality of work. Empowered employees have a personal pride in the organization, and this means that the organization has to focus on empowering employees to create a sense of pride that essentially translates to improved work quality (Saylor, 2013, 1). Total quality management is one of the methods used in improving the quality of work in the organization. The focus of total quality management is in continuous improvement, personal growth, leadership, and self-direction (Edwards, Collinson, and Rees, 1998, 449). All these factors contribute to improved quality of work and are the outcomes of employee empowerment. As much as empowerment is considered as positively affecting the quality of work it can also lead to a degraded quality of work. Too much empowerment may be too much responsibility for some employees and this affects their ability to perform optimally. Despite this, having sound management practices can help reduce the negative associations between empowerment and the quality of work.

An organization also focuses on employee empowerment due to its contribution to employee satisfaction. Empowerment is sometimes seen as a psychological approach to improving job satisfaction within the organization. From a research of different organizations with a high level of job satisfaction, research indicated that employee empowerment comes from the availability of a flexible and engaging work culture (Saylor, 2013). With empowerment comes a high level of satisfaction that in turn leads to loyalty and high retention rates. Wagner and Harter (2006) noted that employees with higher levels of job satisfaction are the empowered employees who contrast to employees from organizations with a hierarchical, more structured, and less flexible working environment. In empowered work environments, employees have the autonomy to identify problems, provide solutions, and also participate in other decision-making areas. The downside of empowering employees to facilitate job satisfaction is the fact that the employee is likely to use the power given to him to focus on personal rather than group success. Empowerment may lead to a situation where the employee uses the available power for his career development with little concern for the organizational outcomes.

Overall, empowerment of employees is seen as leading to increased productivity that comes about from increased responsibility and ownership. Empowered employees feel that they have an increased sense of accountability, responsibility, and work ownership that leads them to diligent working in meeting organizational goals. Employees that have a sense of empowerment ensure that they do what is right to achieve the expected outcomes and this translates to better and improved performance for the organization. More so, they look for innovative solutions the problems in the organization, and this innovativeness supports productivity. Demirci and Erbas (2010) note that empowerment is a combination of four dimensions that include having a shared vision, the presence of organizational support, knowledge and learning, and institutional recognition (143). Such dimensions are applied by the organization to spur the capacity to achieve the desired effect that results in improved productivity and a positive influence in performance.

Empowerment seeks to have employees involved in some aspect of the organization’s decision-making process and this improves their motivation level as well as their commitment to productivity in the organization. The approaches to empowerment help create a win-win situation for the employees and the organization, with empowerment being used as a motivational approach (Macky and Boxall, 2007, 537). Employers then seek to create a competitive advantage by being more productive and this means that they will engage in empowering employees to ensure that they achieve a high level of productivity beyond that of their competitors. Chand (2016) notes that empowerment has a direct influence on self-efficacy, where self-efficacy gives the employees the conviction that they can perform in their jobs and also make a meaningful contribution to the organization. The outcome becomes increased productivity for the organization as influenced by the employees improved productivity.

Organizations push for employee empowerment due to the ability to reduce costs within the organization while also increasing productivity. Reduced costs as a result of empowerment come about from the loyalty and dedication that it brings resulting in long-term retention of employees a reduced frequency in job transitioning and this reduces the turnover costs for employees. Increased efficiency in the organization also brings about reduced costs, where empowerment creates greater accountability and engagement that are part of increased efficiency. The greater involvement of employees in decision making as part of empowerment means that they become more aware of the inefficiencies in the daily functioning of the organization (Edwards, Geary, and Sisson, 2002). Empowered employees are involved in creating solutions that cut costs and ensure the effective and efficient functioning of the organization without any excess overhead costs. In contributing to cost reduction, employee empowerment seeks to find solutions to customers’ issues, provide greater service, increase customer loyalty and hence the reduced need for marketing and promotion to increase the organization’s customer base. As such, empowerment of employees is seen as a precedent for reduced costs in various organization levels due to the efficiency that employee empowerment brings about. Despite this, the downside associated with empowerment such as power struggles, personal rather than group growth, and too much responsibility in empowerment affect efficiency in the organization. Better management practices are supposed to help alleviate the negative effects of empowerment.

Approaches to employee empowerment

Structural empowerment

The approaches to employee empowerment can be explored from the two important dimensions of empowerment that are the structural and psychological empowerment. Kanter (1993) defines structural empowerment as the organization’s ability in offering access to resources, information, opportunities, and support in the work environment. Most importantly, structural empowerment emphasizes on the structure, practices, and policies that give the employees latitude to exert influence and make decisions.  

As part of structural empowerment, training and coaching as instituted in an organization’s policies help advance growth and empowerment. Such approaches provide growth paths for the benefit of employees and the organization. Kasanoff (2016) notes, that providing growth paths for employees is important even when it brings about inconvenience in the organization or business. Ultimately, it will result in better outcomes for the organization as employees prefer participation in an organization that facilitates their personal growth. As part of helping employees develop job mastery through training and coaching, employers seek to value their employees regardless of their positions within the organization. Further, job mastery and career development for the employees is improved by removing any hindrances to the employee’s development and upward progression in their work within the organization.

Sharing the organization’s values, mission, and vision is another approach within structural empowerment, where sharing goes beyond letting the employees know but includes explaining these values and ensuring that employees share in the values. Such an approach to empowerment also includes clarifying the organization’s priorities to employees and the sharing of sensitive information (Ramesh and Kumar, 2014, 1242). Being part of structural empowerment, the approach is instituted within the organization’s practices. Sharing such information promotes the notion that the employee is a valued and important part of the organization and this fosters inclusivity within the organization. By sharing vital information with the employees, the employer or high-level executive should also be concerned with the articulation of a common purpose that comes through clarification of goals, the vision, desired outcomes, and the employee’s role in meeting these outcomes. One organization that has been successful in using structural empowerment is IBM that uses the approach to training on empowerment and the emphasis on accountability (Thompson, 2013). IBM has been using training as part of pushing authority to lower organizational levels from as far back as the mid-80s

Psychological empowerment

The second dimension is the psychological empowerment dimension that emphasises on employees’ perceptions and is a move away from the traditional management practices. Within psychological empowerment are the four dimensions of psychological state that include meaningfulness, competence, self-determination (or choice), and impact. Meaningfulness regards how important the employee’s work is and this value is judged against the employee’s standards and ideals. Competence refers to the employee’s belief in skilfully performing his/her activities. Self-determination is associated with the perceptions of autonomy in work processes by the employee. On the other hand, impact refers to the degree with which an employee influences administrative, strategic, or operational results in the workplace. As such, psychological empowerment approaches have to impact on the employees’ psychological state.

One of the psychological approaches to empowering employees in the organization is giving discretion in job performance and holding them accountable. Such an approach refers to extending some form of autonomy to the employees so that they can participate in decision-making. With discretion and autonomy, employees are involved in making decisions that affect them and the organization at large, with the focus being on increasing productivity and yielding better outcomes (Edwards, 2001). The discretion that the organization uses to empower the employees is not only offered at an individual position but is also offered from a teamwork perspective. The implication is that organization gives employees the autonomy to make decisions at an individual and team level in ways meant to be beneficial to the organization. Autonomy in the organization may be offered in making everyday decisions to being part of the greater organization’s strategy.

Listening intently to employees and appreciating their efforts is also an approach used to empower employees in the organization as it challenges the notion of top-down communication. A hierarchical organization structure focuses on the top-down approach to communication where the management defines strategy and roles that are communicated downwards to the subordinates (Ackers, 2004). Unlike this approach, listening to the employees opens up the channel for communication in the organization where employees can have an impact. Also, while most employers focus on appreciating talent, psychological empowerment comes about with the appreciation of employee efforts. Employee appreciation comes about through rewards that go beyond the remuneration that employees receive. The policies and practices associated with the appreciation of employees’ efforts need to be effectively implemented if they are to yield improvements by impacting on the psychological state (Apostolou, 2000, 15). The implication is that the organization has to look for practices that are responsive to situation and needs of its employees. Rewards in appreciating employee efforts show that the organization values the input that the employees have and this pushes them towards being more productive. Confidence is also spurred with the appreciation of efforts and this, in turn, leads to personal and organizational growth (Lavoie, 2016). Organizations, therefore, use rewards to appreciate employees as an approach to motivation as well as empowerment.

The effectiveness of such efforts

The effectiveness of employee empowerment comes from the benefits that are inherent in the empowerment fostered by the organization. The employees share in the strategy and vision of the organization and help achieve organizational goals. The effectiveness comes from the created capability, commitment, and developed ethicality that brings in an empowered workforce dedicated towards positive outcomes for the organization.

In a research study by Meyerson (2012) on the effect of empowerment on employee performance, he considered the effects of the delegation, participatory management, and motivation as main empowerment approaches in a telecommunications company. The results showed that empowerment led to improvement in employee performance at a level of 99 percent. The improvement in performance came from increased loyalty, job satisfaction, a motivated workforce, and an improvement in the quality of work as well as the efficiency exhibited by the employees.

Similarly, other approaches to empowerment are all directed towards ensuring efficiency, cost reduction, and improved productivity. On the focus on job mastery, training and coaching create a sense of empowerment by promoting the personal development of the employee for his benefits and that of the organization. Employees will prefer an attachment to an organization that not only focuses on the outcomes they yield in terms of profitability, but also one that focuses on their career development (Wright & Edwards, 1998). The essential aspect is that the organization looks towards the creation of an attachment between the employees and the organization in ways where there is the promotion of loyalty that yields positive outcomes for the organization. IBM has focused on increased empowerment of its employees and this has yielded substantial improvements in performance. When Lou Gerstner took charge of IBM in 1993, the company was at a loss of 8 billion dollars but with the empowerment of employees and a focus on customers, the company had a 3 billion dollar profit in one year (Thompson, 2013, 3).

Ineffectiveness of empowerment

As much as empowerment is seen as effective in contributing to the high-performance paradigm by affecting productivity, some critics argue that there are cons associated with it. Critics of empowerment note that there has to be an effective approach and system to ensuring that empowerment works in the organization. Further, the aspects of structural empowerment such as the sharing of knowledge, power, resources, and information may be present but the employees still feel disempowered (Spreitzer and Doneson, 2008). Such can be brought about by the failure to optimally utilize these resources to build on empowerment. In other situations, features of empowerment may not be visible yet the employees feel empowered. The implication is that structural empowerment has to be accompanied by psychological empowerment for it to be effective.

Another con associated with empowerment is the high likelihood of mistakes by empowered employees with limited skills and knowledge on handling power. Too much power in the wrong hands leads to the making of wrong decisions that impact negatively on the company’s outcomes. The high likelihood of mistakes also comes from the making of uncoordinated decisions that decrease efficiency and also blur professional relationships as regards the management structure (Williams, 2016, 3).


Empowerment in the organization is important in generating outcomes that are aligned with the goals of the organization. The creation of empowerment comes about from the need to increase productivity by giving employees some control in decision making. When approached in the right manner, empowerment is effective in yielding positive outcomes that are measurable in the level of job satisfaction, loyalty, as well as productivity of the organization. Organizations empower employees on the need to motivate them to work towards fostering better outcomes for the organization. Empowerment has been seen as a contributor to a high quality of work, job satisfaction, increased collaboration, productivity, and reduced costs. Such contributions become the basis for which organizations pursue empowerment of their employees as they are relevant in high-performance work practices associated with the high-performance paradigm. Employee empowerment becomes pursuant to high productivity as fostered by the high-performance paradigm. The negative effects of empowerment can be managed by having the right management techniques that ensure empowerment yields positive outcomes.




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Employee Empowerment in the Organization