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| October 22, 2018

1. Introduction

The need to change the way organizations and their employees
conduct business is becoming more apparent as the economy moves into the new
millennium. Escalating development of the global market, rapid changes in
technology, a shifting work force and customer demographics, and an increased
emphasis on quality and flexibility of products and services all point to the
need for change. Recent forces in the business community, such as
globalization, skill staff shortages, and the need for innovation and
productivity, have added momentum to the search for ways to survive(.docx#_ENREF_14″ title=”Rayburn, 1999 #13″>Rayburn and Rayburn
1999).

Early in the twentieth century, with the extension of
scientific management techniques and the assembly line as dominant models of
administration and production, industrial managers attempted to assert greater
control over the work process. Their initiatives provoked protest from workers
who resisted managerial encroachment on their traditional practices of setting
the pace of work and regulating productivity. More recently, operating under
the rubric of employee involvement, workers and managers have developed new
participatory schemes aimed at boosting productivity, improving
competitiveness, and decentralizing decision making authority. While the goals
and expectations surrounding worker participation and workplace democracy have
changed, these concepts have continued to generate interest among both
historians and contemporary observers seeking alternatives to a centralized,
bureaucratic style of management(.docx#_ENREF_14″ title=”Rayburn, 1999 #13″>Rayburn and Rayburn
1999).

Today, a traditional bureaucratic management style is no
longer effective. Sweeping changes are needed throughout most organizations to
better meet competition. Empowerment of workers is one of the management
approaches used today by companies in response to the need for change(.docx#_ENREF_14″ title=”Rayburn, 1999 #13″>Rayburn and Rayburn
1999).
This concept began in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s with experiments using
Quality Circles, Quality of Work life, and Total Quality Management programs
(.docx#_ENREF_7″ title=”Juravich, 1996 #6″>Juravich 1996).

2. Literature Review

What is Empowerment?

Empowerment
has been described as a means to enable employees to make decisions(.docx#_ENREF_4″ title=”Bowen, 1992 #9″>Bowen and Lawler 1992) and as a personal phenomenon
where individuals take responsibility for their own actions(.docx#_ENREF_12″ title=”Pastor, 1996 #11″>Pastor 1996). While(.docx#_ENREF_6″ title=”Ettorre, 1997 #8″>Ettorre 1997) defines empowerment as
employees having autonomous decision making capabilities and acting as partners
in the business, all with an eye on the bottom line. Empowerment is not just
delegating decision making authority; it is also setting goals and allowing
employees to participate(.docx#_ENREF_15″ title=”Riggs, 1995 #7″>Riggs 1995).

According
to(.docx#_ENREF_10″ title=”Luthans, 2005 #12″>Luthans 2005), empowerment may be defined
as “recognizing and releasing into the organization the power that people
have in their wealth of useful knowledge and internal motivation,”. He
also stated; “Empowerment is the authority to make decisions within one’s
area of responsibility without first having to get approval from someone else”.

Empowerment
can be defined in either a relational or a motivational sense. In the
relational sense, empowerment is “the granting of power, the delegation of
authority”. Defined motivationally, any practice that enhances a belief in
self-efficacy increases a sense of power. An effective way to bring about an
increase in self-efficacy is through active attainment, the authentic mastery
of the tasks related to a job(.docx#_ENREF_5″ title=”Burpitt, 1997 #17″>Burpitt 1997).

Whatever
the definition of empowerment used, the end goal is to develop the performance
and potential of the individual as well as that of the organization(.docx#_ENREF_9″ title=”Long, 1996 #10″>Long 1996).

Importance
of Empowerment

The
reason why more and more companies are empowering employees, is the need for
quick decisions by those people who are most knowledgeable about the
issues-often those at lower organizational level. These prompt decision will
allow the organizations to implement the changes quickly and will enable them
competing successfully in a dynamic global economy(.docx#_ENREF_16″ title=”Robbins, 2007 #16″>Robbins and Coulter 2007).

Generally,
the increases in autonomy from empowering workers results in increased
motivation, job satisfaction, and enhanced job performance. Not only do
employees have power to make decisions, they also have useful knowledge and
internal motivation to make certain efforts to achieve the company goals(.docx#_ENREF_14″ title=”Rayburn, 1999 #13″>Rayburn and Rayburn 1999).

Empowered
employees have autonomous decision-making capabilities and act as partners in
ensuring the firm earns profits. Employee empowerment can radically change
operations and boost corporate performance and profits. New products, creative
ways, and innovation often result because employees are stimulated to play an
active role in the organization(.docx#_ENREF_14″ title=”Rayburn, 1999 #13″>Rayburn and Rayburn 1999).

Empowering
workers increases bottom-up decision making, reduces checks and controls, and
transforms managers into mentors. Implementing teams to improve the quality of work
life as well as customer satisfaction is often the motivating factors for
moving to an empowered work team type of organization. Moreover, empowerment,
allied with self-discipline, eliminates many of the financial and time costs
inherent in the separation of decision making and execution and maximizes the
potential contribution from all workers(.docx#_ENREF_17″ title=”Robbins, 2005 #3″>Robbins and DeCenzo 2005).

Negative Aspects of Empowerment

(.docx#_ENREF_8″ title=”Koch, 1997 #25″>Koch and Godden 1997) argue that empowerment is a
good idea but unworkable for large corporations. They believe empowerment is an
inefficient way to run a large corporation; instead, the optimal way for large
companies to survive is to have strong leadership and a singular direction.
They argue that large corporations benefit from market power and economies of
scale. Instead, many researchers argue that empowerment should only be tried in
small companies where the risks of failure are less. According to(.docx#_ENREF_3″ title=”Argyris, 2001 #26″>Argyris 2001), it is unrealistic to think
that management would allow thousands of employees to have decision making
authority without some limits.

(.docx#_ENREF_11″ title=”McClenahen, 1995 #27″>McClenahen 1995) also agrees that empowerment
should not be used in large decentralized companies where performance pressure
is substantial and people work at a distance from senior management.
Particularly at risk are large, decentralized businesses. To focus on the
bottom-line, employees need the information concerning all aspects of the
organization–the same information senior management routinely receives. With
this in mind, one may wonder if management has a clear idea of what real
empowerment is. They have given the employees the ability to solve problems and
make decisions but routinely leave out the most important part of the equation,
that of allowing employees to take actions based on decisions. Therefore, management
must learn how to empower and how to make true empowerment a part of their
skill and thinking.

3. Conclusions

Today,
more than 70 percent of organizations have adopted some kind of empowerment
initiative for at least part of their workforce (Lawler, Mohrman & Benson,
2001). To be successful in today’s global business
environment, companies need the knowledge, ideas, energy, and creativity of
every employee, from front line workers to the top level managers in the
executive suite. The best organizations accomplish this by empowering their
employees to take initiative without prodding, to serve the collective interests
of the company without being micro- managed, and to act like owners of the
business (O’Toole & Lawler, 2006).

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