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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Improving Employee Empowerment in Organizational Culture

Empowering employees is more that offering a few trinkets of appreciation and turning a backside to fundamental principles. Improving employee empowerment requires consistent positive affect of behavior that builds trust and commitment to organizational expectations. Through proper management techniques employee empowerment can lead to a higher functioning organization.

Empowering employees has a number of benefits for companies that seek to make improvements within their organizational approaches. Employee empowerment has been seen as a way to increase motivation, morale, satisfaction, commitment and innovation (Ford & Fottler, 1995). These elements work together to create a stronger organizational approach to employee management.

According to Thomas and Velthouse (1990) empowerment is associated with intrinsic task motivation. Such task motivation reflects four cognitive approaches which include meaning, competence, choice and impact. Through positive affect in these areas employees are able to create higher levels of positive orientation and empowerment.

Meaning: The work should have meaning to the employee and the organization.

Competence: The employee should feel as though they are gaining mastery over their work.

Choice: The employee should feel their line of employment and their work tasks are of interest to them and a personal choice.

Impact: The employee should feel their work is making a difference.

Importantly, the empowerment requires a level of organizational fairness. The perceptions of fairness are influenced by the equity of reward distribution and interpersonal respect (Lind & Tyler, 1998). Employees who view the reward process as unfair and who are not treated appropriately will not be empowered to work harder, solve problems or engage the organization.

The concept of fairness can often be perceptual by nature. Such perceptions abound when employees feel that they have not been treated with ethical appropriateness associated with common understandings of civility and dignity (Greenberg, 1990). It is these socialized understandings the contribute greatly to the level of willingness to be proactive within the workplace.

Despite these benefits there are a number of barriers that impact the success of employee empowerment approaches. These barriers are often related to the trust and fear between management and labor (Andrews, 1994). Without strong work relations and social equity there is a lack of trust that management will follow through with expectations and fear associated with management styles that impact the feelings of fairness among employees.

Even small negative events can add up overtime to reduce empowerment (Abelson, 1985). Employees who have been treated unfairly, inappropriately, or have witnessed failures of management will accumulate such instances to make an impression of their work environment. Encouraging these detractors from empowerment within the workplace over time can even create a culture lacking of empowerment that impacts the financial abilities of the organization.

Detractors are not just one-off instances of unfair treatment. Such actions drains motivational energy which further creates ineffectiveness in managerial effectiveness and innovation within their departments (Spreitzer, 1995). The longer such detractors exist the more ineffective the manager will become in his/her approaches. On an organizational scale this can have large financial consequences.

Through trust organizations can improve labor management relationships and overall organizational effectiveness. Trust impacts the overall outcome of individual cooperation and group cohesiveness (Alexander & Ruderman, 1987). It is through this group cohesiveness with shared senses of behavior and understanding that a positive organizational culture can be built.

Empowerment is not a workplace concept that can be implemented and pulled at the whim of executives. It must be fostered throughout the organization, management techniques, and organization culture. Those managers who detract from an empowerment strategy should be removed and replaced by those who can realize higher levels of worker performance as well as organizational development. 


Abelson, R. (1985). A variance explained paradox: when a little is a lot. Psychological Bulletin, 97.


Alexander, S. & Ruderman, M. (1987). The role of procedural and distributive justice in organizational behavior. Social Justice Research, 1.

 Andrews, G. (1994). Mistrust, the hidden obstacle to empowerment. Human Resource Magazine, 39 (9).

Ford, R. & Fottler, M. (1995). Empowerment: a matter of degree. Academy of Management Executive, 9.

Greenberg, J. (1990). Organizational justice: yesterday, today and tomorrow. Journal of Management, 16. 

Kane, K & Montgomery, K. (1998). A framework for understanding disempowerment within organizations. Human Resource Management, 37 (3/4).

Line, D. & Tyler, T. (1988). The social psychology of procedural justice. New York: Plenum Press.

Spreitzer, G. (1995). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: dimensions, measurement and validation. Academy of Management Journal, 38


Thomas, K. & Velthouse, B. (1990). Cognitive elements of empowerment: an interpretive model of task motivation. Academy of Management Review, 15.

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