Empowering workers refers to the act of offering staff authority to make and act upon decisions they deem appropriate to the organization. Most managers are often quick to delegate responsibility but reluctant to hand over real authority to their juniors. Competent and hardworking staff may find themselves frustrated and unable to work due to top lack of authority (Bowen & Lawler, 1995). From experience, it is true that empowerment should trickle down to the lowest level employee who directly interested in the work process is necessary. As Blanchard & Bowles (1998) put it, while managers may develop the mode of visitor reception and treatment within a hotel, ultimately it is the employee who decides how well he/she handles the client when they come into direct contact. Empowering such employees enables them to respond to any arising situations rationally and without fear of reprimand.
Blanchard, Carlos & Randolph (1996), attempts to link employee empowerment to facilitative leadership. While facilitative leadership aims to help employees attain their maximum potentials in a bid to enhance improvement, employee empowerment gives the employees real authority to exercise their potential (Blanchard, Zigarmi & Zigarmi, 1985; Bowen & Lawler, 1992). However, empowerment is not without necessities, a key ingredient in employee empowerment is an effective training process to equip the employees with the ability to act rationally. Technical training helps employees to attain skills necessary to build their understanding and make judgments on boundaries of decision making. Further such skills allow them to make decisions confidently and appropriately act on them. Employee employment must also be founded on the acceptability of errors and mistakes and part of the employee learning process (Block, 1987; Gandz, 1990).
Employee empowerment is a key feature of the modern management style. Empowered employees are expected to perform more effectively as compared to those working in traditional or authoritarian organizational cultures. Participative management is one of the most popular and most commonly practiced management styles in modern organizations. Employee empowerment is one of the reflections of this modern approach to man management. It invariably leads to a positive change within the organization. Empowered employees are more motivated as compared to those who just follow the given lines. Employee empowerment creates sense of belongingness and ownership towards the parent organization. Empowered employee feel more confident and try to give their best to their employers, as a result, service quality improves. Improved product or service quality generally results into higher level of customer satisfaction. Higher level of customer satisfaction results into a bigger sales volume resulting into an improved profitability. Every business aims at earning profits; however profits and customer value go hand in hand. In order to give maximum value to a customer, the service provider is required to develop a sound understanding of the customer expectations (Zimmerman, 1990). Once customer expectations are known, then some legitimate freedom of action along with the input of employee in the service or product would create a more favorable environment for the success of a business venture.
Generally, empowerment of staff is a bridge to allowing employees to make autonomous decisions in situations they encounter. Morgan & Dennehy (1997) found that employees who are empowered learn more, grow in decision making ability, improve performance, and effectively function in a manner that is beneficial to the respective organization. It provides staff with a sense of trust, importance and capability, in addition to being valuable to the organization. These factors help create a positive work environment for the employees in addition to boosting their morale. In general, both professional and personal growth is facilitated (Ford & Fottler, 1995). However, leaders must constructively help the employees understand the self-responsibility and commitment that comes alongside empowerment. Through this, employees are able to extend their capabilities and in the process, the organization is able to attain maximum potential.
It is however difficult to create ideal empowerment situations within work environments. For those who move close to achieving it, the payoff is normally enormous. It prepares employees for production by boosting their confidence, as well as competence and hence facilitates achievement of organizational goals and vision. Wholesome empowerment requires many things to be in place. Other than these challenges, managers often face difficulty in allocating adequate time to focus on needs of their employee due to hectic schedules. Nonetheless, it is worth giving time, as various researches have indicated, staff empowerment is linked to elevated levels of client responsiveness, increased innovativeness, high employee motivation and satisfaction, reduced stress amongst staff, increased skill development amongst staffs, and improved time management by the leaders. In discussing empowerment two approaches of interest emerge. These are group empowerment and moment of truth empowerment.
Group empowerment versus moment of truth empowerment
As mentioned previously, empowerment may come in divergent manner. Group empowerment involves incorporation of employees into decision making regarding their daily operations. They decide the approach their want adopted to work, the tools they feel are necessary and the general approach to performance of their duties. This concept is founded on the belief that employees interact with the clients and hence are better position to understand their actual needs (Mohrman, 1997). Under the arrangement, the employees are provided with real power to make decisions affecting their operations. For instance while one aspect may seem petty and flimsy to the manager to re-allocate a client a room, the employee being in close contact with the client may be in a better position to judge how uncomfortable the situation bugged the client. Letting an employee make judgment in such a situation is likely to yield better hospitality and response to client needs mechanism. Group empowerment further facilitates seeking direct opinion of employees on issue affecting them as well as their work (Schein, 1985). The management engages a group of employees in direct consultations as to what should and what should not be done to improve quality production. Inert group interactions determine how well they resolve problems or recommend a course of action.
Moment of truth empowerment on the other hand is a representation of cases where employees have to make decisions as a result of the prevailing circumstance. One question that often arises is how well the employees prepared for the situation. Are they fully empowered to make a decision when confronted with a situation requiring one? Moment of truth empowerment is often dependent on the level of training accorded to employees to handle emerging situations (Menon, 1995). Some situations basically, do not provide room for consultation. Indecisiveness could end of costing the business entity a whole lot of money. For instance, an event occurs which could provide grounds for a client suing the entity for a huge sum of money, should or should the employ not intervene well in advance to calm the client and avoid a possible legal payout. Based on the se discussion, it is evident that the two empowerment scenarios discussed differ in characteristics (Quinn & Spreitzer, 1997). While moment of truth empowerment is instantaneous and based on either individual or group reasoning, group empowerment is a continuous process within the entity. Additionally, unlike moment of truth empowerment, group empowerment involves the overall process of operation of an entity rather than an instantaneous incident. Preparation of employees based on moment of truth empowerment is based on anticipated incidents rather than tangible information while group empowerment relies on employee experiences as well as perceptions.
Personal characteristics affecting the use of empowerment
Personality traits are a dominant component in determination of whether or not empowerment ahs achieved success or not. Personality affects an empowerment program through a number of ways. While leaders may empower and motivate employees to constructively exercise their empowered position, it is their individual traits which will determine whether or not they achieve success. Honold (1997) highlighted three traits considered important in implementation of an empowerment program. These include idealized influence, charisma, individual consideration and stimulation of intellectual capability.
Charisma helps employees build trust and learn to interact with others. This is critical as empowerment calls for wider than normal consultations. Inspirational motivation on the other hand helps employees identify and understand what is important and hence expected of them for instance it would guide employees to simply rest and not work because they have been empowered to make decisions on how they work, instead the employee will realize that it is important to work and improve the productivity of the firm is critical to their stay and welfare within the firm. Intellectual stimulation on the other hand calls for a reasoned out use of ones knowledge to come with solutions to challenges within the firm and recommend changes when appropriative (Randolph, 1995). An employee withy well built intellectual ability will recommend solutions to problem even beyond his jurisdiction if he notes ant discrepancies. However, a number of subordinate traits shape application of the aforementioned. Emotions and attitudes and fundamental. Employees must possess positive attitudes towards and whatever they do if empowerment is to achieve their goal. They ought to view empowerment as making the part rather than subjects of a corporation. When they identify with the corporation, they are more likely to make right decisions and judgments which end up being beneficial to the firm. Additionally, they must be able to accommodate other people opinions and respect them. Emotions often impede good decision making especially when one group of employees feels despised by the others. This often amounts to sabotage and hence detrimental to the firm (Aeppel, 1997).
Other than the aforementioned, contingencies of self worth enable employees believe in their ability to make right decisions and act appropriately. These are core to achieving self-esteem. They motivate the employees and allow them to autonomously learn from their work environment in addition to exhibiting self-regulation, and control. It is this trait that helps one to build and attempt to prove their abilities to themselves and to others. These facilitate self-confidence and employee empowerment.
Impacts of limiting levels of empowerment
Limiting empowerment is often viewed with a lot of skeptism and negativity by employees. In many instances, employees view such a move aimed at suppressing and denying them their employment rights (Menon, 1995). While this may not be the case, insinuation of such is likely to have elevated effects on attitudes of employ to the work. Such is detrimental to productivity and performance of a form. Further limiting empowerment creates a detachment between employs and leaders. Two distinct groups are created within operations whereby employs form their own cocoon and management another. The two groups operate in parallel with one bossing the other. Employs use every opportunity available to engage in malicious activities. They are non-concerned about the performance of the firm and instead sit back and wait for their salary. This is detrimental to the firm.
Additionally, limiting empowerment levels is subject to high levels of sabotage, employees will prefer to watch things go wrong for as long they are not within their jurisdiction. Work becomes compulsion rather than a responsibility. Self-responsibility departs and the management finds itself having to issue instruction for anything to be done. The need for middle level managers is expounded thereby increasing the administrative cost incurred by the respective firms (Conger & Kanungo, 1988). Lastly, it is important to mentioning that failing to empower employees limit their learning scope. They have to seek guidance on every little aspect and hence act as robots incapable of making any decisions. This could cost firms clients or even subject the firm to problems which would have otherwise been mitigated. Generally, though, empowerment has its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages and disadvantages of empowerment
Empowerment of employees comes with benefits and like any other aspect in life, brings along disbenefits too (Ettorre, 1997). These advantages though varied with settings include the following, employee abuse/misuse of power (Byham, 1997); whereby employees may tend to focus more on what instantaneously benefits them rather than the organization, increased expenses on training managers on information sharing, cooperation with employees and making referrals where appropriate, not all employees may buy into the concept and hence efficiency might be low or even subject to sabotage, and conflict struggles arising from worker cartels whereby one group may want to have its way over another (Aeppel, 1997). In addition, not all employees may be knowledgeable enough to make rational decisions. Decisions may therefore be subject to a question of personality versus logical reasoning.
On the other hand, it also brings with it a basket of benefits including enhanced training, education and learning experience of employees, and increased decision contribution by employees, a feeling of respect for all employee levels and increased equality and hence more positive attitude which enhances productivity (Thorlakson & Murray, 1996; Spreitzer, 1995; Shipper & Manz, 1992). Additionally, the depth of competence is enhanced as there is increased sharing of knowledge amongst employees. Administration-workers conflict is lowered as the volatility gap is replaced by a consultative bridge (Caudron, 1995; Caudron, 1995). This minimizes the need for many middle level managers.
Enhanced employee participation encourages them to identify more with the firm and hence positively contribute to its success without the need to be pushed around. Generally, the benefits of motivation far outweigh the disbenefits as has been shown by various researches (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990). However, due to the cited cases of disadvantage, a balance should be struck between traditional management practices and the need for employee empowerment. While the management needs to exhibit attention to the needs and recommendation of employees, it must be acknowledge that some decision involve complex decision making steps which most employees may not be able to visualize.
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