Employee Empowerment: Is It Just a Buzz Word?

Employee empowerment is defined as giving the employee the power to make some decisions without first consulting the boss or reporting manager. Leaders committed to the continual growth of their employees recognize empowerment as one of their most important strategic methods to motivate employees. Empowerment is also a key strategy enabling people who have the need, the answers, and the knowledge, to make decisions beneficial to the organization. 

Why if empowerment is such a great tool and strategy for accomplishing work, customer service, employee retention and employee motivation, is it rarely implemented effectively?  In my experience, here is why managers fail at employee empowerment: 

  • Managers do not truly understand the definition of empowerment.  Empowerment is such a “buzz word” and leadership trainings/readings all talk about it being the must thing to do.  However, lip service about empowerment without truly understanding what it means will make it fail. It’s about growth for the benefit of the organization and enabling employees to make decision about their job.  
  • Managers do not establish the boundaries of empowerment.  Empowerment can backfire because a manager can hand over too much responsibility to the employee especially if the responsibility is beyond their current job description.  A manager can cause the employee to feel overworked and/or taken advantaged of.  A manager needs to tell the employee what decisions can be made by them and which ones need to be managed up. 
  • Managers begin to micromanage the employees they have empowered.  This usually occurs because the manager does not trust the employee to make the right decisions.  Employees seeing this lack of trust begin to go around the manager to hide the decisions they are making.  The manager’s empowerment just got lost.  The manager needs to begin coaching and believing in the newly empowered employee.
  • Managers second guess the decisions of employees they have empowered.  This undermines the whole process because you just damaged the employees’ competence, trust, and support.  As a manager, you empowered them for a reason.  Have faith. 

Employee empowerment should be thought of as a philosophy and a strategy to help employees develop talents, skills, and decision making competency. This development helps employees feel competent, empowered, and successful.  Have you ever seen this in your workplace?  I would like to hear your stories about empowerment.

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About Patricia Knight
Hello and welcome. My name is Patricia Knight. Thank you for taking the time to view my blog. I’m a Human Resources professional who is currently pursing an MBA at the University of Nevada-Reno. I am an analytical, detail-oriented professional who believes that collaboration and negotiation are critical for successful employee relations between leadership and employees.

3 Responses to Employee Empowerment: Is It Just a Buzz Word?

  1. Pingback: Take a Chance, Have Faith! « Patricia Knight

  2. Jon Danzig says:

    Your readers may be interested to watch the short documentary I wrote and directed, “People Power for Staff”. It’s now free to view on my YouTube channel at EyesEars.com

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