Employee Empowerment: Literature Review

2296 words - 9 pages

In the literature there are two main views of empowerment (Lakew, 2011). The first is proposed by Robbins (2005), who defines the concept of empowerment as a ‘participative management, delegation and the granting of power to lower level employees to make and enforce decisions’. This definition is consistent with a structural or relational view. Another definition that considers the relational view of employee empowerment is provided by Brymar (1991) as ‘a process of decentralizing decision-making in an organisation, whereby managers give more discretion and autonomy to the front line employees’.

Ghosh (2013, p.95) defines empowerment as ‘the process of shifting authority and responsibility to employees at a lower level in the organisational hierarchy’, and Armache (2013, p.19) further elaborates by describing it as ‘a strategy and philosophy that enables employees to make decisions about their job’.

Thomas and Velthouse (1990) propose a second perspective on empowerment, defining empowerment in terms of a cognitive motivational concept or psychological empowerment. The following definitions are consistent with the psychological concept, for example Carlzon (1987) perceives empowerment as a motivational construct. He asserts that, ‘in an employment context, empowerment fulfils the role of freeing someone from rigorous control by instructions, policies, and orders, and giving that person freedom to take responsibility for his/her ideas, decisions and actions’.

Meanwhile, Conger and Kanungo (1988) view empowerment as a motivational construct and describe it as enabling rather than as a process of delegation. Melhem (2004, p.73) emphasises that empowerment releases hidden resources that would otherwise remain inaccessible to both the individual and the organisation.

While these authors have many perspectives and visions on empowerment there seems to be a broad agreement on the definition of empowerment.

The first three definitions by Gosh (2013), Armache (2013) and Brymar (1991) view empowerment as sharing power and authority, a view in line with the relational perspective. Carlzon (1987), Conger and Kanungo (1988) and Melhem (2004), on the other hand, view empowerment as a motivational construct that is in line with the psychological perspective. (Conger and Kanungo 1988) define empowerment as a method of enhancing feelings of self-efficacy amongst organisational members. This enhancement is achieved by identifying environments that promote powerlessness and removing them; this can be done by introducing formal organisational practices and informal techniques providing helpful information. Conger and Kanugo’s definition will be used by the researcher for the purpose of the study as it is a comprehensive description of empowerment, emphasising the following aspects:
• Empowerment is both a motivator and quality achiever.
• Empowerment is an organisational process.
• Powerlessness is a barrier to the adoption of empowerment.
• There are...

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