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What is Employee Empowerment?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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"Employee empowerment" is a term that is used to express the ways in which non-managerial staff members can make decisions without consulting their bosses or managers. These decisions can be small or large, depending upon the degree of power with which the company wishes to invest employees. Employee empowerment can begin with training and converting a whole company to an empowerment model. Conversely, it might merely mean giving employees the ability to make some decisions on their own.

Happier Employees

The thinking behind employee empowerment is that it gives power to individuals and thus makes for happier employees. By being able to make choices and participate on a more responsible level, employees become more invested in their company. They often view themselves as representatives of the company.

When employees feel as though they have choice and can make direct decisions, this often leads to a greater feeling of self-worth. In a model where power is closely tied to sense of self, having some power is a valuable thing. An employee who does not feel constantly watched and criticized is more likely to consider work to be a positive environment instead of a negative one.

Open-Minded Managers

For employee empowerment to work successfully, the management team must be truly committed to allowing employees to make decisions. Managers might want to define the scope of decisions that their employees can make. Building decision-making teams is often one of the models used in employee empowerment, because it allows for managers and workers to contribute ideas toward directing the company.

Autocratic managers tend not to be able to utilize employee empowerment. These types of managers, who are often called micromanagers, tend to oversee all aspects of their employees' work and usually will not give up control. A manager who is dedicated to employee empowerment must be willing to give up control of some aspects of the business.

Suggestions Encouraged

One easy way for managers to begin empowering their employees is to install suggestion boxes, in workers can place suggestions without fear of punishment or retribution. Simply placing a suggestion box somewhere is only the first step, however. Managers must be willing to read and consider the suggestions. They might provide a forum where questions or suggestions receive a response, such as a weekly or monthly newsletter. In addition, managers can hold meetings where suggestions are addressed.

Responses Necessary

At least some suggestions have to be approved for employees to feel that they are having some effect on their company. Failure to approve or implement any suggestions reinforces that all the power belongs to the managers and not the workers. Employee empowerment of any form can work only when managers are willing to be open to new ideas and strategies. If no such willingness exists, the employees are likely to know that they have not been empowered at all.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon1002951 — On Mar 29, 2020

Who can I credit this article to?

By jagjit — On Mar 31, 2013

Are the changes in managers' jobs due to employee empowerment more desirable or less desirable than they are today?

By anon302409 — On Nov 09, 2012

Motivation comes in many forms and shapes and empowerment is one of them. And we all know a motivated employee is a happy employee and a happy employee is a committed employee. It also means reduction in labor turnover when employees are happy.

By anon257224 — On Mar 25, 2012

Well, from my perspective, providing, or in other words, installing an empowerment system in the company work is a catalyst to get the best from the employees. A simple theory to accommodate this hypothesis is "give respect to the individuals and in return get the best from them".

By anon107584 — On Aug 31, 2010

i think empowerment is a tool that managers can use to improve the overall performance of the organization. if employees feel a part and parcel of the decision making process, this can have a positive impact on the productivity of the organization.

By anon46188 — On Sep 23, 2009

Managers may feel threatened by empowerment, but they need to realize that the ultimate performance of the organization is the main objective, and you can only achieve same through motivated employees. Additionally empowerment should not be seen as a lost of control for managers. In fact, it positively impacts how employee sees you as a leader.

By anon39332 — On Jul 31, 2009

Employee empowerment is a great concept. My boss/team leader lol, is a total control freak. I submitted a change for a blue print and she said all of them have to go through her first so she could put her name on it or have a hand it, etc. Never mind I worked for the company in another area and submited requests for drawing changes due to errors for years with no problems.

She's a micro manager, all middle managers usually are as they are always trying to get ahead or give head to the ceo's. She almost breaks her neck running up to them when ever they show up.

At the same time she tries to empart upon me her superority by ignoring me when I go to her office with an idea. So we have a pissing match, I ignore her while she ignores me. Then I leave.

However I have to give the devil her due, she has taught me a few things.

By anon17569 — On Sep 02, 2008

I absolutely agree, for managers to be able to treat employees well, they have to believe that motivation is based on being valued first and foremost. When an employee feels valued from day one they will feel motivated to work well. If treated like a 'naughty child' with the potential to behave as one if not monitored closely, will just create resentment and may actually produce what is expected. It's called 'a self-fulfilling prophecy'.

By kuruh — On Aug 19, 2008

What is an empower team? Is it a group of people that promotes empowerment and builds other empower teams?

By eastwest — On Apr 16, 2008

It always helps to treat your employees well and can really never hurt. I don't understand why more companies, managers, etc. don't see this! Whether the employees are good or not, they will always be better if you treat them like they're better.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia...
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