Theory of Empowerment

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An employee gains confidence in his own abilities through empowerment.
An employee gains confidence in his own abilities through empowerment. (Image: Patrick Ryan/Lifesize/Getty Images)

The theory of empowerment is designed to help organizations achieve their central goals. Modern organizations differ from the organizations of the past; fewer distinctions exist between what managers and nonmanagers do. Look at the types of decisions that people make, and you will discover that nonmanagers make more decisions than ever before through empowerment.

Power Sharing

An organization is empowered if managers share power with employees, freeing them to focus on high-level planning and decision-making. Richard L. Daft, author of "Organizational Theory and Design," notes three elements of empowerment that give employees more autonomy in job performance. If employees have access to financial and operational information, they can make better decisions. If they have knowledge and skills, they can make improved contributions to their organization's strategic objectives. With more authority, they can make critical decisions, including improving work procedures.

Mutual Value

Empowerment theory concerns how institutions and leaders move power down the pay scale. A worker needs to feel some control over his work, and empowerment, or the transfer of authority, makes that possible. Some underlying value must exist for the employee, such as his own belief that his decisions will be best for the organization. His manager can reinforce this belief by showing confidence in his preparation to make independent decisions.

Motivation

Empowerment relates closely to what makes employees want to become high performers in a strategic organization. When employees enjoy more control over their everyday work projects, they are more engaged in their work. They have good reasons to feel motivated and to achieve. Some organizations take this theory to a higher level by sharing considerable power with nonmanagers.

Link to Innovation

An organization that uses the theory of empowerment can experience a higher level of innovation. According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a scholar in organization theory, "The organization that produces a great deal of innovation must, by definition, be less category-conscious." She recommends this happens by "giving more people the opportunity to reach for power despite the box on the organization chart they occupy." An organization that gives people this flexibility might experience more innovation at all levels of the organization.

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