Employee Empowerment: Definition, Advantages & Disadvantages

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  • 0:00 Employee Empowerment
  • 0:15 Theoretical Approaches
  • 1:00 Advantages
  • 1:25 Disadvantages
  • 2:10 Example
  • 2:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

In this lesson, you will learn about employee empowerment, including its different approaches, advantages and disadvantages. You will also have an opportunity to take a brief quiz after the lesson to reinforce your knowledge.

Definition of Employee Empowerment

Employee empowerment is giving employees a certain degree of autonomy and responsibility for decision-making regarding their specific organizational tasks. It allows decisions to be made at the lower levels of an organization where employees have a unique view of the issues and problems facing the organization at a certain level.

Theoretical Approaches to Empowerment

Three theoretical approaches have been used to study empowerment: socio-structural perspective, psychological approach, and the critical perspective. The socio-structural perspective focuses its attention on developing or redesigning organizational polices, practices, and structures to give employees power, authority, and influence over their work. The psychological approach focuses on enhancing and enabling personal effectiveness by helping employees develop their sense of meaning, competency, self-determination, and impact. The critical perspective challenges the notion of employee empowerment and argues that efforts to create empowerment may actually lead to more, albeit less-obvious, controls over employees.

Advantages to Employee Empowerment

Employee empowerment provides some distinct advantages. Employee empowerment should lead to increased organizational responsiveness to issues and problems. Another advantage of employee empowerment should be an increase in productivity. It should also lead to a greater degree of employee commitment to organizational goals since employees can take some degree of ownership in the decisions made toward goal achievement.

Disadvantages to Employee Empowerment

Employee empowerment is not without some disadvantages. It can lead to decreased efficiency because decisions may not be uniform and optimized for organizational goals. It can also create problems with coordination throughout the organization because decisions are decentralized and not managed at the top. Manager and employee relationships can become tense as the boundaries of authority can be blurred. Finally, according to the critical perspective, attempts at employee empowerment can be counterproductive, actually creating greater controls over employees. For example, empowering employees through the use of teams may create peer pressure.

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