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Management in an organisation is an important aspect that propels all organisational functions. Without proper management, organisations may not afford to handle some vital issues, thus leading to null performance. It oversees all organisational functions.
In management, several forms of leadership are applicable. Managers can either chose to use democratic or autocratic leadership styles, which are the two common management styles used across the world (Nankervis 2006). Both styles are significant in management depending on the context of their application. However, in the modern world democratic style is more acceptable than autocratic one.
In this context, managers have a close relationship with their employees. Employees actively participate in managerial issues in different ways including decision-making without supervision or consultations from their bosses (Amabile1997). This aspect underscores “employee empowerment”.
In most cases, empowerment results motivation. Motivation makes employees dedicated in their work, and they thus take their responsibilities positively. The aspect of motivation and employee empowerment led to the formation of theory Y.
According to Frame (2010), theory Y supposes that employees are capable of accepting responsibilities through self-control and determination in accomplishing organisational goals through commitment. However, over-emphasising in motivation may lead to discord in work.
Therefore, this easy seeks to investigate if empowerment can be another form of controlling an organisation, by exploiting uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity in an organisation.
Employee empowerment and management
Employee empowerment has arguably been a main discussion in modern management practices. Generally, employee empowerment involves an inventive approach in working with people and an effective shift of authority ranging hierarchically from the top management control to lower level management in an organisation.
According to Yukl and Becker (2006), aspects of leadership behaviour or management programmes can influence empowerment. Psychological empowerment is the perception that employees or members of an organisation have the opportunity to help determine work responsibilities, can influence important decisions, or are capable of accomplishing meaningful tasks.
This psychological motivation adversely influences individual attitude and inspiration at work. This empowerment involves an increased work motivation that results from individual employees having positive orientation towards carrying out their responsibilities (Huff & Kelly 2004).
In this world of globalisation and industrialisation, employee empowerment is essential to place them at a position to make quick and informed decisions to respond to changes and emerging issues in their working environment. Personal decision-making makes employees gain courage and confidence that improves their competence in their careers.
Employee empowerment is an essential inspiration manifested in four cognitions involving competence, meaningfulness, autonomy, and impact. According to Yukl and Becker (2006), competence in employee empowerment refers to the extent to which employees are capable of performing their duties skilfully using their own ideals or standards to impart positive outcome.
Meaningfulness implies how organisations view an employee, either in the form of an important asset or just a kind of liability. An employee is an important person if only s/he can manage to work effectively and bring significant changes to the organisation (Leach, Wall, & Jackson 2003).
On the other hand, autonomy in employee empowerment insists that an employee has to be self-determined; that is, one is capable of handling issues individually with minimal supervision, thus enabling the management operate with less stress (Thomas & Velthouse 1990).
Lastly, the aspect of impact in employee empowerment refers to individual influence in organisation performance. In this sense, it determines how managers can trust employees in their absence.
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Empowerment Theories and Research
Due to the aspect of employee empowerment or motivation, several theories have proven imperative in this topic. Theories discussing motivation and job satisfaction have formed a basis of discussion in management (Mento et al. 2002). In describing the aspect of empowerment and management, two most important theories including theory Y and theory X are in constant use.
Each of the two theories gives contracting views on the aspect of empowerment and motivation. Theory X emphasises on pushed motivation while theory Y focuses on self-motivation. However, in the context of this argument, giving special attention to theory Y, empowerment of employees is essential in organisational management.
According to Hudson, Smart, and Mike (2001), this theory determines necessary components by explaining the reason behind employee motivation in an organisation. It elaborates efforts how organisations are successful through employee empowerment, and facilitates conditions in which people will actually experience empowerment at work.
The theory postulates that management presumes that employees can be self- motivated to enhance their performance in work. It emphasises that human beings possess feelings and emotions that are self-driven or self-controlled (Mento et al. 2002). According to the theory, human beings are rational and thus if well handled, they are capable of artistically solving problems using their talents.
However, in most cases employees’ talents are undermined and definitely end up being unutilised. In a broader perspective, theory Y supposes that employees are capable of accepting responsibilities through self-control and determination in accomplishing organisational goals through commitment (Hudson, Smart, & Mike 2001).
This theory proposes that managers should communicate honestly with fellow subordinates as well as minimising the gap between superior-subordinate relationships.
It emphasises on creating a contented environment where subordinates are capable of developing and using their talents. Manager who practice theory Y enable employees to interact with them freely thus improving decision making, which is key to prosperity of any organisation.
Complexity in employee empowerment
Employee motivation and empowerment has become complicated due enhanced research and studies related to it. Since nothing is always perfect, employee empowerment cannot be completely accurate. Despite the fact that it has become necessary in several organisations, it bears its own ambiguities involving merits and demerits. Different individuals view employee empowerment in different perspectives (Hamed 2010).
The angle at which people view management and empowerment makes it more complicated. Some individuals, especially managers view motivation as a way of inviting problems into the management. They argue that employee motivation is an important aspect, though if overemphasised might lead to discord at work.
According to Tutar, Altinoz, and Cakiroglu (2011), discord may result due to employee overconfidence that may lead to reluctance and absconding of duties. On the other hand, some managers view employee empowerment as a basis of a reliable form of management, since it is an equitable form of management, which leads to job satisfaction. They believe that motivated employees are dedicated to their duties.
Under the complexity involved in implementation of employee empowerment and motivation, it brings about several debates. There are those individuals who view employee empowerment as rightful and those who view empowerment in a negative perspective (Bateman & Organ, 1983). This results to two contradicting perceptions on motivation.
For an organisation to remain competitive, the merits and demerits of employee empowerment remain a challenge. Through this, managers tend to differ on which course management should take. According to Forrester (2000), there are managers who believe on democratic leadership style and those who prefer the autocratic system of administration.
Democratic style allows employees to participate actively in management in terms of policy and decision-making. Therefore, this leadership gives room for employee empowerment.
On the other hand, autocratic administration is a top down form of management where powers are concentrated on the top giving no chance for employee empowerment. However, several studies argue that the two forms of management styles are important depending on the context of their application.
Merits of employee empowerment
One of the major significance of carrying out employee empowerment is performance or outcome to an organisation. Several theories and research emphasise on motivation as a way of achieving greater work output. Performance being the level of how the activities serve the objectives of a given organisation, motivation may greatly influence it.
According to Tutar, Altinoz, and Cakiroglu (2011), “in order to obtain an outcome, employees should perceive this and transform it into achievement motivation; besides, organisations should supply them with directive instruments such as authorising, and empowering them” (p. 6321). In fact, empowered and talented workforce is able to invest its energy and talents towards achieving organisational goals.
Therefore, empowerment becomes the prime ingredient of achieving organisational success. Kaya and Selcuk (2007) assert that powerless employees do not have morale in their jobs since they work under intense pressure viewing themselves as work slaves. Empowering employees makes them devoted to their work, thus developing a positive attitude towards their job.
Another significance of employee empowerment is the aspect of job satisfaction. Job satisfaction refers to the extent to which employees are contented with the working conditions including job policies, payments, and the working environment. Actually, there exist a great relationship between employee empowerment and job satisfaction.
According to Hamed (2010), if employees are empowered, they become self-determined, and this self-determination “positively influences job satisfaction due to its effects on intrinsic motivation” (p.78). In this sense, individual possessing autonomy in determining their behaviours and actions find their job pleasing and interesting, thus creating a feeling of satisfaction within the context of their work.
Empowerment is considerably imperative since it harbours potential benefits including better decision-making, increased commitment, further innovation, improved quality, and increased job satisfaction (Wilpert 1984).
Job satisfaction brings contentment that further leads to great outcome in an organisation. In most cases, empowered employees feel motivated and thus take the job as their own. Organisations whose employees are satisfied rarely face conflict.
Employee empowerment can greatly influence a company’s reputation. In this context, the empowerment aspect might create a good reputation on the company. By enhancing empowerment in employees greatly influences the image of the company especially in the contemporary world. In the present era, organisations face increased complexity, high risks, intense competition, and marginal profits (Gruman & Saks 2011).
Therefore, working in teamwork, which is enhanced through incorporating employee empowerment, builds the company image. Employee empowerment increases employees’ participation in policy and decision-making, thus leading to informed decisions that strengthen the company’s public figure.
Since empowerment ranges from psychological wellbeing to physical assets to bring out the aspect of motivation, it portrays positive imaging of the company (Wagner 1994).
By empowering employees through training and development, giving of incentives, salary, and remunerations, the company’s positive reputation grows and individuals outside the organisation may emulate, thus creating an impact to the surrounding environment. Motivating employees through such means depicts that the organisation is cautious and concerned with employees’ rights and welfare.
Demerits of employee empowerment
Employee empowerment has its own demerits that act as risks or uncertainties in an organisation. Individuals view empowerment on several dimensions. For instance, research reveals that most managers have fear of losing power. Since it is essential to have management that oversees the running of the organisation, empowerment may coerce changes in power and authority (Doughty 2004).
Employees who are empowered tend to be difficult to handle, since they feel like they have rights that protect them, thus it becomes difficult for managers to handle them. If organisations allow decentralisation of powers, there is a possibility of occurrence of divergence, which different members with different contradicting opinions and views form an angle of personal interests.
In this view, empowerment leads to involving individual employees in decision-making and thus some may propose for rules and regulations favouring their wrongdoings (Randolph 2000). Managers working with empowered workers tend to face competition and to some extent, they face opposition on attempts of making informed decisions underpinning certain behaviours in an organisation.
Employee empowerment means organisational power is decentralised. Several issues can arise when members of an organisation possess some power. Decentralisation of authority may lead to lack of commitments, corruption, or even misuse of freedom.
According to Leach, Wall, and Jackson (2003), during such moments some members of the organisation tend to abscond their duties using flimsy excuses, leaving unfilled gaps during working days. This simply describes misuse of freedom. As a result, conflict among employees rise, putting the organisation in uncertainties.
Corruption may arise, for the reason that during empowerment organisations tend to add responsibilities to individual employees, which results to restructuring of the organisation and adding departments to ensure that decentralisation is successful. Malicious individuals working in organisation might take this as a chance to exercise corruption that will lead an organisation to a possible failure (Carless 2004).
Therefore, this scenario will task organisations with the responsibility of employing new strategies that oversee the use of powers and freedom by individual employees.
Empowerment may result to increased responsibilities to workers. Despite the fact that most workers may find empowerment advantageous as it increases personal satisfaction through motivational strategies like training and development, increased salaries, or even working under minimal pressure, some individual do not like empowerment.
According to Bateman and Organ (1983), being empowered and motivated means workers’ responsibilities tend to increase. In several cases, individuals have complained of increased workload and over commitment due to empowerment. This also gives some organisations a chance to exploit workers by overworking them.
Carless (2004) asserts that employee empowerment in some cases is strongly condemned since it increases workload and therefore managers should ensure that employee empowerment is strictly seen as an opportunity to enhance employee value rather than a strategy to oppress workers with responsibilities.
Similarly, it may lead to chaos due to increased competition, since organisational members may crave for fame and power. This havoc if well addressed leads to organisational failure.
Employee empowerment has been in discussions in several decades and in different management prospects. Both theories and practices have demonstrated the need for employee empowerment. Being a practice in management, different perceptions have arisen pertinent to employee empowerment (Kaya & Selcuk 2007).
Some individuals regard empowerment as an essential management strategy while others refer to it as an unnecessary practice. In the context of supporting employee empowerment, several studies have supported this practice delivering practical evidence and demonstrating its significance.
According to Forrester (2000), employee empowerment leads to motivation in a job. As a result, motivated workers live under satisfaction putting an organisation at a higher chance of performing well.
This might be through personal commitment of employees leading to increased output, improved informed decision-making, improved workforce, enhanced healthy internal competition, or even through building a good organisational reputation that result to organisational triumph. However, empowerment of employees may result to havoc if not strategically employed by the respective management.
Due to employee empowerment, several conflicting cases may rise including lack of commitment due to divided power, occurrence of unhealthy competition, misuse of power, increased organisational expenses, or even employee overwork resulting from increased responsibilities (Huff and Kelly 2004).
However, on positive ideologies, empowerment of employees is crucial since most demerits discussed in this paper have no proper scientific evidence. In fact, they only base on negative stereotypes and perceptions that are old fashioned and do not apply in this modernised world of globalisation where most organisations face intense external competition, development pressures, increasing complexity, and high uncertainties.
All these are obstacles to development that organisations overcome them through teamwork that is evident through empowerment. In fact, several theories and studies have emphasised on employee empowerment.
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