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Published by: Zaidatul Iffah Jamaludin on Oct 24, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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IntroductionDefining empowerment
Empowerment has been described as a means to enable employees to make decisions (Bowenand Lawler, 1992) and as a personal phenomenon where individuals take responsibility for theirown actions (Pastor, 1996). The first definition relates to how management facilitates andimplements the empowerment culture, while the second emphasizes the importance of theindividual in the truly successful application of empowerment. Wing (1996) uses the termpersonal empowerment in relation to business consultants and views it as a strong self-analyticaltool which allows them to understand and address their personal biases, differences of opinions,and experiences with clients in order to be successful in change efforts. Whatever the definitionof empowerment used, the end goal is to develop the performance and potential of the individualas well as that of the organization (Long, 1996).Lashley (1996) defines empowerment in
relation to an organization’s purpose for 
using thestrategy. Is empowerment deployed to achieve greater employee commitment, to gaininformation from employees and improve the bottom-line, or to increase responsiveness tocustomers? While the pursuit of one objective does not automatically exclude the others,organizations may focus on a specific empowerment aim at the expense of potential gains fromseeking other empowerment goals.
One of the contemporary approaches to motivating employees through job design isempowerment. The concept of empowerment extends the idea of autonomy. Empowerment maybe defined as the removal of conditions that make a person powerless. The idea behindempowerment is that employees have the ability to make decisions and perform their jobseffectively if management removes certain barriers. Thus, instead of dictating roles, companiesshould create an environment where employees thrive, feel motivated, and have discretion tomake decisions about the content and context of theirjobs. Employees who feel empoweredbelieve that their work is meaningful. They tend to feel that they are capable of performing their
 jobs effectively, have the ability to influence how the company operates, and can perform their jobs in any way they see fit, without close supervision and other interference. These libertiesenable employees to feel powerful. In cases of very high levels of empowerment, employeesdecide what tasks to perform and how to perform them, in a sense managing themselves.Research has distinguished between
elements of empowerment and
empowerment.Structural empowerment refers to the aspects of the work environment that give employeesdiscretion, autonomy, and the ability to do their jobs effectively. The idea is that the presence of certain structural factors helps empower people, but in the end empowerment is a perception.The following figure demonstrates the relationship between structural and felt empowerment.For example, at Harley-Davidson Motor Company, employees have the authority to stop theproduction line if they see a blemish on the product. Leadership style is another influence overexperienced empowerment. If the manager is controlling, micromanaging, and bossy, chances
are that empowerment will not be possible. A company’s structure has a role in determining
empowerment as well. Factories organized around teams, such as the Saturn plant of GeneralMotors Corporation, can still empower employees, despite the presence of a traditionalhierarchy. Access to information is often mentioned as a key factor in empowering employees. If employees are not given information to make an informed decision, empowerment attempts willfail. Therefore, the relationship between access to information and empowerment is wellestablished. Finally, empowering individual employees cannot occur in a bubble, but insteaddepends on creating a climate of empowerment throughout the entire organization.
What is Empowerment?
Almost every society has within it some minority groups that feel incapable of controlling theirown destiny. Similarly, most work organizations have a number of employees who believe thatthey are dependent on others and that their own efforts will have little on performance. Thispowerlessness contributes to the frustrating experience of low self-efficacy-the conviction amongpeople that they cannot successfully perform their jobs or make meaningful contributions.Problems with self-efficacy are often caused by major organizational changes that are beyond the
employee’s control (such as mergers). Problems may also stem from having to work under an
authoritarian leader, within a reward system that fails to reinforce competence or innovation, orin job that lacks variety, discretion, or role clarity.Fortunately, individual perceptions of low levels of self-efficacy can be raised by empoweringemployees.
any process that provides greater autonomy to employees throughthe sharing of relevant information and the provision of control over factors affecting job performance.
Empowerments help remove the conditions that cause powerlessness whileenhancing employee feelings of self-efficacy. Empowerment authorizes employee to cope withsituations and enables them to take control of problems as they arise. Five broad approaches toempowerment have been suggested:1.
Helping employees achieve job mastery (giving proper training, coaching and guidedexperience that will result in initial successes)2.
Allowing more control (giving them discretion over job performance and then holding themaccountable for outcomes)3.
Providing successful role models (allowing them to observe peers who already performsuccessfully on the job)4.
Using social reinforcement and persuasion (giving praise, encouragement and verbalfeedback designed to raise self-confidence)5.
Giving emotional support (providing reduction of stress and anxiety through better roledefinition, task assistance and honest caring)When managers use these approaches, employees begin believing that they are competent andvalued, that their jobs have meaning and impact, and that they have opportunities to use theirtalents. In effect, when they have been legitimately empowered, it is more likely that their effortswill pay off in both personal satisfaction and the kind of results that the organization values. Thischain of events is illustrated in Figure 1.(Gambar ms 186)

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