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Issue Report

Collection of full-length papers and in-depth analysis of economic and management issues.

Seven Principles for Employee Empowerment

Seven Principles for Employee Empowerment

YE Ji-Eun

Oct. 16, 2012

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Originally released in July 2012

There is a growing consensus on the importance of employee empowerment. A gap between recognition of the need for empowerment, and actual practice, however, persists in many organizations. This paper looks at three barriers to empowerment commonly found in companies and presents seven principles to overcome obstacles to successful rollout of employee empowerment.

Anxiety: "What if empowering others endangers my position?"

Leaders ceding control may feel anxiety about their own job security. This can be addressed by referring to the first two principles. ① Remember that empowerment is extension, not dilution, of authority. Empowerment is not a zero-sum proposition of ceding authority, but means the broad extension of influence throughout the organization. It allows employees the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities, extending the power of leaders. ② The scope and content of empowered work must be clearly defined. Empowerment can make leaders and employees alike uncomfortable if the scope and duties of authority are not clear. When empowering employees, leaders must be explicit about what is involved and the goals that must be reached. The scope of authority delegated needs to be explained in detail to raise employees' sense of responsibility. The duration of authority, partners available for assistance and specific targets also need to be specified.

Distrust: "I doubt my employees can do the work well."

Leaders may doubt their employees' ability to perform important tasks properly. ③ Before assigning work, leaders need to fully understand the capabilities and strengths of individual employees for proper matching of assignments. Employees' capabilities and confidence are strengthened further when they perform challenging tasks. ④ By assigning work that is one step higher than employees' capabilities, leaders can help them accumulate successful experience and gain confidence for bigger challenges. ⑤ When leaders think their employees are up to important tasks, they allow them autonomy in work. Granting autonomy to employees involves delegating the details of work to employees within a broad framework.

Communication: "My employees do not understand their duties."

Leaders often have difficulties communicating with employees when assigning work and giving feedback. ⑥ One way to facilitate communication is to ask open-ended questions and listen carefully. ⑦ Leaders need to provide positive feedback when employees do their jobs well. Compliments and acknowledgements enhance their confidence and further strengthen their capabilities.

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