Employee Empowerment - Good or Bad

What motivates people to work? Money may be the primary reason, but beyond a certain limit it fails to. Organizations have been trying out different things to increase the level of motivation of its employees. Employee empowerment is one of them.

Employee empowerment means that an employee is given a chance to be enterprising, take risks without compromising with the organizational goals, mission and vision. His say in the process of decision making in increased. This can be for one particular individual or for the entire organization. In the latter case it is called participative management.

There are pros and cons to this employee empowerment. Whereas it is said and has been observed that participative management may lead to increased productivity, motivation, job satisfaction and quality enhancement; it may also slow down the process of decision making and act a potential security threat in terms of ease of access of information it offers to the employees.

From an organizational perspective the following pros and cons may be associated with employee empowerment.

Pros of Employee Empowerment

  • It leads to greater job satisfaction, motivation, increased productivity and reduces the costs.
  • It also leads to creativity and innovation since the employees have the authority to act on their own.
  • There is increased efficiency in employees because of increased ownership in their work.
  • Lesser need of supervision and delegation.
  • Focus on quality from the level of manufacturing till actual delivery and service of goods.
  • Employees when empowered become more entrepreneurial and start taking more risks. Greater the risk, greater are the chances to succeed.

Cons of Employee Empowerment

At the individual level employee empowerment means you are an integral component of the organization. This may sprout egotism or arrogance in the workers.

Apart from disadvantages at the organizational level, there are certain challenges that emerge at the individual level. Supervisors often complain disgust from the empowered workers. The following points go against employee empowerment:

  • Egotism / arrogance: Worker arrogance can create a big trouble for the supervisors and the managers. There can be problems in delegating. Employees avoid reporting about their work and feedback can be taken negatively.
  • Security: Since information comes and is shared by all, there are apprehensions about leakage of critical data.
  • Risk: Creativity and innovation demands a greater risk bearing capacity and there are equal chances of success and failure. Workers often lack the expertise to execute are enterprise, which can cost big.
  • Industrial Democracy: Labor unions and workers are empowered and they may misuse the same. Strikes and lock outs become more frequent. Also, labor unions gain insights into management and their functioning and they leak the same.

Participative management or employee empowerment does not mean relentless transfer of authority. It has to be in a controlled and regulated manner. Each aspect has to be carefully studied and levels of participation decided. For example, the level of participation of knowledge workers is different from that of a floor worker.


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