True empowerment gives employees the freedom and strength to look beyond the status quo and do great things for the organization and its customers.  It motivates employees to be innovative and to champion organizational excellence.

Seven Elements of Employee Motivation

The research of Krüger & Rootman focused on the following seven elements of employee motivation, which I shared in a previous post.1 Of these seven, empowerment was the third most influential in terms of employee motivation.2

Empowerment is the process by which managers give employees the power and authority to make decisions at their level, recognize and solve problems, and look beyond their job descriptions to help improve their organizations.3

The Benefits of Empowerment

Numerous studies have demonstrated that empowerment promotes job autonomy, provides employees with a rewarding job experience, encourages higher levels of involvement, and motivates employees to deliver excellent performance.According to several decades of research,  empowerment positively affects employee satisfaction and employee commitment to the organization.This is not surprising.

Employees are happiest when working in empowering, collaborative environments because they are conducive to team cohesion, information sharing, and openness to various perspectives and ideas.  An environment of empowerment increases employee morale, creativity, and productivity. Employees are committed to going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the success of their teammatesand the organization.

Empowered employees are also in a better position to provide excellent customer service. In a culture of empowerment, employees who work directly with customers can make service delivery decisions quickly and tailor their services on the spot, without having to go through layers of approval.They can do so because their management has created an environment where they are free and safe to make such decisions.

Empowerment creates efficiency, motivates employees, and equips them to deliver fast and responsive service that promotes a highly satisfying customer experience. 

Most Employees Don’t Feel Empowered

As much as empowerment is vital to organizational success, many employees don’t feel empowered by their leaders. Surveys of employees in the U.S. have consistently shown that most view their boss as their greatest source of workplace stress.8

The Huffington Post reported similar research findings from a survey of American employees presented by Robert Hogan at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference in 2012. According to The Huffington Post, Hogan reported that seventy-five percent of adult employees pointed to their immediate boss as the worse and most stressful part of their jobs. Furthermore, The Huffington Post also emphasized the World Health Organization’s assertion that workplace stress takes a tremendous toll on employee health and costs American businesses an estimated $300 billion annually.9

These findings highlight the importance of creating supportive and empowering environments that can retain top talent, keep employees healthy, and promote organizational success.

Strong Leadership is Paramount

Empowerment flows from the top down, and strong leadership is paramount to creating a culture of empowerment.  When managers and supervisors collectively create a supportive and empowering work environment, employees feel freedom and control over their daily work.10

Leaders who manage with high command and control styles disempower employees and cause high degrees of interpersonal conflict. Conversely, leaders who effectively empower employees create an environment of support and reduce levels of interpersonal conflict.11

Given the vital role leaders play, it behooves organizations to build their capacity to empower their teams.

Empowerment is Not a “Free for All”

While empowerment is a vital element of employee motivation and strong organizational performance, it is critical not to confuse it with a “free for all,” where there is a complete absence of direction.  Managers and supervisors must be skilled at striking a delicate balance between empowerment and accountability.  While empowerment allows employees to make decisions at their level, accountability provides them with the necessary guidance and framework to support organizational goals. To expect employees to make decisions without building a solid foundation is not empowering.

Developing Employees for Empowerment

Managers and supervisors must adequately prepare employees for empowerment.  They can use various practices to build employee capacity for more autonomy, decision-making, and involvement. These include strong employee on-boarding, continuous coaching and feedback, ongoing training,12 mentoring programs, progressive levels of responsibility, and stretch assignments. These practices equip employees to understand organizational priorities, develop competence, assess risk, make decisions, communicate vital information, and ask for managerial or supervisory support when necessary.

By its very nature, empowerment demonstrates management’s trust in employee capabilities and increases employee confidence in what they can accomplish.  A higher level of confidence increases employee motivation and improves performance.



1Krüger, J. & Rootman, C. (2010). How do small business managers influence employee satisfaction and commitment?  Acta Commercii, 10(1). pp. 59 – 72.
Retrieved from  Accessed November 6, 2016. Creative Commons License.
2Krüger, J. & Rootman, 2010.
3Hussain, T. & ur Rehman, S. S. (2013). Do human resource management practices inspire employees’ retention?  Research Journal of Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology, 6(19), pp. 3625-3633.  Retrieved from Accessed November 6, 2016.  Creative Commons License.
4Hussain, T. & ur Rehman, S. S., 2013.
5Krüger, J. & Rootman, 2010.
6Carter, T. (2009).  Managers empowering employees.  American Journal of Economics and Business Administration, 1(2), pp. 41-46.  Retrieved from Accessed November 6, 2016.  Creative Commons License.
7Ayupp, K. & Chung, T. H. (2016).  Empowerment: hotel employees’ perspective. Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management, 9(3), pp. 561 – 575. Retrieved from Accessed November 6, 2016.  Creative Commons License.
8Carter, T., 2009.
9Ciccone, A. (2012, August 09). Bad bosses cause employees stress, poor health. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from Accessed November 13, 2016.
10Ayupp, K. & Chung, T. H., 2016.
11Carter, T., 2009.
12Ayupp, K. & Chung, T. H., 2016.

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