Considering Employee Empowerment and some practices

During the past week, whilst I was speaking to an acquaintance, we agreed that some middle-managers would rather protect their own position and take their subordinates’ ideas and the credit meant for them as their own while other middle managers prefer to turn their back on the ideas and live in a world of their own, detached from the reality of day-to-day operational life, as they emit more and more notes to regulate any “liberty” that the workers may be tempted to exploit as unscrupulous criminals do with loopholes.

Elbo (2011) said,”Even Steve Jobs, management maverick and incurable tyrant knew that the best and time-tested strategy is none other than regularly securing the best possible ideas from workers than follow the dictates of a corporate hierarchy.”

And yet, there are not many corporate giants of this world who believe more in the dictate than betting on the ideas that employees, with their grass-roots knowledge for their employer’s benefit.

Thamizhmanii and Hasan (2010:207) state,The decision taken by an  individual was a decision taken by the organization. This empowerment will bring happiness to the customers.” What the top management must bear in mind is that whilst they are busy signing the contracts with clients is that it is their employees who are in daily contact with them; as such, they are singularly dependant on them to provide the client base with the service that was promised. This implies that the employees have to be aware of the service that the contract has been signed for, and they should implicitly consider the necessary training to be provided within those costs.

Knowing from the very outset that no operation ever will be completely free of blemishes, for reasons which are beyond human control, it is for the middle management to be prepared for such situations and be ready to implement the processes aimed at preferably detecting mishaps and preventing them or if they do occur, to reducing their repercussions to a strict minimum.

The authors also mention,”An employee empowerment is necessary for the effective functioning of the

skill of [the] employee. Each employee in a team should be given a chance to act (…) to achieve their goal or targets.” (Thamizhmanii and Hasan, 2010:209)

As such we are faced with three levels of employees within an most organisations: the decision making top management, the policy implementing middle management and the executing force at the grass-roots. It is also known that a company will only succeed if the decisions taken by the top are clearly communicated to throughout the organisation as fast as possible. This implicitly considers that all information must be made available to all parties involved and susceptible of being involved in the execution of the deal must be informed and sufficiently train to face the reality of the field work.

If certain middle managers are unscrupulous and work with the singular aim of protecting their position, then lest they also have the support of someone in the top management, sooner or later, they will end up on the ejection seat.and the button be pushed. Why is this? Rather simple: if a middle manager is more interested in keeping his/her position rather than delegating responsibilities to subordinates for fear of empowering them and seeing them supersede him/her., then the department will eventually end up suffering due to too much responsibility ending up on the manager’s plate and insufficient information flow within the department. The situation can be compared to eating a huge chunk of badly cooked meat ending up on the manager’s plate with insufficient sauce to accompany it.

In a study carried out with regard to the effects of employee empowerment on job satisfaction amongst employees who are in contact with clients as compared to those who are not. One of the results of that study points out, “The results of the study support that the effect of empowerment on job satisfaction is stronger for customer-contact employee groups than for non-customer-contact employees.” (Lee et al, 2011:9) and as a result they follow the recommendation of Hansen, Sandvik and Selnes, 2003 as follows, “Consequently, service firms need to properly empower employees who actually deliver customer services and often represent their organization.”

The questions then arise are along the lines of the following:: “How does one empower employees?” Even though the answer to such queries have been discussed more often than most middle managers would want to or have the time to read, one tends to ask oneself: “Are these people so deeply engrossed in their quasi non-existent responsibilities or have they busied themselves with aiming for higher office so much that they have forgotten where the best interests of their organisation lie?

Spreitzer (2008:61) presents the results of her study as follows: “When people feel empowered at work, positive individual outcomes are likely to occur.”

In recent years, strikes have become legion in France and Belgium as growing dissatisfaction amongst the grass-root-level workforces has led to growing and widespread discontent elsewhere within and beyond the national borders on the one hand, but also a marked decrease in productivity than the economy can handle in an increasingly brittle economy and the growing conscience that the Euro is overvalued (as are the US Dollar and the Pound Sterling).

Bergmann et al (2000:21) in a seperate study of their own point out that “Satisfaction with advancement and growth, salary, and organisational policies” as well as “employee empowerment” are “positively related to organisational commitment.” The authors go on to confirm what has been put to question with regard to the lack of conscience on behalf of middle managers as they state, “The only human resource component that did not exhibit a significant relationship with commitment was supervisory satisfaction.” (Idem)

With all of the above studies spread over a decade, which point out in a single direction: employee empowerment promotes organisational commitment, improved productivity and professional association commitment to some extent.

Middle managers, in most cases, seem to be most interested in personal promotion and concentrate on positive financial performance so much so that they forget their leadership role with regard to the workforces’ organisational commitment, which actually  leads to better profitability over an appreciably  longer term than supervisors and middle managers can muster in their combined efforts to rise amongst managerial echelons.

Reference:

Bergmann.T.J., Lester.S.W., DeMeuse.K.P., Grahn.J.L., (2000), Integrating The Three Domains Of Employee Commitment: An Exploratory Study, The Journal of Applied Business Research, The Clute Institute, available at http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/JABR/article/view/2050/2239 accessed in November 2011

Elbo,R.A.,(2011), The Importance of Employee Empowerment, Business World Online, available at http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=23&title=The-importance-of-employee-empowerment&id=41430 accessed in November 2011

Lee.G., Kim.B.C., Perdue.R., Magnini.V., (2011), Time-Verying Effects of Empowerment on Job Satisfaction for Customer-Contact versus Non-Customer-Contact Employee Groups, Scholarworks at UMassAmherst, 16th Graduate Students Research Conference, available at http://scholarworks.umass.edu/gradconf_hospitality/2011/Presentation/55/ accessed in November 2011

Spreitzer.G.,(2008), Taking Stock: A Review of More than Twenty Years of Research on Empowerment at Work” in The SAGE Handbook of Organisational Behaviour:Volume 1, Ed. Barling.J, and Cooper,C.L., Sage Publications, London, available at  http://goo.gl/2I2sN accessed in November 2011

Thamizhmanii.S.,Hasanm.S.,(2010), A review on an employee empowerment in TQM practice, Journal of Achievements in Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, Vol. 39(2), pp 204-210, International OCSCO Word Press, available at http://www.journalamme.org/papers_vol39_2/3928.pdf accessed in November 2011