Understanding the Empowerment Principle
As an employer myself, I’d like to think I do apply the principles of employee empowerment, but I wanted to really research this concept to see if my methods were correct or lacking. The Prentice-Hall Online Glossary defines employee empowerment as “A method of improving customer service in which workers have discretion to do what they believe is necessary—within reason—to satisfy the customer, even if this means bending some company rules."
Today’s definition of employee empowerment is much different than that of Scientific Management pioneer, Frederick W. Taylor (1865-1915) who said, “Hardly a competent workman can be found who does not devote a considerable amount of time to studying just how slowly he can work and still convince his employer that he is going at a good pace."
Somewhere, between these two employee principles is what I would call a happy medium. If you continually complain about today’s changing workplace culture or your feelings on work ethics you can bet your actions, verbal or non-verbal, will be noticed by your employees—as a negative.
While I do think I have competent employees who sometimes do indeed bend company rules to get the job done, this alone is not the best way to apply the principles of employee empowerment. If a workplace environment is more like “it’s everyman for himself," you’ll experience employee chaos. Business leaders, managers and HR experts are now learning that employee empowerment doesn’t mean the captain loses control of the ship, but rather, the ship moves in a less rocky fashion because of the empowerment.