Empowerment is a concept of business management that means the act of delegating power and responsibility to employees instead of concentrating them on the figure of the boss. It is translated into Portuguese by the neologism “empowerment”.
How does empowerment work?
The main characteristic of empowerment is to give workers a more active participation in decision-making and in the functioning of the company. Empowerment is, therefore, a form of decentralization of power within the organization.
This concept is a hallmark of participatory management models, as opposed to the classic hierarchy format that imposes itself from top to bottom. It recognizes the employee’s ability to think and act, taking into account the objectives of the company as a whole, instead of reducing him to a mere order-taker.
Empowerment gives employees autonomy, space to question methods and procedures and a voice in defining paths. On the other hand, doing so also increases your responsibilities.
How to apply empowerment?
For employees to gain a proactive stance, it is not enough to communicate that they have autonomy: it is necessary to create an environment of trust. If the company has a culture of punishment for mistakes, instead of focusing on correcting them, workers may feel inhibited from taking responsibility in the future.
For the participatory management to be successful, another essential factor is the good circulation of information within the company. It is the access to clear and objective information that provides the basis for employees to make correct decisions within their field of action.
Advantages of empowerment
- Increased employee motivation, who feel more valued
- Encouraging the emergence of new leaders
- Greater agility, flexibility and efficiency in decision-making processes
Difficulty of application
The main disadvantage of empowerment is that it requires time and patience for its effective implementation. That is why many companies end up giving up on this change in management method before reaching its fruits.
The adoption of empowerment can also imply extra costs for the organization, since it demands a greater investment in the training of workers and their reward.
If the delegation of authority is not accompanied by a salary increase, it can have the opposite effect to the desired part of the employees. Instead of being motivated by the vote of confidence, they may view increased responsibility as an accumulation of function.
Although several studies have already proven the benefits of empowerment in the results of companies in comparison with hierarchical and plaster models. Many corporations still find it difficult to adopt this type of management. One of the main reasons cited by experts is the fear of bosses and managers of losing power and authority through decentralization.
History of empowerment
At the turn of the 20th century, the so-called Scientific Management model, also known as Taylorism, was established, whose father was the American engineer Frederick Taylor.
Taylorism emphasized the division of tasks. In this model, the worker was only responsible for systematically performing the function that was granted to him. There was, therefore, no space for thinking; the worker became practically a piece of gear on the production line.
The questioning of the alienation of the worker began in the early twentieth century, but it was in the 1970s that the term “empowerment” gained popularity. Its origin refers to the field of social sciences and is related to the rise of social movements. Such as the black movement and the feminist movement, which demanded an increase in power and political participation for the groups they represented.