Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Empowerment and employee motivation

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Empowerment and employee motivation:
How does empowerment affect work employees' motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Consider the following scenario.

Two friends, Sally and Sarah who work at different government departments are chatting about work over dinner. "I'm taking on a huge new project at work" Sally says excitedly. "I will be managing 10 new staff and attending a workshop with other new managers over the weekend where I will have a chance to speak to more senior managers of the company. It was offered to me because my managers saw the induction booklet I made for some of the new staff!"

"Oh no, you poor thing!" exclaimed Sarah. "I can't imagine how stressful that would be. I hope they're increasing your salary if they're demanding that much extra work from you."

"I haven't asked about the pay" mused Sally. "Honestly, I am just really excited that they've chosen me to have this responsibility. It doesn't feel like a chore to me at all."

"Each to their own I guess" said Sarah " The boss is always complaining that I'm slacking off, and always dumping new papers on my desk. The only exciting thing about my position is the fat paycheck at the end of the fortnight."

Does this scenario sound familiar? Do you identify more strongly with one of these individuals? Why do some people love their jobs like Sally, yet others in a similar job might feel like Sarah, frustrated, and getting through the menial tasks of the day, reminding themselves to persist because "it's good money". Some might suggest that Sarah is just lazy, or that Sally is a workaholic. However, in reality one of the most important differences between Sally and Sarah is the feeling of empowerment they have in the workplace. This chapter evaluates the concept of empowerment, the impact it has on workplace motivation,and how we can use empowerment to enhance employees motivation at work.

Key questions
  • What is empowerment motivation?
  • What is the relationship between empowerment and workplace motivation?
  • What contributes to empowerment in the workplace?
  • How can we foster empowerment within the workplace to enhance workplace motivation?

What is empowerment?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Empowerment as a concept within motivation[edit | edit source]

We can begin to understand empowerment by first looking at where it fits within the holistic concept of motivation. Motivation can be defined as the force or forces behind the initiation, direction, intensity, and duration of behaviours (Colman, 2015).

Fig. 1. Honey bees rely on physiological motivational drives when collecting pollen and returning to the nest. Humans rely on internal cognitions and external feedback to learn motivational responses.

Contemporary motivational theory focuses on categorising motivation as intrinsically (internally motivating events) or extrinsically (external motivating events) based (Ryan & Deci, 2000). These two core types of motivation often have an interrelated effect on the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of an individual.(Zhang, Zhang, Gong & Song, 2016)

Psychological research has resulted in the development of several motivational theories attempting to explain this relationship. Two of these theories aid us in better understanding the origins and importance of empowerment.

Social Cognitive Theory tells us that intrinsic factors such as perceived coping efficacy and cognitive control efficacy guide an individual's motivations to either attempt or avoid tasks and behaviours. (Bandura, 1982)

Self Determination Theory also focuses on intrinsic motivation, linking personal autonomy and internal motivation with higher quality learning, and more enthusiastic performance, and extrinsic motivations often linked to less desirable behavioral outcomes. (Ryan & Deci, 2000)

These theories highlight the important effect of internal mediators on behavioural outcomes. Empowerment is one example of a primarily intrinsic mediator for behaviour.

Empowerment as a construct...[edit | edit source]

Fig. 2: Bandura suggests three main factors contribute to Empowerment; Requisite skills, necessary knowledge, and high self-efficacy belief.

We can define Empowerment as a multi-dimensional motivational construct that involves an individual's self-perceived capability to exercise control over life events through their own motivation, cognitive resources and actions. (Koberg, Boss, Senjem & Goodman, 1999)

As shown in Figure 1, empowerment itself consists of three main components (Ozer & Bandura, 1990):

  1. Requisite knowledge of how to achieve a desired outcome
  2. The required skills and ability to achieve the outcome
  3. Personal self-efficacy beliefs about one's ability to achieve the outcome

It is only when an individual experiences all three do they experience a feeling of empowerment. In addition, when looking at empowerment within an organisation, for example in the workplace as is the focus of this chapter, research suggests that an additional contributing factor of organisation environmental characteristics exists when evaluating empowerment in the workplace.(Koberg, et al., 1999; Laschinger, Finegan, Shamian & Wilk, 2004; Cicolini, Comparcini & Simonetti, 2013) In a workplace context, the amount of opportunities, information, resources, and support an individual recieves[spelling?] also contributes to their ability to feel empowered (Cicolini, et al., 2013) Research into factors that influence workplace motivation is still not universally determined to a large extent (Zhang, Zhang, Song & Gong, 2016) however many articles investigating empowerment within the worklce[spelling?] refer to an alternative theory proposed by Spreitzer in 1995 that empowerment in a workplace context consists of the following four factors:

  1. Competence: combines Bandura's knowledge and requisite skills into one factor
  2. Impact refers to the perceived change an employee has on their organisation
  3. Meaning refers to how meaningful an employee believes their work tasks to be
  4. Self-determination: refers to an employee's self-efficacy

The role of self-efficacy in empowerment[edit | edit source]

Empowerment is considered to operate through the mechanism of an individual's self-efficacy, which can be defined here as a person's perceived competence to achieve an intended result. (Colman, 2015) either generally ("I am a pretty capable person") or specifically ("I am a capable of doing 50 sit-ups in a row.)

Social Cognitive Theory tells us that self-efficacy is one of three main predictors of behaviour, and research into the link between self-efficacy and behaviour has yielded some interesting results, particularly in relation to self-regulating behaviours. Self-efficacy levels are able to predict the use of effective or ineffective coping strategies (Bandura, 1982), persistence of desired behaviours (Conn, 1998; Džiaugytė, Aleksejūnienė, Brukienė & Pečiulienė, 2016) and general levels of satisfaction (Bandura, 1982; Koberg, et al., 1999). For example, in separate studies, different demographics (adolescents and elderly women) were subjected to self-efficacy based intervention programs targeting health behaviours (Conn,1998; Džiaugytė, et al., 2016). The outcome was in both cases strong correlations between self-efficacy and performance of health behaviours, which in the case of the elderly women particularly, resulted in significant long term outcomes for higher quality of life, and life expectancy. (Conn,1998)

In fact, strong positive correlations have been shown to exist between levels of self-efficacy, and direct performance accomplishments, as well as its impact on the likelihood of increased "approach" versus "avoidance" behaviours. Essentially this means that as self-efficacy rises, so does an individual's achievements (Bandura, as cited in Betz & Hackett, 2006) as well as their investment in and commitment to achieving more complex and challenging tasks when compared to similar individuals with low levels of self-efficacy. (Bandura, 1982).

It is important to note that, while self-efficacy in itself is an intrinsic component of empowerment, it is actually dependent on mostly extrinsic factors. It is dependant on behaviour history, vicarious learning, verbal persuasion by others, and physiological states (Betz & Hackett, 2006).

This means that self-efficacy is subject to change over time in response to behaviour feedback, watching others, biological responses to events, and through direct conversation with, and influence from with other individuals. This idea sheds light on the influential impact of others on a person's self-efficacy, and by extension feelings of empowerment.

In considering the role of self-efficacy in empowerment, as well as its ability to be manipulated extrinsically, we begin to see how fostering empowerment can be a very accessible and important tool in encouraging goal-directive behaviour and positive coping strategies, both in a personal and professional setting (Ozer & Bandura, 1990; Cicolini, Comparcini & Simonetti, 2013).

Returning to our Scenario...

Now that we know more about the different components of Empowerment, we can return to look at the scenario of Sally and Sarah and ask ourselves the following questions:

  1. What is each woman's primary source of motivation and is it Intrinsic or extrinsic?
  2. What can you infer from the above scenario about each woman's self-efficacy?
  3. What factors can you identify that influence each woman's feelings of empowerment?

What impact does empowerment have on workplace motivation?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Empowerment's impact[edit | edit source]

Workplace empowerment has also been linked to job satisfaction, and subsequently desired job retention. Cicolini (2013) and associates determined strong positive correlations between empowerment of the individual as well as holistic structural empowerment (related to organisational characteristics of a workplace that can either foster, or impede empowerment in employees) and job satisfaction in a meta-analysis of over 500 articles on nurse empowerment and motivation[Provide more detail].

Intrinsic motivation's impact[edit | edit source]

Feelings of empowerment within a work context are also highly correlated with intrinsic task motivation. (Krishnan, 2012) Increases in perceived intrinsic motivations for allotted work tasks correlate positively with increased dedication to work tasks and successful interpersonal performance ( Zhang et al., 2016) Intrinsic motivation has also been linked with higher self-interest in work tasks and more creative responses in problem-solving situations, (Deci, as cited in Bénabou & Tirole, 2003)

Overall the research into empowerment has yielded results that argue empowerment has an instrumental role in productivity, effective group work, and overall organisational effectiveness (Conger & Kanungo, 1988; Krishnan, 2012, Cicolini Comparcini & Simonetti, 2013)

In addition to these benefits, feelings of empowerment have been linked with increased life meaning and more positive overall psychological well-being of the individual (Krishnan, 2012)

These new links could use empowerment as a tool to highlight additional mutual benefits in working relationships between companies and individual employees. While the daily grind may often be seen as an extrinsically motivated pastime, with money being the primary incentive of why most people work (Bénabou & Tirole, 2003), promoting empowerment and intrinsic motivation in the workforce encourages the notion that individuals can gain much more than monetary rewards from their employment. The subsequent increased productivity (Ryan & Deci, 2000) and increased happiness and work satisfaction (Krishnan, 2012) seems to aid organisations, employers, and employees alike.

Returning to the scenario

Now that more about the impact empowerment can have on workplace motivation, you can attempt to answer the following questions[Rewrite to improve clarity]:

  1. What performance-based improvements does the research suggest Sarah would improve on were she highly motivated?
  2. What personal benefits are in it for Sarah to be empowered?

Practical application of empowerment: How does an organisation motivate and foster empowerment in their staff?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Use of a morally competent and transformational leadership style[edit | edit source]

Research suggests that leadership styles involving attentiveness and willingness to address personal outcomes within a manager lead to higher levels of productivity, and better person-supervisor fit between managers and subordinates. (Krishnan, 2012, Kim & Kim, 2012)

Implement scaffolding and Mastery-Modelling programs into the workplace[edit | edit source]

One way to encourage empowerment withing[spelling?] the workplaces is to implement a Mastery Modelling Program. This involves the explanation/demonstration of a task by an expert individual to a group of novice employees. The program aims to increase feelings of empowerment through communicating knowledge and skills via vicarious learning practices, giving novices a chance to safely attempt tasks. Mastery Modelling Programs aim to fulfill each component of the traditional empowerment, and thus increase employees[grammar?] motivation to attempt tasks and take on more difficult challenges (Bandura & Ozer (1990)

Focus on empowerment from a group/organisational level[edit | edit source]

Koberg, Boss, Senjem and Goodman's research(1999) into the correlates and consequences of empowerment in employees working in Hospitals. They found that group or organisational-level variables were more influential than individual variables when it came to feelings of empowerment. Meta-analysis of workplace empowerment reveals that structural empowerment exists separately from an individual's psychological empowerment but both must be considered when determining strategies to motivate staff. Evaluating for improvement in employee support, resources and access to knowledge may serve as a good motivational strategy (Cicolini Comparcini & Simonetti, 2013)

Delegate responsibility[edit | edit source]

Research shows us that demonstrating trust and confidence in subordinates by delegating important tasks fosters stronger commitment and drive to complete a task in employees by communicating perceived competence from superiors, and encourages increases in employees' self-efficacy beliefs. (Drake, Wong & Salter, 2007) The delegation of important tasks also fosters motivation through the individual believing they are working on a task of high significance. (Bénabou & Tirole, 2003)

Avoid monetary rewards for performance and negative feedback[edit | edit source]

Fig. 3. Pay rises have been wrongfully marketed as an incentive for increased performance. Psychological research indicates extrinsic motivators such as money decrease work motivation and its related behaviours[factual?]

Research shows us that positive behaviour-specific feedback typically has a stronger impact on performance than fiscal rewards for performance, which has been shown to reduce motivation toward tasks in future, as does negative performance-related feedback (Ryan & Deci, 1999) Even more so, feedback should be given on a varied basis, as research into behavioural change yeilds[spelling?] most signifigant[spelling?] results when individuals are exposed to rewarding feedback some of the time as opposed to never, or every time a task is performed. (Khang, et al. 2011) In this way rewarding the efforts of employees does not encourage performance to become dependent on rewards, or other extrinsic motivational sources, as we know from various studies that behaviour performed for extrinsic purposes is more short-lived and lackluster than intrinsically motivated performance.(Ryan & Deci, 1999)

Revisiting the scenario

Using these tools, develop 3 strategies Sarah's manager could use to attempt to increase Sarah's feelings of empowerment and workplace motivation.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Overall, we an[spelling?] see that Empowerment has an intertwined relationship with workplace motivation. The empirical evidence suggests that empowerment is a manipulable and diverse tool that can be used to enhance several aspects of a workplace's structure, as well as its employees to increase productivity and success. Research is even delving into the life-long benefits of workplace empowerment, and with more empirical underpinnings, empowerment may be used as a catalyst to change attitudes surrounding work to be less about the money, and more about the enhanced personal abilities that working in a motivated and empowered workplace can provide.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Bandura, A.(1982) Self-Efficacy Mechanism in Human Agency. American Psychologist, 37 (2) 122-147.

Bénabou, R., Tirole, J(2003) The Review of Economic Studies, 70, 489-520.

Betz, N., Hackett, G.(2006) Career Self-Efficacy Theory: Back to the Future. Journal of Career Assessment, 14, 3-11.

Cicolini, G., Comparcini, D., Simonetti, V.(2014) Workplace empowerment and nurses' job satisfaction: a systematic literature review. Journal of Nursing Management, 22, 855-871.

Colman, A.(2015) A Dictionary of Psychology (4th ed.)

Conn, V.(1998) Older Women: Social Cognitive Theory Correlates of Health Behaviour.Women & Health, 26 (3), 71-85.

Conger, J., Kanungo, R.(1988) The Empowerment Process: Intergrating Theory and Practice. Academy of Management Review, 13, 471-482. Retrieved from

Drake, A., Wong, J., Salter, S.(2007) Empowerment, Motivation, and Performance: Examining the Impact of Feedback and Incentives on Nonmanagement Employees ''Behavioural Research in Accounting'', 19, 71-89

Džiaugytė, L., Aleksejūnienė, J., Brukienė, V., Pečiulienė, V.(2016) Self-efficacy theory-based intervention in addolescents: a cluster randomized trial - focus on oral self-care practice and oral self-care skills. International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, 27, 37-46.

Kahng, S., Ingvarsson, E., Quigg, A., Seckinger, K., & Teichman, H. (2011). Defining and measuring behaviour. In Fisher, W., Piazza, C., & Roane H (Eds). Handbook of Applied Behaviour Analysis 113-131. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Kim ,T, Kim, M.(2012) Leaders' Moral Competence and Employee Outcomes: The Effects of Psychological Empowerment and Person-Supervisor Fit. Journal of Business Ethics, 122, 155-166.

Koberg, C., Boss, W., Senjem, J.,Goodman,E.(1999) Antecedents and Outomes of Empowerment. Empirical Evidence from the Health Care Industry. Group & Organization Management, 24(1), 71-91.

Krishnan, V.(2012) Transformational leadership and personal outcomes: empowerment as a mediator. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 33, 550-563.

Laschinger, H., Finegan, J., Shamain, J., Wilk, P.(2004) A longitudinal analysis of workplace empowerment on workplace satisfaction. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 25, 527-545.

Ozer, E., Bandura, A.(1990) Mechanisms Governing Empowerment Effects: A Self-Efficacy Analysis Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(3), 472-486.

Ryan, R., Deci, E. (2000) Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions     ''Contemporary Educational Psychology'', 25, 54-67

Spreitzer, G.(1995) Psychological, Empowerment in the Wporkplace: Dimensions, Measurement and Validation Academy of Management Journal, 38, 1442-1465.

Zhang, Zhang, Gong & Song (2016) The different relations of extrinsic, introjected, identified regulation, and intrinsic motivation on employees' performance: Empirical studies following self-determination theory. Management Decision, 54, 2393-2412.

Hishib (2006) Empowerment. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [wiki] retrieved October 22, 2017 from

DanielStevens(2006) Social Cognitive Theory. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [wiki] Retrieved October 22, 2017 from

Mingming~enwiki.(2005) Self-Determination Theory. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [wiki] Retrieved October 22, 2017 from

External links[edit | edit source]