Employees’ Empowerment: Good or Bad – Evidence from a Different Context
Most of the research on organizational practicesand how these practices affect employees has been conducted in developed (North America and West Europe) countries. Our understanding of what is beneficial for employeesis largely based on these research findings. One extensively researched topic within Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management literature concerns the effects of employee empowerment, and results overwhelmingly advocate for the positive effects of empowerment. Based on these research findings, employee empowermentis considered to be desirable and beneficial for both employees and their organizations. Owing to globalization andease of information access, managers in less developed countries are adapting some of the practices from developed countries. Thus, several organizations in Asian, African and Latin American countries are trying to make their employees more empowered, autonomous, and independent. This research - based on two independent studies on 586 employees- aims at exploring the effects of empowerment on employees’ job satisfaction and organizational commitment in Pakistan, a country with different cultural dimensions (such as high power distance, collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance) to most of developed countries. Study 1 - conducted in public sector - showed that the effects of employee empowerment on job satisfaction of managerial level employees were positive, however, the effects were negative for blue-collar workers.Study 2 - conducted in private sector - showed that although the overall effects of empowerment were negative, there were some interesting differences between public and private sector employees. Study 2 suggested that perceptions of ambiguity and reduced power distance were potential reasons of these negative effects. This study also identified two ways of inoculating employees from the negative effects of empowerment, i.e., making jobs more structured and providing managerial support fordecision-making. Thus,the results of this research suggest that the answer of‘what is beneficial?’ is contextually dependent and what might be beneficialin one context could be harmful in other settings.Thus, it is of high importance to be aware of the potential negative effects of managerial practices developed in difference contextual settings, and hence tocontextualize management practices to suit our own settings.
Keywords - Autonomy, Empowerment, Job satisfaction, Organizational commitment, Job Formalization, Participative Decision Making.