Empowerment is a dangerous word. Especially when management is using it to manipulate staff into a false belief of choice.
Once while consulting and training with a manufacturing team, the management wanted the men (the team was all men) to be empowered to make decisions and solve problems. After determining with the managers what guidelines and boundaries are set for them to complete their work the training started.
We worked through Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Team-Development, Listening and Speaking using Tonal Abilities, as well as civility with each other, and leadership – and when we were done the team was empowered. All of this was completed with oversight of management, and with clearly defined learning objectives. The men were supplied with tools and skills to accomplish tasks within their abilities and solve problems within boundaries that were established by management, using their best judgment.
As we were nearing the completion of the training, management called me in for a “emergency” meeting. They described that the men were “…asking too many questions, and trying to overthrow the management structure.”
They wanted me to work with them more to establish a team that “…followed orders and understood the authority of management.”
Like the Dilbert above – once the team gained the tools, management wanted a return to the way things were. What they wanted the entire time was compliant automatons.
People want to do great work, they want to use their judgment and brains to solve problems, and add value to what they do.
Are you letting them? If you are a Managerial Leader is that what you really want? If so, let people do it. If not then stop lying about it, and work in the environment created.
Whether you want empowered employees or not is determined by the values and commitment you have to your work.
Be honest with yourself and staff about your views and values – consistency will build trust and people will know and will then be able to choose whether to stay and continue to do great work, or to choose to leave, or stay and do the best they can.
michael cardus is create-learning