Why is not empowerment common?

tireAlthough empowerment is not a new concept, it is still not common. There are multiple companies where the idea of giving power of making decisions to low-level employees is so abstract that people do not even hope for it. For a long time I had thought that the employers had been the blockers. And they probably still are, but some time ago I had an interesting chat with my colleague about it. I would like to share it with you because it shed some light on possible difficulties during empowerment introduction.


What empowerment in management is

In short words empowerment in management is a concept of giving employees some power to make or at least influence on decisions and taking actions. Empowerment turns robots into thinking and responsible employees.

For example, a software developer instead of just writing code based on UML documents, can design a small part of the architecture and implement it in a way that seems the most appropriate to him/her. Of course, it does not mean that everybody can do everything. There are some boundaries. Additionally, a developer is most welcome to share his/her thoughts about the shape of the team and workload. The final decision belongs to the manager but everybody has power to share their opinion and by that influence over the boss.


Why empowerment is not always applied

Many people, including myself, believe that empowerment is the way to go. I am sure I would like to work with employees that contribute to the project instead of being robots executing boss’s orders. Switching to the other side, as an employee, I would like to feel trusted from my boss and being treated as an intelligent professional whose opinion matters.

After that a little long introduction, I would like to share my chat with a colleague, let’s call him Tom. He worked in a non-IT related industry but it does not matter much. He was familiar with the concept of empowerment and he told me that it would be great to have it in the company he worked in. In the same conversation he complained a lot about his company that empowerment would never happen there. By a lot, I mean A LOT!. I did not argue because I knew different work environments. There have always been better and worse companies. Sometimes changing anything is really difficult.

A few weeks passed and I met Tom again. Tom was sad. He had had a difficult conversation with his boss. Why? At this point I need to describe you a bigger picture.

In the country I live in, winters are cold and summers are hot so most of the society change tires of their cars twice a year. From normal ones to winter ones when it starts snowing and back to normal ones when it is getting warmer in spring.

That time, winter has just started, there was snow on roads for about a week or two already. And getting to the point – here is a from-memory script of my chat with Tom:

Me: What happened?
Tom: I had an argue with my boss because he thought I had changed the tires to the winter ones in the car I use in the company.
Me: Oh. Why hadn't you? Everybody have already done so. You are the only one who uses that car.
Tom: Because nobody told me to do it.

Nobody told me to do it. If you think that only employers are guilty of not introducing empowerment, think twice. Cheers.

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