Empowerment can work, but only as part of a holistic structure of concepts ranging from open two-way communications, regular appraisal, and a commitment to training and staff development. Regrettably, what often happens is that the managing director mutters the magic word "empowerment" and then expects change to occur as though by an act of God.
What Alan Fox wrote in A Sociology of Work in Industry in 1971 is still valid today: "The social relations of industry offer few perspectives more ironical than a deeply committed management recoiling ... from the manifest indifference of their hourly paid workers to everything other than the aspiration that holds them within a system which management themselves have designed - the size of the pay packet."
Perhaps the answer is to shareextra profit resulting from an empowerment exercise with those who created it - but then we don't want to take empowerment too far do we?
Brian M Leahy
Abingdon, OxonReuse content