Do Organizations Really Believe in Empowerment?

Workplace Insight

office space, empowering employees, execuquestThe field of leadership management and organizational change is built around a set of assumptions. Those assumptions include a participatory, democratic, and consensus decision-making culture within an organization. However, those assumptions are more like a vision, or how organizations want to be—something that is espoused. They want to build a culture of empowerment; they want to build a culture of this and a culture of that.

The truth is that most organizations still maintain a pretty hierarchical culture. It’s a culture where there is a lot of nepotism. It’s not necessarily a negative thing, it’s just reality. It’s who do I know, who do I like, who do I trust? That is the person who is brought in or who is promoted. But on the other hand, they create this image of empowerment and a culture of valuing their people.

By doing this, it creates a lot of discrepancy and inconsistency, which can create a strong skepticism among employees. The employees become skeptical of what the leaders are preaching and what the leaders are saying because it doesn’t match up with what they are doing.

All the interventions from the company are trying to get them “engaged” or “empowered,” but in the truest essence, the company is still based on hierarchy with a win-lose framework. The one that wins gets promoted and the one that loses gets cut. It’s just the nature of the business. It’s like democracy. It’s a nice thing to strive for, but it’s not really easy to make it happen. Actually, I don’t see any place that is truly a democracy. It’s all about who’s in power and how they get the most out of it.

It gets even more tenuous when the market is so slow. The whole concept of talent retention gets questioned. If an employee doesn’t like something, they can leave, because they know they can get someone else. But the company still likes to tell them they are empowered and values their point of view.

Ultimately, I do believe that organizations as a whole believe in empowering their employees and creating a democratic style of management. However, they believe in it only to a certain limit. They believe in it only as long as it doesn’t shift the basic comfort zone or comfort level of the people in a position of power within an organization.

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