Today, more than 70% of organizations have adopted some kind of empowerment initiative for at least part of their workforce. To be successful in today’s business environment, companies need the knowledge, ideas, energy, and creativity of every employee, from front-line workers to the top-level managers in the executive suite. The best companies accomplish this by empowering their employees to take initiative without prodding, to serve the collective interests of the company without being micromanaged, and to act like owners of the business. So what is empowerment, and how can it be effectively implemented in work organizations?

Over the past two decades, two complementary perspectives on empowerment at work have emerged. The first focuses on the social-structural conditions that enable empowerment in the workplace, and the second ...

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