And if so, will empowering workers make companies better?
Is employee wellbeing important?
Well, we know it is related to performance and turnover and contributes to organisational success. So if we are looking for organisational wellbeing, we should be paying attention to employee wellbeing – a prescription accepted by most in theory, but not practice.
If we agree with this prescription how do we go about following it?
Do we have a duty to make decisions that promote employee wellbeing or do employees have a right to participate in decisions that affect their wellbeing?
I think the view that management is about planning, organising, leading and controlling, which we have inflicted on many students of management throughout the world, is based on assumptions that do not fully reflect our human nature.
Good governance is important in every organisation. But good governance is not only about the relationship between an entity and its external stakeholders.
Good governance starts at home. Allowing people at work to make decisions allows them to be human.
Self-governance is not incompatible with organisation, responsibility and cooperation. My interests are not independent of the interests of my employer, of my colleagues and our clients.
Regardless of your level in the hierarchy, think about what an ideal workplace would be for you. I doubt many people would be asking to be more planned, organised, led and controlled.
Most people want to be able to speak and to be heard; to share their thoughts, ideas, aspirations and inspirations. I doubt many people would want more powerful supervisors or managers, but most would want to be empowered.
Some view power as something that cannot be given but only cultivated. Others make the distinction between “power over” and “power to”. “Power over” is what our old view of management reflects: the power to influence, dominate and control others.
“Power to”, on the other hand, is about having the power to accomplish through the ability to decide, so enabling responsibility and self-determination. “Power to” is about the devolution of power and responsibility.
I doubt many people would be asking to be more planned, organised, led and controlled.
There is more than enough evidence which suggests that empowering employees enhances the effectiveness of an entity. Empowerment also gives people the sense that they are competent, self-determining and respected.
Our thinking of management has to change to move to distributing power at work, something that is good for people and organisations.
Dr Eva Tsahuridu is CPA Australia’s policy adviser, professional standards and governance.
This article is from the June 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK.