How Does Empowerment Influence Employee Motivation? Conditions For its Successful Implementation

Term Paper, 2020

14 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Empowerment in management and leadership

3. Motivational theories

4. The implementation of motivation through empowerment

5. Successful leadership

6. Conclusion



“Leadership is the ability to get extraordinary achievement from ordinary people”1.

-Brian Tracy

The matters of motivation and volition are two powerful starting points of contemporary leadership research (Heckhausen/ Heckhausen 2018: 14). For bosses, leaders and superiors, it has always been a crucial question to identify employees' motives and manage their translation into driving forces being beneficial to the conduct of business.

According to Roftnagel (2017), the processes of empowerment and employee motivation are closely intertwined, especially regarding the analysis of job satisfaction conditions (Roftnagel 2017: 217). There is strong evidencethat empowering employees will increase their motivation considerably and hence contribute to overall improved organizational productivity (Schermuly 2016: 17). The implementation of employee motivation - as well as a fundamental understanding of individual behavioral patterns - seem to be the universal keys to individual progressand organizational efficiency (ibid).

In this paper, I analyze the conditions for the implementation of employee motivation through empowerment by scrutinizing the possible ways of interactionbetweensuperiors and subordinates and the boundary contingencies as contributory factors in job satisfaction. Stretching the bow from the definition of core terms of investigation to leadership tools, styles and principles, I outline the organizational set-up which shall enhance the successful empowerment processes.

I arguethat empowerment must come from acooperativeleadership style which accounts for delegation, mutual trust and communication and therefore increases the likelihood for employee satisfaction.I will show that empowerment constitutes a sufficient condition for employee motivation and evokes the creation of new forms of interaction. Leadership has a key role to play in employee satisfaction and can be wisely used to serve both individual contentedness and organizational objectives.

Empowerment in Management and Leadership

Etymologically, the term of empowerment can be traced back into the 17th century when poets and historians used it for the first time2. Split up into prefix, stem and suffix of the word, it describes a directional process of giving authority to someone and allowing him or her to do something. Empowerment, in this assignment, refers to employment relationships and therefore requires the availability of two parties in the form of superior and employee. The implication of one party being in power and holding increased authority over the other allows for the assumption that power could obviously be shared or shifted. Julian Rappaport describes empowerment as “the democratic participation in a community”(Rappaport 1987: 121f.) but also “a process, a mechanism by which people, organizations, and communities gain mastery over their affairs” (ibid). According to this, empowerment requires both an organizational structure beneficial to democratic co­working and the individual conviction that managing delegated affairsis feasible to every employee at his own skill level (Barba-Sanchez et al 2017: 1100).

Looking closely at the “nature of settings” (Rappaport 1987: 130) i.e. the individual, organizational, social and cultural factors under which empowerment is supposed totake place, one will gain further awareness of the complex preconditions that successful empowerment requires. Empowerment exceeds the frame of mere workspace as outer contingencies may subsequently impinge its' prosperous realization (Rappaport 1987: 134f.). Multilayered constructs and worldviews underlying human interaction patterns could unknowingly account for the failure of empowerment. Nonetheless, most of the enabling prerequisites can be established by investigating person- or interpersonal­centered eventualities (ibid).

Organizational psychologies distinguish two different approaches to the concept of empowerment by focusing on both structural and psychological aspects. Structural empowerment refers to the creation of favorable organizational settings which provide opportunity for delegation, communication and participation (Schermuly 2016: 16). Psychological empowerment, on the contrary, investigates subjective reactions to organizational structures and offers opportunities for negative perceptions. According to psychological empowerment theory, the positive impressions of participation meaningfulness and self-determination strongly correlate with job satisfaction and therefore depict high levels of employee motivation (Schermuly 2016: 17).


Employee behavior is influenced bya variety of factors such as individual moral concepts, ideologies or the relevance of society and culture (Heckhausen/ Heckhausen 2018: 282). Performance in organizations therefore mirrors individual goals and beliefs and reveals partly how individual education and experience shaped behavioral patterns (Mühlenhof 2018: 28). Motivation generally arises from a need or a feeling of lack and the natural desire to eliminate it (ibid.). This desire is generally called “a motive” embodying the individual intention to act (Hintz 2018: 210). According to Hintz, human action is influenced by three main motives i.e. the need for power, the need for achievement and the need for affiliation (ibid.). Those three orientations underly any human action and differentiate into specific matters like the satisfaction of physical needs, the longing for recognition or the multiplication of income. The term “motivation”, originating in motives, describes the activation process of a certain individual motive in order to give the person incentive for acting and pursuing what they deeply aim for (Hintz 2018: 192).

Nevertheless, motivation does not exclusively yield at the elimination of deficit motives but also at the realization of desires in personal growth and self-fulfillment. Abraham H. Maslow, an American researcher and psychologist therefore arranged human needs in form ofa pyramid3 representing the different levels of human needs and the order in which they should be responded to. According to Maslow, human needs are categorized into different sections depending on their vital relevance to human well-being. They constitute a pyramid whose basement represents physiological needs, followed by safety and belongingness needs ensued by needs of esteem and self-actualization. Maslow explains that any human being aims for self-actualization and high independence levels, but he also calls for a chronological reply to emerging individual needs. If basic needs and subsistence concerns would not be met, there is no interest in aiming for esteem or success on behalf of the respective person (McKenzie/Tullock 2012: 44f.). Satisfying fundamental needs, in the sense of Maslow, is the primary cause of human action (ibid).

Despite the widespread acceptance and reception of Maslow's theory, one should not fall prey to the mistake of applying it universally to any kind and culture. There is strong evidence that Asian communities for example promote rather collectivist models of self­fulfillment (Hofstede 1984: 86) and that the theory of Maslow's does not account for the external circumstances being convenient to the job satisfaction process in a helpful way (Loser/ Degeling 2014: 256). Hence, it reveals priorities of human action and therefore invites leaders of an organization to bring their leadership techniques in line with it.

Motivational processes show high levels of complexity as people differ clearly regarding their responsiveness to external stimuli (Mühlenhof 2018: 24). The ultimate goal to a leader resides in the ability to create prerequisites for the translation of extrinsic employee motives into intrinsic reasons of action - a process which consequently promotes the accordance of individual motives and organizational requirements (Hintz 2018: 188ff.). Theoretical concepts considering organizational boundary conditions in line with conditions for job satisfaction have been provided by the psychologist Frederick Herzberg. He draws a line between motivators and so-called “hygienic factors”- the first residing on an intrinsic personal level, and the second accounting for external organizational conditions. The term of “hygienic factors” is widely used to describe motives related to the working environment of a given organization. It therefore includes criteria like collective communication habits, equity levels, teamwork or rights of co­determination (Loser/ Degeling 2014: 256).

Herzberg explains that both dimensions - i.e. motivators and hygienic factors - correlate fundamentally. Once, beneficial hygienic factors like appropriate pay, group cohesion or chances for participation were missing, their absence directly decreasesmotivation levels (cf. Münscher 2020: 8)The other way around-if numerous desireslike personal growth, self-fulfillment or opportunities for teamwork can be pursued - they shall lead to further job satisfaction (ibid). Given the opportunities to excel oneself, according to Herzberg, makes unpopular work conditions become rather negligible (ibid). Still, employee satisfaction depends largely on the perceived probability of rewards and their relation to the perceived input given (Porter/ Lawler 1968). Satisfaction therefore only occurs if effective rewards, extrinsic or intrinsic, correspond with the appropriate expectations of it (ibid).

Closely tied to this is the individual expectancy of being able to meet organizational requirements and the corresponding thinking patterns that employees must cope with individually (Barba-Sanchez et. al 2017: 1099f). Initially knowing, that a person should be theoretically able to meet expectations and him or her knowing so as well, leaves them more confident and motivated to even undertake the first movement for action (ibid). If, by any means, the successful execution of a task seems entirely hopeless, then the individual motivation to act will never emerge in the first place. Moreover, motivation decreases particularly under absence of perceived equity (ibid). Accepting unfavorable working conditions to individual satisfaction, according to Equity theory, is more likely if employeesexperience them to the same extent. Hence, motivation surely declines if one person is exempt from equitabletreatment (ibid).This is a very outward-oriented demand placed by employees upon leaders.

In a nutshell, the ability as a leader to become aware of individual moving factors and to use those insights for managing organizational day-to-day business accounts for a powerful leadership tool. It enhances the realization individual satisfaction without belittling the organizational prospects of economic success. Leadership is about influencing others to work towards joint goals (Laufer 2018: 43ff.), implying that goals can be widely agreed upon if democratic leadership styles create the essential prerequisites for it (ibid).

The implementation of motivation through empowerment

Having defined empowerment as a process of power transmission, it seems to be calling especially for a leader's noble initiative to let others take part in the lead. Decisions for that derive from a deep internal leader's agreement on a consistent leadership style they adhere to.Leadership styles differ vastly in terms of dimensionality and their conception of men in the form of workers. Douglas McGregor, a professor of management theory, compares the idea of employees being mere factors of production to a more idealist individual employee-conception as being benevolent and enthusiastic co-workers (McGregor 1998: 138f.). This fundamental classification entails the emergence of different leadership styles and the individual possibilities of getting involved in decision-making (Tannenbaum/ Schmidt 1958: 96).

Leadership styles range from authoritarian, one-dimensional approaches over cooperative and democratic styles which inevitably effect individual job satisfaction (Thommen 1989: 258). Depending on the leadership style chosen, the toolkit of leadership techniques and procedures offers various options to guide employees towards joint goals and augment motivation accordingly.


1; access on 04-26-2020, 5 p.m.

2; access on 04-26-2020, 1 p.m.

3 source of illustration:; access on 04-26-2020, 5 p.m.

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How Does Empowerment Influence Employee Motivation? Conditions For its Successful Implementation
AKAD University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart
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Anika Bohrmann (Author), 2020, How Does Empowerment Influence Employee Motivation? Conditions For its Successful Implementation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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