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Employee Empowerment and Paternalism: A Conceptual Analysis of Empowerment’s Embeddedness in Communicative Contexts

PublikationArtikel (med peer review)
Empowerment, Linda Weidenstedt, Management

Sammanfattning

Empowerment as a management technique builds on the assumption that employees desire more power. Consequently, to a large extent, research on employee empowerment has focused on defining the type of power that should be contained in empowerment, identifying relevant mediating and moderating effects of and for empowerment as well as empowerment’s boundary conditions such as individual and social attributes. However, less research has dealt with communicative and relational aspects and how these may impact the outcome of employee empowerment. This paper uses an interactional perspective to conceptually analyse communicative meanings entailed in employee empowerment. Building on sociological theories of communicative interaction, it is argued that focusing on leaders’ and members’ ascriptions of meanings to each other’s communicative messages reveals paternalistic power structures that are of relevance for the failure and success of empowerment. A communicative analysis of common structural and psychological empowerment efforts suggests that members’ sensemaking of their roles and situations, as defined by formal (written) and informal (psychological) contracts, may not necessarily be in line with the communicative meanings intended by leaders’ actions, and vice versa.

Weidenstedt, L. (2020). Employee Empowerment and Paternalism: A Conceptual Analysis of Empowerment’s Embeddedness in Communicative Contexts. Mrev management revue, 31(4), 444 – 464. DOI: 10.5771/0935-9915-2020-4-444

Baserat på innehåll

Employee Empowerment and Paternalism: A Conceptual Analysis of Empowerment’s Embeddedness in Communicative Contexts
Article (with peer review)Publikation
Weidenstedt, L.
Publiceringsår

2020

Sammanfattning

Empowerment as a management technique builds on the assumption that employees desire more power. Consequently, to a large extent, research on employee empowerment has focused on defining the type of power that should be contained in empowerment, identifying relevant mediating and moderating effects of and for empowerment as well as empowerment’s boundary conditions such as individual and social attributes. However, less research has dealt with communicative and relational aspects and how these may impact the outcome of employee empowerment. This paper uses an interactional perspective to conceptually analyse communicative meanings entailed in employee empowerment. Building on sociological theories of communicative interaction, it is argued that focusing on leaders’ and members’ ascriptions of meanings to each other’s communicative messages reveals paternalistic power structures that are of relevance for the failure and success of empowerment. A communicative analysis of common structural and psychological empowerment efforts suggests that members’ sensemaking of their roles and situations, as defined by formal (written) and informal (psychological) contracts, may not necessarily be in line with the communicative meanings intended by leaders’ actions, and vice versa.

Working paper No. 300: It Takes Two to Empower: The Communicative Context of Empowerment Change in the Workplace
Working paperPublikation
Weidenstedt, L.
Publiceringsår

2017

Publicerat i

Ratio Working Paper

Sammanfattning

Empowerment efforts at the workplace are typically divided into two analytical categories: social-structural and psychological empowerment. These have been extensively researched in terms of their application and handling as well as their outcome and general usefulness in human resource management. However, less research has dealt with communicative aspects of empowerment and the communicative interactions between change agents (managers) and recipients (employees) that frame empowerment efforts. To contribute to a more nuanced empowerment discourse, this paper uses a micro-/individual-oriented perspective on empowerment communication and theorizes why empowerment change efforts sometimes end up being counterproductive – leading to disempowerment rather than empowerment. As starting point for theorizing empowerment communication, a “basic communicative structure” is identified and analyzed as comprising a contractual and a communicative context, referring to conditions as outlined in written employment contracts on the one hand, and implicitly shared and understood definitions of the social employment situation on the other. Building on sociological and social-psychological theories of communicative interaction, it is argued that focusing on change agents’ and recipients’ mutual ascriptions of meanings to each other’s communicative messages might improve empowerment outcomes: A communicative analysis of common empowerment efforts suggests that recipients’ sensemaking of their roles and situations as defined by written employment and/or psychological contracts is not necessarily in line with the communicative meanings they ascribe to the change agents’ actions, and vice versa.

Working paper No. 300: It Takes Two to Empower: The Communicative Context of Empowerment Change in the Workplace
Working paperPublikation
Weidenstedt, L.
Publiceringsår

2017

Publicerat i

Ratio Working Paper

Sammanfattning

Empowerment efforts at the workplace are typically divided into two analytical categories: social-structural and psychological empowerment. These have been extensively researched in terms of their application and handling as well as their outcome and general usefulness in human resource management. However, less research has dealt with communicative aspects of empowerment and the communicative interactions between change agents (managers) and recipients (employees) that frame empowerment efforts. To contribute to a more nuanced empowerment discourse, this paper uses a micro-/individual-oriented perspective on empowerment communication and theorizes why empowerment change efforts sometimes end up being counterproductive – leading to disempowerment rather than empowerment. As starting point for theorizing empowerment communication, a “basic communicative structure” is identified and analyzed as comprising a contractual and a communicative context, referring to conditions as outlined in written employment contracts on the one hand, and implicitly shared and understood definitions of the social employment situation on the other. Building on sociological and social-psychological theories of communicative interaction, it is argued that focusing on change agents’ and recipients’ mutual ascriptions of meanings to each other’s communicative messages might improve empowerment outcomes: A communicative analysis of common empowerment efforts suggests that recipients’ sensemaking of their roles and situations as defined by written employment and/or psychological contracts is not necessarily in line with the communicative meanings they ascribe to the change agents’ actions, and vice versa.

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