Essay: Empowerment

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[. . .] Cases


There are many possible models for empowerment, but many times in the literature the different articles are discussing either the empowerment of women, minorities, or patients of some type. The following case is one in which women minorities were instructed to discuss the way they were personally, corporately and managerially empowered to perform, their union jobs better. This is a good model case because it has many of the dimensions of empowerment within it. The method the researcher (Kaminski, 2003) used was to discuss with the women how they developed leadership skills through the use of stories. The researcher would begin telling them about a prominent woman, such as Madeline Albright, who had succeeded and gained a position of great leadership. The subjects would then finish the story talking about their own experiences. These women understood the concepts of empowerment because they had lived them. Even if they at first did not demonstrate all of the attributes of someone who was empowered, by their experience they had become the embodiment of the experience.


The second type of cases discussed in the literature are those which display most of the attributes of leadership, but not all of them. Sadan (2004) talks about a case in which a group of minority workers were given new responsibilities by their manager, but they were closely monitored to make sure that they did the job properly. This was seen as a starting point for the workers in which they would eventually be given full control over the jobs and be completely empowered, but they needed to be trusted first (Sadan, 2004).

Related Case

This type of case is one in which some of the attributes of a concept are present, but not most (Walker & Avant, 2005). Throughout the literature such cases existed. Since empowerment is the giving of official or legal power (Merriam-Webster, 2011), many times firms would give either temporary authority or they would give a person some authority, but not take it all of the way to full authority. This could be seen many times in the legal aspect. The manager would retain the last say in a decision that had been made because he or she still had the threat of legal retribution if the decision was wrong. Actually, the manager would delegate some authority, but not all of it, to protect the worker from consequences that their inexperience might generate.


One author in particular (Haun, 2010) talked about contrary examples. Walker and Avant (2005) defined a contrary case as one that did not "at all" resemble the concept. He talked about "a manager who wanted to be more collaborative about a decision that had already been made. Or an executive who wanted to bring in employees to help make decisions about health care plans we had already chosen" (Haun, 2010). These types of cases are those in which a manager plays at empowering the employees, but in actuality, doe no such thing. The people involved in this type of activity, if they find out about it, will actually exhibit more discontent than they would have beforehand.

Other authors also explained cases that were contrary to the concept of empowerment. Dickson and Lorenz (2009) discussed how a manager can empower temporary or part-time employees. One of the ways that they could actually do this was through the use of praise and notice. The employees would be given praise for the work they had done and encouraged to work at a higher level. However, some of the managers would use this type of style, but then talk down the employee to permanent employees and other management. This led to the opposite effect when it got back to the employees. Job satisfaction plummeted in these cases because the employee realized that their input was not valued.


This is the type of case that is outside the readers experience (Walker & Avant, 2005). This occurred in one of the articles regarding women who worked for a union and were asked to tell their stories. It is difficult to identify with this case, and some of the women had difficulty with the concept of empowerment also. They may have experienced it before, but they were not familiar with what it was. Union employees are generally not given much empowerment because they are required to strictly adhere to a set of rules. Some of the stories that they were asked to respond to were made up also, but the women were asked to furnish the ending for them which proved difficult at times. However, the author of the study what effect instance of empowerment had on the women even if they did not realize what it was (Kaminski, 2003).

Illegitimate Case

According to Walker & Avant (2005) an illegitimate case is one in which the word is used improperly or taken out of context. Since the concept of empowerment is so well-known and researched today it was difficult to find a case in which it was used incorrectly. However, there are some misusages of the word. People take the term power to mean that it can be used simply to as power. The term is meant to convey the giving of power either to oneself or someone else no matter what the context. Also, this is meant in more of a figurative way. The power given is not physical power, but authority. However, there were some cases in which the word was used to mean physical power. Such as when a weight lifter is empowered by the use of weights. What was they meant by this was the actual muscle growth that was realized by the lifting of heavy weights. But, this is not what the term was coined to mean.

Antecedents to Empowerment

Many things must occur prior to an empowering event to occur. The table must be set so that the company, manager, individual is ready to act. In the case of a company, they must see that there is a region of their company that allows them to use a certain group of employees in a way that will build them up and allow them to either grow or fail. A manager may see an employee who is showing some leadership potential, but needs a slight push to be ready to accept that responsibility. The individual has to see a need to make a change. The individual then may go through a process of trial and error, questioning how they can make the change, and then determining an action plan. The antecedents for an empowering action are generally that there is a change that needs to be made, and someone is already been noticed who is best fitted to make that change. In the case of the manager empowering an employee, they may already be too busy, and they take advantage of the opportunity to give a worthy employee a chance to excel. An individual may have a teacher, coworker, boss who helps empowers them to change or they take initiative for something that they want to get better at. Then empowerment happens.


The consequences to an individual action can either be good or bad depending on the outcome. In the case of empowerment though, the consequences are generally good. An employee can see that they are valued for the first time (Kaminski, 2004) and take that initiative and be further empowered to make more positive changes in their lives. A mental health patient may be given some independence or latitude for the first time in their lives and take that as a means to further improve their lives and gain more independence.

Good consequences usually lead to more powerful changes down the road also. James Watson found that animals and people developed traits and behaviors no matter whether there was a reward or a negative consequence. Operant conditioning just seeks to add a consequence that will make a behavior occur more frequently. If a rat is shocked every time it reaches for a food dish, it will stop reaching for the food and, over time, starve. However, if every time a rat progresses through a maze they are given food, they will more quickly figure out the maze in the future.

People are much the same on an instinctual level. If something negative happens because of something new that they did, they are less likely to do that again. The opposite is true for an action that results in a positive consequence.

Empowerment involves giving a person more authority either in their own lives or at their occupation. This means that they are able to act with more autonomy than previously. This is a positive consequence in and of itself, but there are others such as higher pay, more respect from peers and other that make empowerment a worthwhile exercise.

Empirical Referents

"Empirical referents are classes or categories of actual phenomena that by their existence or presence demonstrate the occurrence of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Essay:

APA Format

Empowerment.  (2011, March 14).  Retrieved June 19, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Empowerment."  14 March 2011.  Web.  19 June 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Empowerment."  March 14, 2011.  Accessed June 19, 2019.