What is it about?

We examine when empowering leadership is relatively more or less effective in promoting employee motivation and desirable performance outcomes, such as in-role performance, creativity, and upward voice. We find that when employees perceive their jobs to have low levels of social structural empowerment (i.e., access to necessary information, resources, and support), they will not feel empowered or motivated as a result of empowering leadership. Stated differently, empowering leadership behaviors are ineffective in promoting empowerment and motivation when not effectively supported by the organizational context. Such situations could also be described as fake empowerment, because employees cannot really act on the empowering leadership received given their constraining workplace conditions.

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Why is it important?

Our findings are important because many organizational employee empowerment initiatives fail or do not live up to their intended benefits. This is problematic because it ultimately implies a loss of money. We unveil a potential reason for this problem by pointing to the social structural features that organizations also must alter when advocating employee empowerment. Only a combination of both managers’ empowering leadership and increased social structural empowerment will up the chances that empowerment initiatives are successful, and organizations can reap their full benefits.

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This page is a summary of: The forgotten side of empowering others: How lower social structural empowerment attenuates the effects of empowering leadership on employee psychological empowerment and performance., Journal of Applied Psychology, June 2023, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/apl0001100.
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