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A healthy workplace culture: The most misunderstood technique is empowerment

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The most difficult technique of a healthy workplace culture is summed up ironically into the word “empowerment”.

It is a concept that was made popular in the 1980s as managers sought to find ways to produce better results with a need to approve every decision. It quickly caught on and did quite well at some companies while being a total failure at others. The difference between success and failure came down one delineator, the workplace culture.

Empowerment dates back to 1806 just after the Prussian Army suffered heavy defeat at the hands of Napoleon. A mastermind of anticipating enemy reaction, Napoleon was able to defeat enemies that were unable to make long term tactical decisions. The Prussian generals came up with the idea of empowerment to relieve the commanders of having to make decisions at every level for each situation.

They decided their troops would be much more effective if they were to make key decisions on the battlefield.

It was not the case that military leaders simply said, “Make your own decisions.”

Instead they set out clear goals for the troops so they knew the importance of the decisions they would be making to the overall mission of the military operations.

The companies that were unsuccessful with empowerment failed to grasp this important aspect of providing goals to the empowered employees. Instead these dedicated team members were left to make decisions without knowing the impact on other employees, departments or the overall corporate mission.

To be successful requires open and honest communication within and throughout the entire organization. It is only when each team understands their responsibility to a shared vision and each team member understands their impact and importance to the team’s fulfilment of the goal that empowerment can be successful.

© Max Impact, used with permission.

Complimentary resources about cultures

  • What makes up the contents one’s character? More than 20 different categories of culture are available on Cultural bridges website.
  • Marketing mistakes are often humorous. Cultural faux pas is a webpage with a group of marketing mistakes made by others.
  • Increase your cultural awareness with a series of culture quizzes test your cultural IQ with fun and informative quizzes.

Recommended books about workplace cultures



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