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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Empowerment : a multi-level process Eylon, Dafna


The term "empowerment" is frequently used by organizational researchers, management practitioners, and consultants. However, despite the popularity of the term, there is a lack of empirical work and no generally accepted definition. As part of a thorough multi-disciplinary literature review, fourteen different conceptualizations for the term empowerment were discovered and classified into four categories: Micro (intra-psychic), Meso (relational-interactive), Macro (structural), and Misnomer (bogus). As a result of this work, both a new definition and a multi-level process model of empowerment are offered. Empowerment is defined here as an enhancing and energizing context specific process that expands an individual's power and feelings of trust, is usually facilitated by another, and results in increased levels of self-esteem, self-efficacy and other characteristics related to personal growth and control, which eventually lead to outcomes such as performance and satisfaction. The proposed multi-level process model postulates that the process of empowerment is driven by changes in information, responsibility, and active belief, and mediated by intra-psychic factors. This model was empirically tested in a between-subject, pre-test, post-test simulation design. Over a period of three weeks 135 graduate students completed a novel application of in-basket exercises, within which an empowerment manipulation was embedded. This manipulation included increasing information, responsibility, and active belief for the empowered manipulation and decreasing these three components for the disempowered manipulation. Multivariate analysis of variance revealed that, as predicted, the manipulation had a significant impact on the three mediating intra-psychic factors (self-efficacy, self-esteem, and locus of control) and an analysis of variance found significant results in the predicted direction on the dependent variable of job satisfaction. Regression analyses revealed the predicted mediation relationship between the intra-psychic variables and the dependent variable of job satisfaction. However, none of the analyses yielded significant results for the performance measures (initiative, sensitivity, planning and organizing, delegation, administrative control, problem analysis, judgement, and decisiveness). Several potential explanations are offered for these results, including a motivational interpretation which focuses on participant's motivation directionality. Theoretical and practical implications for these results are discussed as well as directions for future research.

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