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New research shows employees thrive on being empowered

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Employees who are empowered by their bosses by being given independence and the responsibility to self-manage are more likely to thrive at work, new research involving a Curtin University researcher has found.

The paper, published in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour, concluded that empowering leadership enhanced work performance, creativity and a willingness to take on extra roles outside of normal duties, at both the individual and team levels.

Co-author Dr Amy Tian, from the School of Management at Curtin Business School, said it was important to analyse the concept of empowering leadership given it was increasingly being used by organisations.

“Increasing competition in the business landscape, economical shifts, and technological developments have brought with them changes in organisational structures and the nature of work,” Dr Tian said.

“Alongside efforts to maximise efficiency, many employers are flattening their hierarchies and therefore expanding the responsibilities of lower-level employees and the complexity of their work roles.

“The concept of empowering leadership, a popular concept in business philosophy, is particularly relevant to such situations given its focus on promoting self-management and offering employees a greater sense of power in their workplace.

“This research confirms that employees thrive when they are working with leaders who are willing to share information with them, delegate authority to them, and promote their self‐directed and autonomous decision-making.”

Dr Tian said empowering leadership resulted in a positive influence on employees’ sense of trust in their leaders, psychological empowerment and leader-employee relationship quality, which therefore enhanced the employee’s work performance, creativity and organisational citizenship behaviour, or their willingness to engage in extra-role behaviour at work.

“These findings have important theoretical and practical implications for workplaces all over the world as they grapple with how to maximise their performance in the changing nature of their organisations,” Dr Tian said.

The research, which involved the analysis of data from 89 publications and 105 independent samples, was also carried out by Dr Allan Lee from the University of Exeter and Dr Sara Willis from The University of Manchester in the UK.

The full paper, ‘Empowering leadership: A meta-analytic examination of incremental contribution, mediation, and moderation’, can be viewed here.

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