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Follett and Empowerment: Her Legacy and Our Future

Dafna Eylon, Ph.D. The F. Carlyle Tiller Chair of Business and Associate Professor of Psychology

Harvard University March 10th, 2006


Integrate Folletts insights with current understanding of empowerment. Increase our recognition of empowerment contributions and constraints Overcoming the empowerment paradox

What is Empowerment?

Popular Face validity Multiple definitions Viewed as both a state and a process

Exercise: What is empowerment?

Identify an experience in which you felt either empowered or disempowered. Identify a situation in which you helped others become empowered or disempowered.

Empowerment Worksheet
Empowered Disempowered

You were:

You helped others become:

What elements contributed to creating each situation? How did you act and feel in each situation? Be sure to say what really happened not what you would have liked or think should have happened.

Behavioral Outcomes

Empowered individuals frequently report:

Taking risks, experimenting, trusting, and including others Looking inwards for improvement Looking forward to going to work Speaking well of the org to outsiders Acknowledging the work of others

Behavioral Outcomes (2)

Disempowered individuals frequently report:

Not sharing ideas with others Wasting time double guessing Hesitant to request help Rationalizing failures and blaming others

Affect Outcomes

Empowered individuals frequently identify feeling:

Recognized, respected, energized, consulted and thanked Secure, capable, creative, and trusted Supported by others Having discretion over work and time Having good will assumed

Affect Outcomes (2)

Disempowered individuals frequently identify feeling:

Used, ignored, lacking approval or appreciation Others will be recognized and they wont Easier to do things oneself in the short run than to empower others.

Mary Parker Follett

Popular lecturer in the 1920s Implicit theories consistent with todays understanding on empowerment. Believed all individuals wish to selfgovern The role of biz is to develop individuals

Fears related to Empowerment

Fear of empowering others:

Losing control over others Others will be recognized and appreciated while they wont Not being viewed as powerful may lead to job loss

Fears related to Empowerment (2)

Fear of empowering themselves:

Others will expect too much Need to work harder Resented by others No rewards for acting empowered Punishment may accrue from changing the system.

Enhancing and energizing contextspecific process that expands feelings of trust and control in oneself as well as in ones organization, leading to outcomes such as performance and satisfaction.

Follett and Empowerment

Focus on function All members are equal and must share a common goal (collective action) Information is freely exchanged Power and synergy are infinite On-going process

The Empowerment Process

Satisfaction Information Responsibility Active Belief Self-Efficacy Locus of Control Self-Esteem Unique Perf Outcomes

Awareness Intervention

Empowerment Paradox

Conditions that allow one individual to empower others undermine the essence of empowerment i.e., one party is superior to another allowing:

Judgment Providing or limiting resources Withholding information

Resulting in lack of true redistribution

Folletts Recommendations

Continuous interactive influence at all levels Constantly seek and adapt to the law of the situation and functional unity Remove impediments Power with and not over Expect and create the dynamic and dialectic Norms of respectful reciprocity

The four Ms of Empowerment

The Micro Level Individual

The Meso Level Relational The Macro Level Organizational

The Misnomers Bogus Empowerment

Can all organizational members answer:

Why we do things the way we do? What do we reward in this organization? How do I access the resources I need? What are the mission, values, and goals? What do we need to achieve our mission, goals, and values?

Go to the people. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build on what they have. But of the best leaders, when their task is accomplished, their work is done, the people will remark: We have done it ourselves. Chinese poem.

Certain understandings between leaders and followers are fragile: the understanding, for example, that real participation is a process of becoming and never arriving.

Max DePree