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Journal cover: Personnel Review

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Online from: 1971

Subject Area: Human Resource Management

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The poverty of empowerment? A critical case study

Document Information:
Title:The poverty of empowerment? A critical case study
Author(s):Ian Cunningham, (Middlesex University Business School, London, UK, and), Jeff Hyman, (Napier Business School, Napier University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK)
Citation:Ian Cunningham, Jeff Hyman, (1999) "The poverty of empowerment? A critical case study", Personnel Review, Vol. 28 Iss: 3, pp.192 - 207
Keywords:Commitment, Empowerment, Line management
Article type:Case study
DOI:10.1108/00483489910264589 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:MCB UP Ltd
Abstract:The paper presents findings from a case study organisation which has ostensibly adopted an empowerment programme. The findings indicate a rather different trajectory for empowerment than anticipated by most prescriptive accounts. Both employees and their empowered managers expressed high levels of discontent with the programme and its effects. Little sign of increased commitment was evident after the introduction of the initiative and management controls seemed to have tightened rather than loosened. The apparent failure of the empowerment initiative to raise morale and commitment is attributed to lack of resources allocated to the project, lack of management preparation; an unsympathetic cultural context; supremacy of operational issues, and weakened presence and authority. The paper concludes that empowerment projects are unlikely to engage the commitment of employees without addressing the major shortcomings identified above. Nevertheless, resultant work intensification might lead to increased physical productivity.

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