AUTONOMY & Psychological research says this is the top contributor to happiness at work.

Taking Stock: A Review of More Than Twenty Years of Research on Empowerment at Work1

by Gretchen Spreitzer, University of Michigan Press, Barling: Organizational Behavior (Handbook) , 2008, Page: 54.


Today, more than 70 per cent of organizations have adopted some kind of empowerment initiative for at least part of their workforce (Lawler et al., 2001). To be successful in today’s global business environment, com- panies need the knowledge, ideas, energy, and creativity of every employee, from front line workers to the top level managers in the executive suite. The best organizations accomplish this by empowering their employ- ees to take initiative without prodding, to serve the collective interests of the company without being micro-managed, and to act like owners of the business (O’Toole and Lawler, 2006).

So what do we know about empowerment in work organizations? In this chapter, I will conduct an in-depth review of the literature on empowerment at work. I start by framing the two classic approaches to

Gretchen Spreitzer

empowerment – social-structural and psycho- logical – before outlining the current state of the literature. I then close the chapter by discussing key debates in the field and emergent directions for future research.


Over the last two decades, two complemen- tary perspectives on empowerment at work have emerged in the literature (Liden and Arad, 1996). The first is more macro and focuses on the social-structural (or contextual) conditions that enable empowerment in the workplace. The second is more micro in orientation and focuses on the psychological experience of empowerment at work.

1 This review of empowerment builds on two earlier reviews: (1) Empowerment at work, forthcom- ing in the Encyclopedia of Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Sage Publications and (2) Musings on the Past and Future of Empowerment, Forthcoming, Handbook of Organizational Development, Sage Publications.

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