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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : The Journal of Socio-Economics, Volume 29, Issue 5, 2000, Pages 471–485
Empowerment, participation, self-managing work teams, employee ownership and profit sharing are but a few of the many current forms of employee involvement in workplace decision making. Few theorists or practicing managers question the concept of employee involvement or its potential benefits. However, most employers realize that the degree of involvement varies with the organizational situation, the persons involved and the nature of work. Empowerment creates a dilemma. Empowering employees results in creating beliefs about entitlements that must be unfulfilled eventually. Unfulfilled beliefs about entitlements may constitute a breach of the psychological contract between employer and employee. A breach of the psychological contract may result in employee behavior that is counterproductive in terms of organizational goals.
In recent years there has been a vast amount of discussion of new management styles that promote individual or work group involvement (Lawler 1992, Lazear 1988, Klein 1991, Greenberg and Baron 1997, Blau 1989, Cohen and Ledford 1994, Goodman et al 1988 and Ketchum and Trist 1992; Mantz et al., 1990; Wellins and Byham, 1991; Suman, 1976). Managers are encouraged to allow a high degree of workforce participation, group involvement and autonomy, and to develop self-managing work teams. These management styles are intended to empower employees and thereby to increase workforce commitment and to humanize the workplace. Increased commitment and a more humane workplace environment in turn, are intended to result in improvements in work performance and good citizenship behavior as well as the quality of work life Brief and Motowidlo 1986, Podsakoff and Ahearne 1997 and Cohen et al 1997. Involvement approaches are not new. Their foundation concepts have been discussed and promoted for several decades (Tubbs, 1994). These approaches gained new prominence in the 1980s because American businesses faced new competitive challenges that demanded higher levels of performance. In response to the demand for improved performance some American businesses changed their organization and management systems to be more participative by involving employees in problem solving, decision-making and the financial success of the business. Initially employee involvement was manifest in such programs as quality circles, gain sharing plans and self-managing work teams. More recently the concept has been expanded to include pushing power, information, knowledge and rewards to lower levels of the organization (Lawler et al., 1989). The extensive benefits claimed for involvement-oriented approaches are neither easily obtained nor certain (Lawler, 1992). Practices such as empowerment, participation, autonomy and involvement are promoted in varying degrees in the workplace. Determining how much employee involvement is appropriate in a given situation is a matter of judgment. Many variables influence the decision, its implementation and its impact on employee behavior. Among the important variables that influence the degree of employee involvement in organizational decision processes is employee beliefs about what they are entitled to receive. Such employee beliefs constitute a psychological contract with the employer and breach of that contract can be detrimental to the types of employee behavior that involvement approaches are designed to elicit Morrison and Robinson 1997 and Robinson 1996. Indeed, the process has a snowballing nature in that involvement raises aspirations and expectations of even greater involvement. March and Simon 1958, Porter and Steers 1973 and Wanous et al 1991. When the process slows down or ends and employees realize that their expectations will not be met they are disappointed (Wanous, 1992). Their disappointment may lead to frustration (Fogler, 1979; Greenberg and Fogler, 1983) organizational commitment. (Greenberg, 1990). This manuscript reviews literature on employee beliefs about entitlements and aspirations as significant consequences of the development and installation of high involvement systems in organizations. The objective of this review is not to attack involvement as an approach to management in organizations but to encourage further study of its degree in specific situations. One specific dilemma of application is the possibility that empowerment may create beliefs of entitlements that cannot be met thereby resulting in a breach of the psychological contract. 1.1. Empowerment (involvement) Empowerment is the process of passing authority and responsibility to individuals at lower levels in the organizational hierarchy (Wellins et al., 1991). To achieve empowerment managers must be sure that employees at the lowest hierarchical levels have the “right mix” of information (about processes, quality, customer feedback and events), knowledge (of the work, the business and the total work system), power (to act and make decisions about all aspects of work) and rewards (tied to business results and growth in capability and contribution) to work autonomously or independently of management control and direction Lawler 1992, Lawler 1994 and Lawler et al 1989. The advantages of an empowerment or involvement are said to include higher quality products and services, less absenteeism, lower turnover, better decision making, and better problem solving which, in turn, result in greater organizational effectiveness (Dennison, 1984). There appears to be no one best approach to involvement that fits every situation. The approach needs to be based on a number of personal and situational factors. A review of the literature on involvement reveals at least three approaches that stem from different histories, have different advocates, claim different advantages and suffer different limitations Dennison 1984 and Lawler 1988. The three approaches to involvement are (1) parallel suggestion involvement, (2) job involvement, and (3) high involvement. The approaches differ in the degree to which they move information, knowledge, power and rewards to employees at the lowest levels. 1.1.1. Parallel suggestion involvement In parallel suggestion involvement, employees are asked to solve problems and produce ideas that will influence the way the organization operates. Examples include suggestion systems, gain sharing plans and quality circles. Such plans provide participants with recommendation power, but they do not offer the power to implement. Since they take employees out of their normal work groups and put them in separate work structures they do little to alter traditional organizational structures. Parallel suggestion involvement tends to be temporary, expensive and difficult to maintain, opposed by managers, and a source of conflict between employees. 1.1.2. Job involvement approaches These approaches focus on job enrichment as a method of motivating better employee performance (Hackman and Oldham, 1980). Key elements in job enrichment include skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback. The presumption is that the proper arrangement of these key elements can result in job designs that are intrinsically rewarding. The approach is difficult to apply in “workplace” situations because it relies on psychological states that may or may not exist in individuals Campion and Stevens 1981 and Kelly 1992. A second strategy for job involvement establishes work groups or teams (autonomous groups, self-managing groups, semiautonomous work groups or work teams). These approaches do have significant implications for how an organization is structured and managed (Lawler, 1989). Individuals at the lowest organizational levels get new information, power, skills, and they may be rewarded differently. The decision to use either teams or individual job enrichment should be based on workplace technology. Studies of job evolvement approaches show improvements in productivity, quality, absenteeism and turnover among individuals working on enriched jobs and in teams (Hackman and Oldham, 1980). The limitations of job involvement approaches are basically opportunity costs of lost contributions. By limiting employee involvement to immediate work decisions they often fail to elicit the contributions that employees can make to strategic decisions and higher-level management work. Consequently, employees in teams may optimize their own performance and neglect overall organizational performance (Lawler, 1989). Work involvement approaches also entail high start-up costs because they normally involve considerable training. Finally evolvement approaches may be abandoned if they do not influence high-level strategic decisions concerning organizational structure, power, and reward allocation (Lawler, 1989). 1.1.3. High involvement approaches These approaches, which are also called commitment approaches, or business involvement approaches, are based on knowledge gained from experience with the suggestion involvement and job involvement approaches. They differ from these earlier approaches in the kind of information that is shared and in the decision - power and reward systems that are utilized. High involvement approaches are much more complex than the earlier approaches and are still in the process of development. Although there is little research data, preliminary findings indicate that high involvement approaches show significant improvements in operating results (Walton, 1985). The approach is however, costly since it requires large expenditures in selection, training and system development. Finally the approach requires appropriate personnel, situations, and businesses. 1.2. Empowerment—how much and when A review of theory and research on empowerment suggests boundary conditions for its successful use. Among key characteristics of the external environment are: (1) labor markets that allow moderate mobility, (2) economic conditions that allow the firm to adopt a long-term view of productivity, and (3) a culture that supports team or cooperative activities Polley and Van Dyne 1994 and Ketchum and Trist 1992. In addition to external environmental characteristics there are personal characteristics of the actors and organizational, situational and group characteristics that impact empowerment efforts Cohen 1994, Lawler et al 1989 and Lawler 1992. Further complications are introduced by the belief that many of these multifaceted, complex relations are curvilinear (inverted U-shaped) in nature (Polley and Van Dyne, 1994; Lazar, 1998). Thus, too much or too little empowerment, in a given situation, may be dysfunctional for optimal functioning. A large body of literature addresses the development of internal environments and individual group characteristics that are conducive to successful empowerment in organizations (Lawler, 1986, 1989, 1992; Ketchum and Trist, 1992; Beyerlein and Johnson, 1994; Jamieson and O’Mara 1991, Wellins et al 1991, Lazear 1988, Lawler et al 1989 and Klein 1991). However, the question of how much empowerment remains a paradox to be addressed by managerial judgment (Carnall, 1982). The paradox stems from attempts to grant employees as much control over their work and work environment as they need while at the same time recognizing that empowering employees creates economic problems and entitlement beliefs of more empowerment that will be unfulfilled eventually. The process of empowerment creates a psychological contract that is difficult to maintain given human nature. A review of the literature on empowerment shows both support for empowerment and the paradoxes of its use. First some supporting theories. 1.3. The behavioral view of empowerment 1.3.1. Personal development Modern Psychological and Sociological theories support the idea of work as a means of personal development (O’Brien, 1986). This concept is especially important in self-actualization theories. These theories are characterized by a belief that a dominant motive for human behavior is the drive to express individual skills and capacities to the fullest extent. If work tasks allow people to use their skills, make responsible decisions, and learn new skills their intellectual capacity and life satisfaction will grow, and they will develop a healthy self-esteem and a sense of personal control. Thus, the basic assumption of self-actualization theorists is that people become what they do (O’Brien, 1986). A number of current theories are based on self-actualization theories. 1.3.2. Motivation theories Maslow’s need hierarchy theory proposed that people arrange their needs into a hierarchy of prepotency (Maslow, 1970). As needs lower in the hierarchy were essentially satisfied higher level needs become dominant. At the top of the hierarch were self-actualization needs - the desire to become all that one is capable of being, developing to one’s fullest potential. Although not all of the premises have stood empirical test some have (Waba and Bridwell, 1976). The basic concept is consistent with empowerment. Alderfer (1972) postulated that human needs could be grouped into three categories; existence needs, relatedness needs and growth needs (ERG Theory). Of these the relatedness needs (need for meaningful social relationships) and growth needs (the need for developing one’s potential) are most relevant for empowerment. The objectives of both empowerment and ERG theory are to improve work performance and humanize the workplace by creating an environment conducive to involvement and personal development. 1.3.3. Equity theory Adams (1963) holds that individuals compare their input/output ratio with others. If the ratios are not equal the individual is motivated to restore equity in some way. Human cogitative tendencies, such as self-evaluation biases indicate that individuals overestimate their contributions and underestimate other’s contributions (Greenwald, 1980). Thus, equity theory suggests an unstable situation in which the organization may not be able to satisfy its employees. Other motivation theories also are based on the concept of personal growth and development through self-actualization, commitment and achievement—the very attributes that empowerment is designed to develop and depends upon for success. 1.3.4. Leadership theories Several leadership theories are based on empowerment of subordinates. Leaders who adopt permissive styles (permit subordinates to take part in decision making and encourage autonomy in carrying out work activities) empower their followers (Muczyk and Reimann, 1987). The degree of permissiveness allowed, of course, varies with the situation, task and individuals involved. Leaders who show consideration Likert 1961 and Stogdill 1963, have high concern for people (Blake and Mouton, 1969), have charisma, provide intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration and inspirational motivation (transformational leadership) (Conger, 1991), assist subordinates in achieving goals that are important to themselves (Path-Goal theory) (House and Baetz, 1979), apply normative decision theory (focus on strategies for choosing the most effective approach to decision making) (Vroom and Yetton, 1973) or who accept the view that high levels of skill among subordinates or certain features of technology and organizational structure sometimes serve as substitutes for leadership(Kerr and Jermier, 1978) are empowering their followers. Other theories of motivation, leadership and group and organizational behavior such as overcoming resistance to change (Kotter and Schlesinger, 1979) use empowerment approaches to influence behavior. As with empowerment there are questions of how much employee involvement in given situations. Economic theory demonstrates that there can be too much empowerment from a firm’s profit perspective, a brief discussion follows. 1.4. The economics of empowerment 1.4.1. Empowerment and earnings Workers with firm-specific human capital are more likely to want power (Rotemberg, 1994). Before workers are willing to invest time and effort in skills development and learning that are firm specific they are likely to want assurances that their investment will be protected against arbitrary actions by management. A worker has much to lose if he/she must move to another job that requires different skills. Thus, upward sloping incentive contracts, wage rates that are above market rates, and firm-specific human capital are ingredients that induce workers to want power (Lazear, 1998). These ingredients create problems. Workers want power, but employers have less to gain economically by giving them power. To the extent that workers are paid above market rates and their work alternatives are less desirable than their current jobs, their ability to back up demands with credible action is reduced. Employers realize that workers suffer economically by changing jobs under such circumstances and may be less likely to fear aggressive behavior or to grant power. 1.4.2. Empowerment and creativity It is generally held that empowered employees contribute to the firm by providing ideas that would not otherwise be developed. This occurs because workers are in closer contact with actual production (Wellins et al., 1991). But empowerment requires that the ideas submitted be acted upon and incorporated into production processes. Employee ideas are most useful when workers possess information that is both relevant to production processes and different from those held by managers. Thus, the information passed down the hierarchy must be more than a mere subset of the information possessed by managers. 1.4.3. The decision to empower From an economic perspective the firm should not provide workers with enough power to maximize productivity because productivity is not profit (Lazear, 1998). By giving workers more power the firm also gives them the ability to demand a larger share of the firm’s profits. Thus, maximizing productivity is not the relevant criterion for the firm from an economic perspective. The appropriate economic criterion from the firm’s point of view is to maximize the amount rather than the proportion, of profit that goes to the firm. The logic is that 80% of an eight inch pie is preferable to 50% of a ten inch pie. The profit-maximizing amount of worker empowerment can be computed mathematically (Lazear, 1998). Profit increasing transfers of power from employers to workers are least likely to occur when workers join together and are able to act against employer interests, when workers have long-term relationships with the firm, and when workers have access to outsiders who can assist them in profit extraction (i.e., legislators, etc.). Transfers of power are most likely when workers have a great deal of information not possessed by employers, that is relevant to the production process and when worker preferences are person specific and unknown to employers (Lazear, 1998). 1.4.4. Level of empowerment Several theories address the issue of how much empowerment from both organizational behavior and economic perspective Brickley et al 1997, Romig 1996 and Locke and Latham 1984 Using cost-benefits analysis from economic theory, and field study results these theories argue for controlled empowerment. A key ingredient is structured teamwork (careful experimental design, goal setting, goal measurement, and emphasis on work process improvement, training in teamwork approaches, structured meetings and creative sessions, planning, conflict management and specific mission). The emphasis on structure, goals, and measurement suggest some limitations on group empowerment and the focus on cost-benefits analysis suggests that empowered teams may be situation and problem specific. Brickley et al. (1997) argue that to be productive teams must: 1) have potential synergies, 2) be able to acquire relevant knowledge for decision making at low cost, and 3) find ways to deal with free rider problems at low cost. Thus, empowerment appears to contribute most when it is implemented in specific situations and is structured carefully, and controlled. 1.5. Expectation/aspiration theories Some theories of behavior in organizations suggest that empowerment cannot only be pushed too far but that it creates entitlement beliefs that cannot be met thus, sowing the seeds of its own destruction unless it is managed carefully. Examples of such theories follow. 1.5.1. Psychological contracts Psychological contracts are defined as beliefs about the reciprocal obligations and rewards that make up the employment exchange. As such, they are sets of beliefs about what both employee and employer are entitled to receive and obligated to give in exchange for the other party’s contribution (Levinson et al., 1962). These beliefs about entitlements are idiosyncratic and therefore subject to a number of cognitive tendencies that distort perceptions in self-serving ways (Rousseau, 1995). Thus, over time the psychological contract changes. The self-serving bias, common in human nature, results in an overestimation of one’s own contributions and an underestimation of others’ contributions (Robinson et al., 1994). This cognitive process sets the stage for a perception of unfulfillment. When either employee or employer perceives that the other has failed to fulfill one or more of the entitlement beliefs of the psychological contract, there is a breach of contract. If the breach is significant, it constitutes a violation (Morrison and Robinson, 1997). Thus, violation is cognitive in nature, based on calculation of the equity between what is received and what is believed to have been promised. Violation involves a strong emotional experience or “feelings of betrayal and deeper psychological distress,” resulting in anger, resentment, a sense of injustice and harm (Rousseau, 1989). Introducing an empowerment program into an organization creates employee beliefs about opportunities for participation. Over time, with success of the effort, employees gain confidence in their ability to contribute and their aspirations grow (March and Simon, 1958). Along with beliefs of even greater empowerment are beliefs of entitlement to increased rewards. To maintain the psychological contract the degree of empowerment much continue to grow. Eventually, as economic theory warns (Lazear, 1998), empowerment may reduce employer profit or as empowerment theory suggests (Lawler, 1992), the appropriate fit may have limitations. 1.5.2. Met expectations theory This theory postulates that newcomers to an organization will be disappointed when they realize that many of their expectations will not be met (Wanous, 1992). The theory is offered as one of the explanations for high turnover among new employees. The theory of met expectations has two aspects: (1) Unmet job expectations cause low job satisfaction, and (2) low job satisfaction causes newcomers to quit. Through unrealistic job previews based on company literature or job interviews employees may have unrealistically high expectations concerning the job and the organization. Expectations concerning the degree of empowerment may be among the causes of job dissatisfaction. New employees may expect more evolvement than they are permitted. Over time; both workers and managers gain insights into job demands and worker capabilities so that expectations may diverge, change meaning or acquire new terms. This internally induced shift is called drift (Rousseau, 1995). The major causes of drift are general cognitive tendencies and the maturation effects that characterize life cycles. Among cognitive tendencies are: (1) the bias of information (contract fulfillment is normally interpreted in terms of what the individual has contributed while downplaying what the other has contributed); (2) judgments of intentionality [we judge ourselves by our intentions (good) and others by their behavior (less positive than our own)]; and (3) unrealistic optimism or self-confidence (unrealistically high evaluations of our own abilities and contributions). The implication of these cognitive tendencies is that an employee tends to believe that he/she has fulfilled his/her side of the bargain to a greater degree than the employer. Thus, over time internal forces are set in motion that erode trust and belief in the employment relationship. 1.5.3. Aspiration levels March and Simon (1958) developed a general model of adaptive motivated behavior which argues that employees make two types of decisions in organization: (1) the decision to participate in the organization or to leave the organization and (2) the decision to produce or refuse to produce at the rate demanded by the firm’s managers. Their general model contains five propositions. (1) The lower the satisfaction of an individual the more he/she will search for alternatives. (2) The more he/she searches the higher the expected value of rewards. (3) The higher the expected value of rewards the higher the satisfaction. (4) The higher the expected value of rewards the higher the level of aspiration. (5) The higher the level of aspiration the lower the satisfaction. This theory suggests that success creates higher aspiration levels. Applied to empowerment the theory it suggests that some empowerment would create a desire for more empowerment. Eventually the employee would be dissatisfied because he/she would aspire to be more involvement those the firm would permit. Dissatisfaction concerning aspects of employment that are important to employees may result in dysfunctional organizational behavior.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Employee involvement approaches (empowerment) are becoming a widely used approach to improving productivity and the quality of work life. Although the concept is not new its form and application have changed over time. Involvement approaches take many forms and degrees but most focus on pushing authority and responsibility to persons at the lowest levels in the organizational hierarchy. The significant management problem is to decide how much authority and responsibility should be granted in a given situation. Thus, empowerment is situation specific and relies on management judgment to determine the appropriate fit. The nature of the empowerment process and human nature, especially the self-evaluation bias create a situation in which fulfillment of employee entitlement beliefs is likely to be dissatisfied eventually. The organization cannot meet the ever increasing entitlement beliefs created by the empowerment process. Failure to meet employee entitlement beliefs may constitute a breach of the psychological contract between employees and their employer. If the breach is significant it may result in dysfunctional employee behavior. The success of the approach sets in motion forces that can destroy it if not managed carefully. Devaney 1997, Feigenbaum 1996, Fogler 1977, Gottlieb 1996, Kotter, Locke and Latham 1984, Milkovich and Boudreau 1997, Stogdill 1963, Lawler et al 1995, Manz et al 1990, Muczyak and Reimann 1987 and Susman 1976 There are Sociological and psychological theories that support empowerment approaches. Various theories of motivation and leadership are based on human development. There are also theories that suggest that empowerment creates dissatisfaction eventually. Economic theory suggests finding the appropriate amount of empowerment. Other theories (Breakthrough teamwork theories) suggest limits on the amount of autonomy through the use of structured teamwork, goal and measurement. Theorists and practitioners offer a number of ways of managing the dilemma. Most of them focus on managing the contract formation process, adjusting and maintaining employee expectations, responding to dissatisfaction, and incorporating them in the ownership of the firm. Most also involve educating employees and managers to operate under a new philosophy of management. There are many specific techniques but most are not new and are simply good human resource management practice.