Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: How Employee Empowerment Contributes to Individual and Organizational Performance? an Empirical Assessment of Employee Empowerment in a Law Enforcement Agency

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 1:45 PM
Pearson II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jongsoo Park, The Ohio State University
Recent studies on empowerment in public administration have shown many benefits of employee empowerment including higher job satisfaction, organizational commitment, innovative behavior, and perception of workgroup performance (Fernandez & Moldogaziev, 2011, 2013a, 2013b). However, whether empowerment contributes to employee and organization performances remains largely unexplored. The few studies that examined the connection between empowerment and employee and organization performance relied on self-reports of employee performance and employee perceptions of workgroup performance, which often are often unreliable and inaccurate (Meier & O'Toole, 2013). Moreover, these studies do not provide much insight about the processes through which empowerment from the top of the organization may trickle down to the bottom of the organization.

The present study fills gaps in the public employee empowerment literature by examining the connections between empowering managerial practices and employee and workgroup performance. The main research question of this study is as follows: does empowerment lead to higher employee and organization performance? To address this question, this study examines whether empowering managerial practices affect employee feeling of felt empowered and voice behavior. Second, this study examines the association of empowering managerial practices relative to performance outcomes at different levels. Specifically, the effects of employee empowerment are evaluated in relations to employee effectiveness, supervisor effectiveness, and workgroup performance. Finally, assuming the distinction in the leadership influence between top and middle hierarchical levels (Yang, Zhang, & Tsui, 2010), this study examines whether the downward influence of senior managers’ empowering managerial practices can be achieved partially through a direct effect (i.e., the bypass effect) and partially through the mediation (i.e., the cascading effect) of line managers’ empowering managerial practices.

The present study tests a cascading or “trickle down” model of employee empowerment across three levels: from senior managers to line managers/supervisors to frontline employees. The hypothesized relationships between empowering managerial practices of senior and line managers and attitudinal, behavioral and performance outcomes are examined with survey data collected through three separate surveys from managers-supervisors-subordinate triads in law enforcement agencies. Same-source common method bias is addressed by employing three sources of data: frontline employees, line supervisors, and team leaders. The present study provides a better understanding of influence of employee empowerment across organizational hierarchy by demonstrating the influences of empowering leadership occur not only directly, among immediate followers, but also indirectly, across hierarchical levels, through the cascading of senior leaders' influences on subordinate leader behavior. Implications for theory and practice in public management studies are delineated.