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Empowerment is for Superheroes

March 04 2015

Business is rife with silly buzzwords, phrases, and equivocations. You know the kind: “synergy”, “50,000 foot view”, or “paradigm-shift”. There is another term that has begun bothering me a bit more recently. That term is “empowered”.

When management uses the word “empowered”, it implies that they (management) have endowed their employees with some gift of ability. That, prior to this “empowerment”, the employees were incapable of doing this thing. I say nonsense! Management does not bestow their employees with ability, nor do they empower their employees to use their talents. Empowerment is for superheroes.

What management can do is prevent the talents of their employees from coming out. Restricting the use of the talents of employees makes it clear that compliance trumps independent thought. These top-down decisions imply that management cares little about employee input, and prefers to make unquestioned decisions in isolation. This type of office environment saps the creativity, curiosity, and discipline of its workers.

When you hear the term “empowerment” being used in an office, it just means that someone was being restricted from doing something they are good at, but now that restriction has been lifted. A more apt term for this is “emancipation”. And emancipation is progress.

The next time you hear “empower” tossed around in conversation at your office, ask yourself what’s really happening. If you’re part of a business’s leadership, do your best to not use this term. Hell, do one better, and emancipate your employees so they can efficiently do the work you’ve hired them to do.