The Limitations of Empowerment

In recent times there has been constant talk within Human Resources (HR) circles about the importance of Employee Engagement.  To be honest even though we may have used different terminology in the past, the concept is really nothing new.

After all, it’s in the bid to engage employees, to retain them and attain the best results from them we talk about empowerment, delegation and at a more sophisticated level Distributed Leadership.

I’m an advocate for empowering employees and staff in general, but at the same time I feel the need to say that there is a need for a certain caution. It is great to have an engaged, empowered workforce, but it is equally important for staff to understand the limits of their responsibility.

There is a need for their to be clarity around the boundaries – where does delegated responsibility end and at what point should they be referring to someone more senior before making decisions.  This is aligned to their knowledge, capability and experience.  Necessary limitations of delegated authority also go beyond this to encompass the implications of decisions or actions that may be taken.

It is critical for any leader to remember that no matter how much you delegate, the buck ultimately stops with you. That is you can delegate a degree of authority, but not the ultimate responsibility.

Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

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