• home
  • blog
  • The empowerment trap: why empowerment is often not enough
De empowerment-val: waarom empowerment vaak niet volstaat

The empowerment trap: why empowerment is often not enough

Last week I called Julie, a long-time friend. She had been promoted 6 months ago and I wanted to hear how she was doing.

“To be honest, not so great” she said. “How come?”, I asked. “ As a matter of fact, I’m having some serious doubts about this promotion. It now feels like an empty box”. She went on to explain how empowered she had felt after getting the well-earned promotion. And how eager she had felt to take on the new responsibility. But as the first months passed by, she grew increasingly frustrated by the little progress she was making. And when she looked at it from a distance she realised her responsibility had grown but she didn’t have the resources to deal with it.

“I get it”, I said. “A typical example of the empowerment trap”. Julie was puzzled. “What do you mean?” she asked. “You see, there’s nothing wrong with empowerment” I answered. “But it’s not enough, indeed it can be an empty promise. If I give you permission to drive my car, I’m empowering you. When I then hand you the keys and tell you where I parked it, I’m enabling you to drive it. Only then empowerment becomes meaningful.”

Too often organizations pride themselves about empowering their people. But when they fail to consequently enable them, they are failing on their promise. If not to say, they’re behaving hypocritically. And the disappointment flowing from that can seriously damage employee engagement.

Posted on 10-05-2020

Why CompanyDoctors?

Why CompanyDoctors?

It is always fascinating to watch young children playfully discovering the world. They explore, are immensely curious and try out all sorts of things. Their energy and imagination seem endless. Actually, they are constantly busy discovering, developing and expressing their potential.

OK, 25 years fast forward: after proper training, these young adults enter an environment that, for various reasons, is hardly reminiscent of their carefree childhood. Often there is not much room to express their potential, let alone to develop it further. However, their employer is also seeking his or her way in a world where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) are rampant and in which the employer could actually make very good use of all potential present in the organisation. What a shame about the waste!

All too often, organizations pay too little attention to the human potential that is dormant in both their employees and organisation.

CompanyDoctors was born out of frustration over this waste. Not only about the missed opportunities but also about the impact of the waste on staff and organisation and, by extension, on society. We believe that organizations can greatly benefit from cultivating a climate of organizational wellbeing. That is not a soft philosophy but a forward-looking approach.